Faqir (clan)

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Faqir
Total population
286,000 [1]
Regions with significant populations
 India Pakistan   Nepal
Languages
UrduHindiBengali
Religion
Allah-green.svg Islam 100% •
Related ethnic groups
Jogi FaqirJogiQalandarAbdalRawalSaiShaikh

The Faqir (/fəˈkɪər/; Hindi: फ़क़ीर, Urdu: فقیر‎) are a Muslim ethnic group in India. They are also known as Shah Alvi or Sain in North India, which is now their preferred self-designation and in West Bengal, they are known as Sahajia. Some live in the Terai region of Nepal.[2][3]

History and origin[edit]

The word fakir or faqir (Arabic: فقیر‎ (noun of faqr)) is derived from the word faqr (Arabic: فقر‎, "poverty") It is a Muslim Sufi ascetic in Middle East and South Asia and the Faqirs were wandering Dervishes teaching Islam and living on alms.[4] In India, they are a community of mendicants who belonged to a number of Sufi orders. Over time their descendents have formed a distinct endogamous community. In Uttar Pradesh, the Faqir have eight divisions, of which the Sain and Jogi Faqir now form distinct communities. The six remaining divisions are as follows; the Jalalia, Zinda Shahi, Chishti, Qalandari, Pakhiya and Rifai. Among the Faqir of Uttar Pradesh, there is an hierarchy of sorts, with the Jalali claiming precedence, on account of the fact the order started in Iran, and then arrived in India. While the Zinda Shahi are followers of a Sufi known as Zinda Shah Madar, The Real name is 'Syed Badiuddin Zinda Shah Madar' (Madar means pole of the Universe) who's shrine is located in Makanpur, district Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. He was a great Sufi Legend and lived a life of 596 years. He was among the first Sufi's to arrive in India & is the largest Sufi following in India & Asia . The word zinda in Urdu means alive, on account of the Zinda Shahi belief that spiritual guide is still alive. The Shrine attracts thousands of pilgrims and during annual fairs both in Basant Panchmi & Islamic month of jamadil Awal the numbers rose to millions. He was a great Sufi saints and his contemperies were Mir Ashraf Jahangir Simnani of Kichowcha, UP, Abdul Qadir Jilani of Baghdad, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti of Ajmer & many great Sufis of his time.

The Chishti are well known Sufi order, the Chishti Faqirs outnumber the other three Sunni groupings, and are followers of the famous Sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti. While the Qalandari are followers of Bu Ali Qalander, and the Pakhiya and Rifai are well known Sufi orders. In additions to these four groupings, the Sain now form a distinct grouping, and are no longer considered as Faqirs, while the Jogi Faqir, as a community of Muslim Rajputs also consider themselves distinct from the larger Faqir community.[5]

The Faqirs of Gujarat consist of five divisions, the Junhasha, Madari, Rafai, Jalili and Sarbadi. They are distributed all over Gujarat, and many now live in settlements around tombs of famous Sufi saints. Some are employed as caretakers at the various shrines, while others are beggars. The Faqir speak Gujarati, with many now understanding Urdu.[6]

In Maharashtra, the word Faqir is a general term for a class of Muslim beggars. The Maharashtra Faqirs claim descent from Abu Bakar, the first caliph and Ali the fourth caliph of Islam. They are further divided into two groupings, the Ba-shara, who follow the rules of Islam, and Be-shara, who do not follow the shariat. Many of the Be-shara lead a nomadic existence.[7]

Present circumstances[edit]

In Uttar Pradesh[edit]

In Uttar Pradesh, the bulk of the Faqir are landowners and cultivators, with poultry being an important secondary occupation. In Rohilkhand, and in particular in Bareilly District, the community were and are large zamindars. But there is a stigma of being Faqirs, and this has meant the community has suffered societal discrimination. Only a small number of Faqirs are still involved in their traditional occupation of begging at various Sufi shrines. They live throughout Uttar Pradesh, and speak Urdu, as well as local dialects of Hindi, such as Khari boli and Awadhi. Most Faqir live in multi-caste and multi-religious villages, although they occupy their own quarters. Each sub-division has its own caste council, which deals with and resolves any intra community problem.

Like other Uttar Pradesh Muslims, they are strictly endogamous While the Chishti intermarry with the Rifai and Pakhiya, but not with the Qalandari. Marriages tend take place within close kin, and they prefer parallel cousin marriages.[8]

The Faqir are now leading demands for the inclusion of their community within the Scheduled Caste category. As part of their political mobalisation, the community now prefer the self-designation Shah Alvi. Like other Muslim occupational castes, they have now set up a state wide caste association, to act as a communal preasure group.

In Gujarat[edit]

The Faqir practice community endogamy and marriages mostly take place within the community. Both parallel cousin and cross cousin marriages are practiced.[9]

Their traditional occupation is begging, while others are employed at various Sufi shrines. A majority of the community are now employed as daily wage labourers. The Faqir are one of the most marginalized Muslim community in Gujarat. They are Sunni Muslims, but incorporate many folk beliefs.

In Maharashtra[edit]

The Faqir, like many other Muslim communities in Maharashtra speak both Urdu and Marathi. They are distributed in the districts of Amravati and Nagpur. The community consist of five endogamous sections, the Banua, Madari, Jalal Shahi, Rafai, and Jalali. Marriages tend to be contracted within these groupings, with the community practising both cross cousin and parallel cousin marriages.[10]

The traditional occupation of the Faqir remains begging, although there is a gradual movement towards other occupations. Many are now involved in the selling of baskets, crockery and other crafts. A great majority are now wage labourers, especially those settled in Nagpur city. The community has now been given Other Backward Classes status, which entitle them to quotas in jobs and education. But they remain an extremely marginal Muslim community.

The Sahajia Faqir of West Bengal[edit]

The Faqir of West Bengal are also known as Sahajia, and were once a community of mendicants and beggar. They are said to have acquired the name Sahajia on account of the fact that they were followers of Sher Ali Sahaji, a well known Bengali Sufi saint. Most Faqir consider the famous Sufi Abdul Qadir Jillani as their mentor, and most Faqir in Bengal thus belong to the Qadriyah Sufi order. A smaller number belong to the Chishti, Madariya, Mojadidi, and Naqshbandia. orders Like in other parts of India, the Faqir have evolved from what was originally a community of Sufi mendicants into an endogamous caste grouping. They live mainly in the districts of Nadia, Howrah, Murshidabad, Malda, Bankura, Birbhum and Purulia. The majority of the West Bengal Faqir are now cultivators, living in multi-caste villages, in their own quarters known as Faqir paras. They cultivate paddy, jute, mustard and tilli seeds. A small number are also landless agricultural labourers. The Faqir speak Bengali and follow the Sunni sect of Islam. But they practice a number of folk beliefs, collectively referred to as faqirmat. This involves paying special reverence to a number of Sufi saints. A significant number of Faqir are also involved in the production of cooking oil, an activity traditionally associated with the Teli caste in other parts of India.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.joshuaproject.net/peoples.php
  2. ^ People of India Gujarat Volume XXI Part One edited by R.B Lal, P.B.S.V Padmanabham, G Krishnan & M Azeez Mohideen pages 355-358
  3. ^ People of India Maharshtra Volume XXX Part One edited by B.V Bhanu, B.R Bhatnagar, D.K Bose, V.S Kulkarni and J Sreenath pages 578-582
  4. ^ God Speaks, Meher Baba, Dodd Meade, 1955, 2nd Ed. p. 305
  5. ^ People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part One edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 470 to 474 Manohar Publications
  6. ^ People of India Gujarat Volume XXI Part One edited by R.B Lal, P.B.S.V Padmanabham, G Krishnan & M Azeez Mohideen pages 355-358
  7. ^ People of India Maharshtra Volume XXX Part One edited by B.V Bhanu, B.R Bhatnagar, D.K Bose, V.S Kulkarni and J Sreenath pages 578-582
  8. ^ People of India Uttar Pradesh Volume XLII Part One edited by A Hasan & J C Das pages 470 to 474 Manohar Publications
  9. ^ People of India Gujarat Volume XXI Part One edited by R.B Lal, P.B.S.V Padmanabham, G Krishnan & M Azeez Mohideen pages 355-358
  10. ^ People of India Maharshtra Volume XXX Part One edited by B.V Bhanu, B.R Bhatnagar, D.K Bose, V.S Kulkarni and J Sreenath pages 578-582
  11. ^ Marginal Muslim Communities in India edited by M.K.A Siddiqui pages 399-413