The Question of Shibli’s Insanity

by Kenneth Avery

Shibli was an example of a holy man who feigned madness or was occasionally mentally disturbed, thus escaping persecution. Dols argues that Hujwiri’s report should be rephrased to say that Shibli’s intelligence saved Shibli but Hallaj’s madness destroyed Hallaj. If Shibli was genuinely deranged, he was not legally accountable for his behavior: “Madness was an excuse, perhaps the only possible excuse, for the unmeasured expressions of divine love and the unitive experience that the early Sufis were expected to conceal, while maintaining an esoteric prudence.

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