Friday, 4 October 2013


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Herbert Ponting's 1907 photograph of "a fakir in Benares" (Varanasi), India. However, it is far more likely that this depicts a Hindu sannyasi, particularly since Benares is the holiest city in Hinduism where large numbers of ascetics gather.
The fakir, or faqir (/fəˈkɪər/; Arabic: فقیر‎ (noun of faqr)), derived from faqr (Arabic: فقر‎, "poverty"), is a Muslim Sufi ascetic in the Middle East and South Asia. The Faqirs were wandering Dervishes teaching Islam and living on alms.[1]
The term has become a common Urdu, Bengali, and Hindi byword for "beggar". The term has also been used to refer to Hindu and Buddhist ascetics (e.g., sadhus, gurus, swamis and yogis). These broader idiomatic usages developed primarily in the Mughal era in India. Calanus, a Hindu Naga sadhu of the 4th Century B.C., is often called a fakir by historians.[2]
There is also a distinct caste of fakirs found in North India, descended from communities of fakirs who took up residence at Sufi shrines.


Emperor Jahangir receiving a petition from a fakir
Historically, the terms tasawwuf, Sufism, faqr, and faqer (noun of faqr) were first used (with full definition) by Husayn ibn Ali, who was the grandson of Muhammad.[citation needed] He wrote a book, Mirat ul Arfeen, on this topic, which is said to be the first book on Sufism and tasawwuf. However, under Ummayad rule, neither could this book be published nor was it allowed to discuss tasawwuf, Sufism or faqr openly. For a long time, after Husayn ibn Ali, the information and teachings of faqr, tasawwuf and Sufism kept on transferring from heart to heart.[3]
In the 10th century, highly reputed Muslim Abdul-Qadir Gilani, who is the founder of Qadiriyya silsila, which has the most followers in Muslim Sufism, elaborated Sufism, tasawwuf and faqr.
In the 13th century, Ibn Arabi was the first vibrant Muslim scholar who not only started this discussion publicly but also wrote hundreds of books about Sufism, tasawwuf and faqr.
With the passage of time, the doctrine of Sufism had been fading as well as that of tasawwuf and faqr. During the time of the Mughal Emperors, in the Indian subcontinent, improper terminology was inserted in Sufism and Islam, and faqir referred to street beggars and Hindu monks. The term then came to India, where the term was injected into the local idiom through the Persian-speaking courts of Muslim rulers. The fakirs are called syed, shah or sai, since they belong to the descents of Sufi orders.
Photograph of a shrine of a Muslim Sufi fakir, Sultan Bahoo, Punjab, Pakistan
During the 17th century, another noble and spirited Muslim scholar and saint, Sultan Bahoo, revolutionized Sufism and reinstated (with fresh properties) the definition of faqr and faqir.
In English, faqir or fakir was originally a mendicant dervish. In mystical usage, the word fakir refers to man's spiritual need for God, who alone is self-sufficient. Although of Muslim origin, the term has come to be applied in India to Hindus as well, largely replacing gosvamin, sadhu, bhikku, and other designations. Fakirs are generally regarded as holy men who are possessed of miraculous powers. Among Muslims, the leading Sufi orders of fakirs are the Chishtiyah, Qadiriyah, Naqshbandiyah, and Suhrawardiyah.[4]
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines faqir as "a member of an Islamic religious group, or a holy man".[5]


The expression of fakir can also be used pejoratively, to refer to a common street beggar who chants holy names, scriptures or verses. These broader idiomatic usages developed primarily in Mughal era India, where the term was injected into the local idiom through the Persian-speaking courts of Muslim rulers. It has become a common Urdu and Hindi word for "beggar".
The attributes of a fakir have been defined by many Muslim saints and scholars; however, some significant definitions from distinguished personalities of Islam are quoted here.
One of the most respected and beloved early Muslim saints, Abdul-Qadir Gilani, also elaborated Sufism, tasawwuf and faqr in a conclusive manner. Explaining the attributes of a fakir, he says, "faqir is not who can not do anything and is nothing in his self-being. But faqir has all the commanding powers (gifted from Allah) and his orders can not be revoked."[6][7]
Then, Ibn Arabi explained Sufism, including faqr, in more details. He wrote more than 500 books on topics relating to Sufism, tasawwuf and faqr. He was the first Muslim scholar who introduced (first time openly) the idea of Wahdat al-wujud, which remained the talk of the town for many centuries.[8][9][10][11]
Another dignified Muslim saint, Sultan Bahoo, describes a fakir as one "who has been entrusted with full authority from Allah (God)". [12] [13] In the same book, Sultan Bahoo says,"Faqir attains eternity by dissolving himself in oneness of Allah. He, when, eliminates his-self from other than Allah, his soul reaches to divinity."[14] He says in another book, "faqir has three steps (stages). First step he takes from eternity (without beginning) to this mortal world, second step from this finite world to hereafter and last step he takes from hereafter to manifestation of Allah."[15]


In the Fourth Way teaching of G. I. Gurdjieff the word fakir is used to denote the specifically physical path of development, as opposed to the words yogi (which Gurdjieff used for a path of mental development) and monk (which he used for the path of emotional development).[16]

In Bangladesh and India[edit]

The Fakir and Goshai was with the stronger religious influence, and there are even Bauls who would shave off their heads as in their past and kept on practicing and believing in many of the basic creeds of Vaishnava-Sahajiya Buddhism. So all followers of different religions and religious practices came under the nomenclature Baul, which has its etymological origin in the Sanskrit words Vatula ("madcap"), or Vyakula ("restless") and used for someone who is possessed or crazy. They were known as performers 'mad' in a worshiping trance of joy - transcending above both good and bad. Though fond of both Hinduism and Islam, the Baul evolved into a religion focused on the individual and centered on a spiritual quest for God from within. They believe the soul that lives in all human bodies is God.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ God Speaks, Meher Baba, Dodd Meade, 1955, 2nd Ed. p. 305
  2. ^ The philosophical books of Cicero. 1989. p. 186. 
  3. ^ A brief history of Islam by Tamara Sonn, 2004, p60
  4. ^ Online Dictionary / Reference
  5. ^ Dictionary of Cambridge
  6. ^ Biographical encyclopaedia of Sufis: Central Asia and Middle East by N. Hanif, 2002
  7. ^ The Sultan of the saints: mystical life and teaching of Shaikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani, Muhammad Riyāz Qādrī, 2000, p24
  8. ^ Fusus al-hikam (The Bezels of Wisdom), ed. A. Affifi,Cairo, 1946;trans. R.W.J. Austin, The Bezels of Wisdom, New York: Paulist Press,1980
  9. ^ al-Futuhat al-makkiyya (The Meccan Illuminations),Cairo, 1911;partial trans. M. Chodkiewicz et al.,Les Illuminations de la Mecque: The Meccan Illuminations, Textes choisis/Selected Texts, Paris: Sindbad,1988.
  10. ^ The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-'Arabi's Metaphysics of Imagination,Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.1981
  11. ^ Sufis of Andalusia, London, George Allen & Unwin.1971
  12. ^ Bahu, Sultan, [List of Books of Sultan Bahoo [ List of Books of Sultan Bahoo]], retrieved 28 April 2010  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Sultan Bahoo's book Ameer ul Konain
  14. ^ Reference from Sultan Bahoo's book
  15. ^ Noor ul Khuda book of Sultan Bahoo
  16. ^ The Fourth Way: Teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, Random House USA, 2000

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