Wise up and act the fool

The fourteenth century Persian poet and satirist `Obeyd-e Zakani was said to have commented (or lamented) that playing the fool is a better way to influence the powerful than learning and study.  This is reinforced by ʿAbbās Eqbāl Ashtiannī in his introduction to Zakani’s works, in which he describes how learned people of Zakani’s time found they could have more impact by acting the fool:  

Upon reading Resale-ye Delgosha (‘The Joyous Treatise’), one realizes that in the time of ‘Obeyd and perhaps forty or fifty years before him, there were some wise and learned men who, in spite of their learning and accomplishments, decided to play the jester or the buffoon on account of the social conditions around them and because of their encounters with the rulers and powerful men of their day. They would laugh at everything and criticize corruption and dishonesty through the medium of satire and irony. Among them one can mention the great scholar Qotb al-Din of Shiraz; Moulana Qazi ‘Azud al-Din Iji, the author of the famous book Al-Mawaqif; the well-known poet Majd al-Din Hamgar; Sharaf al-Din of Damghan; and Sharaf al-Din of Dare-gaz.

Sources: Gianni Izzo, ‘Playing the fool: jesters of the Safavid and Zand courts’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (August 2023), p. 14; Hasan Javadi, Satire in Persian Literature (Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1988), p. 113.

Image credit: From a manuscript of the polymath Qotb al-Din of Shiraz (1236-1311) depicting an epicyclic planetary model; photo by Zereshk.


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