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Taking a cue from Alessandro Bausani’s collection of essays “The” sacred fool in Islam “, we will make a real journey into the Islamic world, analyzing some of the most interesting cultural aspects. First episode on the “sacred fool” in Islam.
In this essay, taken from the collection of the same name, Alessandro Bausani illustrates the category of the “sacred fool”, an element that is always present within the Islamic world, but which deserves further study due to the variety and depth of themes made available. Following the pattern of the book, we will focus on: the Malamatiyya, “mystics of the obscene”, on Bahlul and Nasreddin Khoja, the “cunning fools” and finally on the figure of the Devil in all this.
The Malamatiyya, the mystics of the obscene
The Malamatiyyas are a group of mystics active in the 9th century in the region which can now be defined as “
The central features of this school, in particular, were: the constant quarrel with the Divine, strong joy in breaking laws, conveniences and morals and finally a real reversal of values, with an incredible joy for being tortured or even killed (according to them by God himself). The most legendary figure of this group, or Meshreb, on the other hand, seems to leave no room for analysis with this sentence, definitely representative of the Malamati:
“God does not love the sinless, he loves sinners. So I will now commit an obscene sin; if the man of God will then make me hang and die, better that way”
This initiatory path, therefore, leads the faithful to voluntarily become “mad”, encouraging him to perform increasingly heretical and foul actions just as an exercise in drawing closer to God, something very different from the “madman to the Nasreddin Khoja”.
The latter, in fact, places his story and his figure on very different characters, more related to the culture of the marabouts but definitely more similar to an “unrepentant guru” rather than to a “scourgeist of sin”. In fact, this madman has more the characteristics of a “cunning buffoon”, someone completely free from the constraints of taste and morality, which tends to break, however, precisely because of the carelessness due to his condition as an “
Taking this comparison with the right pliers, it could be said that this figure is also present in the Quran itself in the figure of al Khidr, a character who will repeatedly find himself performing impure acts in the presence of Moses but who, however, is clearly superior to him in terms of faith. From a purely literary point of view, then,
The madman as the devil’s alter ego
Last chapter, certainly the most thorny, concerns the figure of the Devil who, for many Muslim authors, represents the madman who, too much in love with his Lord, chose eternal damnation rather than betraying his own ideal. According to these authors, in fact, when
Read in this light, the figure of Shaytan then acquires a value much more similar to that of the Malamati, but with elements that are deeply connected to the group of Nasreddin Khoja. Indeed, he does not aim to commit sin but it is God who, conscious of the loyalty of his servant, will make him stumble, thus forcing him to adapt to the situation of sin. In light of this, it then becomes clear how, in the Islamic world, the Devil is not so much in contrast with God, who is his Lord as much as he is for men, but against the lineage of Adam, undeserving of the role reserved for him by the Divine. In the Islamic tradition, however, there are also figures such as
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