Langar (Persian: لنگر) is the provision of free food to the needy in a religious context. Its origin is from Sufism (Islam) because serving of food to the needy has been a rich tradition among Sufis, especially of the Chishti Order. There is extensive use of free food imagery and metaphor in Sufi writings. Sugar and other sweet foods represent the sweetness of piety and community with God, while salt symbolizes purity and incorruptibility. Through the pronouncement of Bismallah during the bread-making process, the bread is imbued with spiritual power or barakat, which is shared by those who eat the bread. The transformation of the raw wheat to finished bread is used as an analogy for Sufi spiritual development.
Sufi ritual observances (dhikr) are concerned with remembrance of God through exaltation and praise. Singing, dancing, and drumming are commonly part of such rituals, as is sharing of food. For example, ashura is a dish that takes its name from the festival celebrated by the Shia sect of Islam. During preparation of the ashura, mullas stir the pot in a special way while pronouncing the name of God. Sharing the ashura then becomes a way of spreading remembrance of God in the form of bodily nourishment.
The tradition of Langar was also adopted by the Sikh community, where it goes by the same name.
Langar, the practice and institution, was first started by Baba Farid, a Muslim of the Chishti Sufi order. The institution of the langar was already popular in the 12th and 13th century among Sufis (Muslim mystics) of the Indian subcontinent. The practice grew and is documented in the Jawahir al-Faridi compiled in 1623 CE. It was later, both the institution and term, adopted by Sikhs.
- Kathleen Seidel, Serving Love, Serving the Guest: A Sufi Cookbook", September 2000. Accessed 15 January 2010.
- Blackwell Synergy - Muslim World, The, Volume 95 Issue 4, pages 604–608, October 2005 (Article Abstract)
- Before Taliban "d0e5583"
- Epilogue, Vol 4, Issue 1, p. 45
- Baba Sheikh Farid: His Life and Teaching, p. 7
- Barbara D Metcalf (1984). Moral Conduct and Authority: The Place of Adab in South Asian Islam. University of California Press. pp. 336–339. ISBN 978-0-520-04660-3.
- R. Nivas, Transactions, Volume 4, " The word langar, and this institution has been borrowed, so to speak, from the Sufis. The khanqas of the Chisti and other Sufi saints had a langar open to the poor and the rich, though the Hindus mostly kept away from them. To make the Brahmin sit with the pariah and do away with untouch- ability, and to make the Hindus and Muslims eat from the same kitchen and destroy all social", Indian Institute of Advanced Study, p. 190
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