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
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.