BOHLŪL, ABŪ WOHAYB, b. ʿAmr b. Moḡīra Majnūn Kūfī, variously cited in later Persian literature as Bohlūl-e majnūn (Bohlūl the fool) or Bohlūl-e dānā (Bohlūl the wise). Originally one of several individuals in early ʿAbbasid times known as ʿoqalāʾ al-majānīn (wise fools) he later by way of a popular tradition relating him to the caliph Hārūn al-Rašīd (d. 193/809) emerged as the archetype of this genre; in late Shiʿite literature he is even embroidered with traits of sanctity.
The only fact of his life known with relative certainty is that he lived mainly in Kūfa and Baṣra and that he died in about 190/805. He met Hārūn al-Rašīd severaltimes, but there are no grounds for assuming the alleged personal relationship with the ʿAbbasid clan.
The earliest mention of Bohlūl is found in Jāḥeẓ (d. 255/868; II, pp. 230f.), who refers to his Shiʿite tendencies (kāna yatašayyaʿ) and quotes four stories, representing him as a fool with a ready wit who had a liking for rough jokes. Bohlūl’s first biographer, Naysābūrī (d. 406/1015; pp. 139-60), drawing on an ever increasing popular tradition, collected fifty stories about Bohlūl, which depict him as a rather harsh and unconventional man, who warns against worldly temptations and is not afraid to address his provocative accusations even against the caliph. In these reports he clearly appears as the archetypal wise fool that he is considered throughout Arabic and Persian literature.
The Shiʿite author Qāżī Nūr-Allāh Šūštarī (956-1019/1549-1610; fols. 124bf.) seems to be responsible for the further development and circulation of the legend around Bohlūl. Confusing Bohlūl al-majnūn with a certain Bohlūl b. Moḥammad mentioned earlier by Ṭūsī (d. 460/1067; p. 160) as a disciple of the imam Jaʿfar al-Ṣādeq (d. 148/765), Šūštarī portrays Bohlūl as a faithful and fearless model Shiʿite, hereby laying the foundation for his later veneration as a Shiʿite saint. As a result his name was included in most works of later Shiʿite rejāl literature (see Aʿyān al-šīʿa XIV, pp. 146-63). On account of the tradition current since earlier times, Bohlūl is later found in popular categories of literature as well, such as Jabalrūdī’s (d. 1054/1644) Jāmeʿ al-tamṯīl (chap. 12). In modern times Bohlūl has become a favorite in several Persian and Turkish popular tales.
By way of the Turkish Laṭāʾef (fol. 39a-b) of Lāmeʿī Čelebī (d. 939/1532) Bohlūl even found his way into Barthélemy d’Herbelot’s Bibliothèque orientale (pp. 156f.), where he is listed under the distorted form of Bahalul. Referring to this source Western literature further depicts him as the court jester of Hārūn al-Rašīd (see, e.g. Flögel, pp. 172f.; Doran, pp. 68f.).
Evidence of Bohlūl’s lasting popularity was given at the beginning of this century by two Persian journals bearing his name (see Solṭānī, I, pp. 31f., nos. 74f.), and more recently a five-volume compilation of stories about Bohlūl and other figures of devotion has been published (Ṣadr).
J. Doran, The History of Court Fools, London, 1858, repr. New York, 1966.
K. F. Flögel, Geschichte der Hofnarren, Liegnitz and Leipzig, 1787. B. d’Herbelot, Bibliothèque orientale, Maestricht, 1776.
Moḥammad-ʿAlī Jabalrūdī, Jāmeʿ al-tamṯīl, Tehran, 1276/1859.
Abū ʿOṯmān ʿAmr b. Baḥr Jāḥeẓ, al-Bayān wa’l-tabyīn, ed. ʿAbd-al-Salām Moḥammad Hārūn, vols. I-IV, Baghdad and Cairo, 1380/1961.
Lāmeʿī Čelebī, Laṭāʾef, ms. Berlin or. quart 1746.
U. Marzolph, Der Weise Narr Buhlul, AKM 46/3, Wiesbaden, 1983 (with exhaustive biography and bibliography).
Idem, “Der Weise Narr Buhlul in den modernen Volksliteraturen der islamischen Länder,” Fabula 28, 1987, pp. 72-89.
Ḥasan b. Moḥammad Naysābūrī, Ketāb ʿoqalāʾ al-majānīn, ed. ʿOmar al-Asʿad, Beirut, 1987. ʿA. Ṣadr, Bohlūl-e ʿāqel, Tehran, 1343 S./1964.
M. Solṭānī, Fehrest-e rūz-nāmahā-ye fārsī dar majmūʿa-ye Ketāb-ḵāna-ye Markazī wa Markaz-e Asnād-e Dānešgāh-e Tehrān, Tehran, 1354 Š./1975.
Qāżī Nūr-Allāh Šūštarī, Majāles al-moʾmenīn, litho., n.p., n.d.
Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ṭūsī, Ketāb al-rejāl, Najaf, 1381/1961, p. 160.
See also Brockelmann, GAL, S. I, p. 350; EI1 I, pp. 804f.; EI2 I, pp. 1288f.; and Sezgin, GAS I, pp. 636f.
Originally Published: December 15, 1989
Last Updated: December 15, 1989
This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 3, pp. 319-320