Sketches of Fools and Simpletons by Imam Ibn Jawzi
Lack of sense leads to acts of foolishness, allowing them to mothball into comical gags. Ibrahim Al-Nazzam was once asked, “What are the limits of foolishness?” To which he replied, “You asked about that which has no limits.”
The art of humour is an intricate balancing act between folly and good judgement, measure and discomposure. People of virtue have always enjoyed a chuckle and hearty anecdotes, remaining positive towards them because they relax the mind and comfort the heart from fatigue of contemplative thought. Even the joshing nature of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is well-known, yet it was guided by a higher code of conduct cognisant of personal and public responsibility.
Purposeful joking and jest brings benefit just as salt in food, ever careful not to be excessive. Before you therefore, is an amusing classical text reflecting a sharp departure from the usual scholarship for which the author is known for. Compiled in the sixth century Hijri, this collection of irreverent and playful sketches - derisive and cynical observations of mischievous people - are sure to tickle your funny bone, albeit having a more sober purpose for the reader to contemplate.
Imam Ibn Al-Jawzi compiled a book called ‘Al-Adhkiya’, in which he reported entertaining stories of smart and intelligent people that would serve as model examples; for indeed stories of brave men teach bravery. He then saw it appropriate to collect stories of foolish people and simpletons too with the intent to deliver three main purposes, namely: Mentioning examples of the foolish entices a knowledgeable person to avoid the means of ignorance, ensuring it doesn’t become an acquired attribute; To appreciate what Allah has granted us of intellect and nobility, increasing our gratitude to Him; and as a means of recreation for the hearts, for it’s important to allow some entertainment as they tire just as bodies tire.
This abridged English rendering of ‘Akhbar al-Hamqa wal-Mughaffalin’ is sure to lead you to constant laughter and smiles.
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