Sheikh Thawbaan Ibn Ibrahim a.k.a Zan-noon also known as Abul-Faydh or Abu-Abdullah was one of the Sufi Sages of 3rd century of Islam around 800 (CE).
In the beginning of his life he was a slave but later on freed. He has been renowned amongst the Sufis as a pious, righteous, scholar and a literary figure. He also was an expert in Alchemy and medical sciences of the time.
He was the student of the luminary Malek Bin Anas, the founder of the Maleki Mazhab of Islam and his name is mentioned in the Mowatta the guiding book of Maleki followers.
He is the founder of Sufism in Egypt and one the first preachers of the principles of Sufism in that country.
His origins are from a vast region called Nobeh (Nubia?). Nubeh is a region between Egypt and Ethiopia.  (I believe Nub means gold since what we understand today, as the Nubians were the African gold miners under the rule of the Pharaohs)
About the Nickname Zan-noon
People said once Zan-noon was on a ship sailing with number of great wealthy people and a pearl was lost. He was accused of theft thus was humiliated and bothered a lot. Finally he raised his head to the skies and prayed, “Allah you are witness for me (my innocence)” when suddenly many fish put their heads out of the water with a pearl in their mouths. Zan-noon took the pearls and gave it back to the accusers. Therefore his nickname is Zan-noon from Koran [21:87]:
And remember Zan-noon, when he departed in wrath: He imagined that We had no power over him! But he cried through the depths of darkness (fish belly), "There is no god but thou: glory to thee: I was indeed wrong!"
In Arabic Noon means fish and Zan-noon means the possessor or owner of the fish.
(Source: Rayhaanatol Adab)
His Sufi Methodology
His words were all about Tawhid (Oneness) and Tajrid (Yearning closeness to the Divine without the hope for recompense & reward) and believed that secrets of Mahab-bat (Divine Love) should not be divulged to the public indiscriminately.
In meditation, solitude and Ibaadat (worship) was unsurpassed. Once he was found kneeling by a wall for very long period of time and he was asked why? And responded, “In Moshaahedat (Divine Perception) I would like to be slave-like".
(Source: Safinatol-Awlia)
His Sufi Literary Innovation
He is acclaimed to be the first to take Sufism into Egypt. And all the entrances of phraseology of worldly love (beloved, love and yearning etc.) into Sufism are attributed to him. He made a glossary of such terminologies, which was spread around the Islamic world rapidly, and the Farsi speaking poets immediately employed these literary innovations with much skill.
The concept was not to allow the general public to understand the inner meanings of the poems e.g. wine, beloved except those with Sufi training.
(Source: Mulla Sadra, Henry Carbon)
His Reputation
Most of the Egyptians considered him a disbeliever and many were bewildered at his actions. While he was alive most people hated & denied him. After he died people uncovered what he was all about (a true believer) and this was due to his extreme secrecy about his righteousness.
(Source: Tazkertol Awlia)
His Fate
Zan-noon traveled to Makkah and Syria and taught Sufism. Once his words spread around he was convicted of heresy & lunacy therefore enchained & jailed in Baghdad. However later on the Kalif ordered his release and he went back to Egypt.
Ishaaq Ibn Ibrahim Sarakhsi mentioned about the manner of his arrest, “In Makkah, Zan-noon was chained & dragged to jail while people around him overwhelmed with tears and I heard him saying, “These are the bestowals and blessings of my Lord and all It does is wonderful, pure and good and then versed the following:

For You, within my heart a sanctuary
All sufferance on Your path but ease
For You, this whim that gets me killed
Patience from that which I have just nil

© 2004-2002,  Dara O. Shayda