الجنون" بين إرازموس والنيسابوري / Erasmus and Al-Naysaburi on Madness
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Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics
[The Praise of Folly of Deisiderius Erasmus (1467-1536) and ʿUqala' al-Majanin or Wise Fools of al-Naysaburi (d. 406 /1016) are two landmarks in the history of the literature of folly. Both Erasmus and al-Naysaburi were scholars and theologians who devoted their lives to the study and interpretation of sacred texts. How did folly cross their paths? Is folly worth praising? What was their concern with the "wise fools"? And what is our interest in their perception of folly? Is folly the exception or the rule? Are most men fools and whoever diverts from the trodden paths wise? Or are men wise and whoever crosses the fence a fool? Or are all men both wise and foolish? With Erasmus the answers to these questions remain unanswered. His book is a mock encomium which is entirely built on irony and paradoxes. It is Folly who praises herself, giving the discourse a twist that puts the reader in total disarray. Are we to believe her? And if we do are we not ourselves fools? But Folly tells us that all men are fools, and that human life is entirely built on folly: human folly is human wisdom for without it we would not be able to live our lives. But (Erasmus was described as the king of "buts") if this folly is wisdom how do we describe what human folly considers real folly, namely the Folly of the Cross? How can we call those who chose to squander their possessions, ignore insults, submit to being cheated, make no distinction between friends and enemies, shun pleasure, sustain themselves on fasting, vigils, tears, toil and humiliation, scorn life and desire only death? Do we call them fools or wise? Al-Naysaburi calls them the "Wise Fools." The Book of Wise Fools related the stories of the men, women and youth who severed the ties that linked them to human society and ascended the road of holy folly. They chose the path of renunciation and asceticism: they wore woolen robes, exiled themselves in the desert, haunted the cemeteries, and lived in abstinence and prayer, seeking to drink from the cup of God's love. Though they cut their bonds with human life to seek eternal life, they were the living conscience of their time, of all times. They admonished caliphs, kings and rulers and, as all fools do, they spoke the truth. The "wise fools" were the Sufis as perceived by popular wisdom. Their image was woven by popular imagination over the centuries, and they became a symbol of spiritual values, rejection of the world, and rebellion against the injustice of rulers. Is this folly or wisdom? The message of both Erasmus and al-Naysaburi is in the same vein. It puts us in front of a dilemma: should we choose the folly of men or the folly of God? But the paradox is even more daunting, because the image changes according to the side of the fence on which you stand!]
(1994). الجنون" بين إرازموس والنيسابوري / Erasmus and Al-Naysaburi on Madness. Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, 20–51.
"الجنون" بين إرازموس والنيسابوري / Erasmus and Al-Naysaburi on Madness." Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, no. 14, 1994, pp. 20–51.