Fakir

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A Sufi Muslim ascetic (fakir) in Bengal during the 1860s

Fakir (Arabic: فقیر, romanizedfaḳīr or faqīr) is an Islamic term traditionally used for Sufi Muslim ascetics who renounce their worldly possessions and dedicate their lives to the worship of God. They do not necessarily renounce all relationships and take vows of poverty, some may be poor and some may even be wealthy, but the adornments of the temporal worldly life are kept in perspective and do not detract from their constant dedication to God. The connotations of poverty associated with the term relate to their spiritual neediness, not necessarily their physical neediness.[1][2]

They are characterized by their reverence for dhikr (a devotional practice which consists of repeating the names of God with various formulas, often performed after the daily prayers).[3] Sufism in the Muslim world emerged during the early Umayyad Caliphate (661–750 CE)[4] and grew as a mystical[5] tradition in the mainstream Sunni and Shia denominations of Islam,[5] state Eric Hanson and Karen Armstrong, likely in reaction to "the growing worldliness of Umayyad and Abassid societies".[6] Sufi Muslim ascetics (fakirs and dervishes) were highly influential and greatly successful in spreading Islam between the 10th and 19th centuries,[5] particularly to the furthest outposts of the Muslim world in the Middle East and North Africa, the Balkans and Caucasus, the Indian subcontinent, and finally Central, Eastern, and Southeast Asia.[5] Sufi Muslims have spread throughout several continents and cultures over a millennium, originally expressing their beliefs in Arabic, before spreading into Persian, Turkish, Indian languages, and a dozen other languages.[7]

The term fakir has taken on a more recent and colloquial usage for an ascetic who renounces worldly possessions, and has even been applied to Non-Muslims.[8][9] Fakirs are prevalent in the Middle East and South Asia; they are thought to be self-sufficient and possess only the spiritual need for God.[10] The term is also frequently applied to Hindu ascetics (e.g., sadhus, gurus, swamis, and yogis).[11] These usages developed primarily in the Mughal era in the Indian subcontinent. There is also a distinct clan of faqeers found in North India, descended from communities of fakirs who took up residence at Sufi shrines. 1st Sikh Guru Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji was entitled with Fakir famously known as "Nanak Shah Fakir". Mowlana Majdeddin Ali Bagher Shah Ne'matollahi in his book "Nasher VA Manshour" states "A mystic is a person whose spine has been broken due to spiritual austerity and who has known his identity. The mystic is absolutely poor and sees nothing but the truth of life."

Etymology[edit]

The English word fakir derives from the Arabic term faqr (Arabic: فقر), meaning "poverty".[12] The latter term is from the Arabic root f-q-r, which translates "to hollow out" or ‘to become needy’.[12]

History[edit]

Shrine of a Sufi Muslim fakir named Sultan Bahoo in Punjab, Pakistan

Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī, who was the son of ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib and grandson of Muhammad, is believed to have written a book, Mirat ul-Arfeen, on the topic of tasawwuf, which is said to be the first book on Sufism. However, under Umayyad rule, neither could this book be published nor was it allowed to discuss tasawwuf, Sufism, or faqr openly. For a long time, after Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī, the information and teachings of faqr, tasawwuf, and Sufism kept on transferring from heart to heart.[13]

In English, faqir or fakir originally meant a mendicant dervish. In its mystical usage, the word fakir refers to man's spiritual need for God, who alone is regarded as self-sufficient in the Islamic religion.[14][15][16] Although of Muslim origin, the term has come to be applied in the Indian subcontinent to Hindu ascetics and mystics as well, alongside Indian terms such as gosvamin, sadhu, bhikku, and other designations. Fakirs are generally regarded as holy men who possess supernatural or miraculous powers. Among Muslims, the leading Sufi orders (tariqa) of fakirs are the Shadhiliyyah, Chishtiyah, Qadiriyah, Naqshbandiyah, and Suhrawardiyah.[17] The Cambridge English Dictionary defines the term fakir as "a member of an Islamic religious group, or a holy man".[18]

Attributes[edit]

The attributes of a fakir have been defined by many Muslim scholars.

The early Muslim scholar, Abdul-Qadir Gilani, defined 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."[19][20]

Ibn Arabi explained Sufism, including faqr, in more details. He wrote more than 500 books on the topic. He was the first Muslim scholar to openly introduce (first time openly) the idea of Wahdat al-wujud. His writings are considered a solid source, that defied time.[21][22][23][24]

Another dignified Muslim saint, Sultan Bahoo, describes a fakir as one "who has been entrusted with full authority from Allah (God)". In the same book, Sultan Bahoo says, "Faqir attains eternity by dissolving himself in oneness of Allah. He, when, eliminates himself from other than Allah, his soul reaches to divinity."[25] 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."[26]

Gurdjieff[edit]

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).[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Faqīr". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  2. ^ "Faqir - Oxford Islamic Studies Online". www.oxfordislamicstudies.com. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  3. ^ A Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection (2007) by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, Suha Taji-Farouki
  4. ^ Hawting, Gerald R. (2000). The first dynasty of Islam: The Umayyad Caliphate AD 661-750. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-24073-4. See Google book search.
  5. ^ a b c d Cook, David (May 2015). "Mysticism in Sufi Islam". Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.013.51. ISBN 9780199340378. Archived from the original on 28 November 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2022.
  6. ^ Hanson, Eric O. (2006). Religion and Politics in the International System Today. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 102–104. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511616457. ISBN 978-0-521-85245-6.
  7. ^ Michael Sells, Early Islamic Mysticism, pg. 1
  8. ^ Dobe, Timothy S. (2015). Hindu Christian Faqir: Modern Monks, Global Christianity, and Indian Sainthood. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199987696.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-934627-1.
  9. ^ Nanda, B. R. (2004). Churchill's 'Half-naked Faqir'. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-908141-7.
  10. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica". britannica.com. Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  11. ^ Colby, Frank Moore; Williams, Talcott (1918). The New International Encyclopaedia. Dodd, Mead. p. 343. Retrieved 9 December 2016. Fakir: In general a religious mendicant; more specifically a Hindu marvel worker or priestly juggler, usually peripatetic and indigent.
  12. ^ a b Ebrahim, Alireza (2018). "Faqr". In Madelung, Wilferd; Daftary, Farhad (eds.). Encyclopaedia Islamica. Translated by Gholami, Rahim. Leiden and Boston: Brill Publishers. doi:10.1163/1875-9831_isla_COM_036099. ISSN 1875-9823. Faqr (literally, ‘poverty’) is a term denoting different modalities and stages of material, psychological and spiritual want and neediness which a wayfarer on the Sufi path may adopt as a means to progress in earning God’s love and compassion and of acquiring purity and mystical knowledge. The term faqr is derived from the Arabic root f-q-r, literally meaning ‘to hollow out’, ‘to perforate’, ‘to make/become poor’, ‘to be in need’ or ‘to be/become needy’. Hence faqr carries a general sense of being in a state of penury or destitution.
  13. ^ A brief history of Islam by Tamara Sonn, 2004, p60
  14. ^ Gardet, Louis (1960). "Allāh". In Bosworth, C. E.; van Donzel, E. J.; Heinrichs, W. P.; Lewis, B.; Pellat, Ch.; Schacht, J. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Vol. 1. Leiden and Boston: Brill Publishers. doi:10.1163/1573-3912_islam_COM_0047. ISBN 978-90-04-16121-4.
  15. ^ Böwering, Gerhard (2006). "God and his Attributes". In McAuliffe, Jane Dammen (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. Vol. II. Leiden and Boston: Brill Publishers. doi:10.1163/1875-3922_q3_EQCOM_00075. ISBN 978-90-04-14743-0.
  16. ^ Esposito, John L. (2016) [1988]. Islam: The Straight Path (Updated 5th ed.). Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-19-063215-1. S2CID 153364691.
  17. ^ "Online Dictionary / Reference". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  18. ^ "Dictionary of Cambridge". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  19. ^ Biographical encyclopaedia of Sufis: Central Asia and Middle East by N. Hanif, 2002
  20. ^ The Sultan of the saints: mystical life and teaching of Shaikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani, Muhammad Riyāz Qādrī, 2000, p24
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^ al-Futuhat al-makkiyya (The Meccan Illuminations), Cairo, 1911; partial trans. Michel Chodkiewicz et al., Les Illuminations de la Mecque: The Meccan Illuminations, Textes choisis/Selected Texts, Paris: Sindbad,1988.
  23. ^ The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-'Arabi's Metaphysics of Imagination, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.1981
  24. ^ Sufis of Andalusia, London, George Allen & Unwin.1971
  25. ^ "Reference from Sultan Bahoo's book". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  26. ^ "Noor ul Khuda book of Sultan Bahoo". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  27. ^ The Fourth Way: Teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, Random House USA, 2000.

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