A fakir, or faqir (/fəˈkɪər/; Arabic: فقیر‎ (noun of faqr)), derived from faqr (Arabic: فقر‎, "poverty") is a Sufi Muslim ascetic who has taken vows of poverty and worship, renouncing all relations and possessions. Fakirs are prevalent in the Middle East and South Asia. A fakir is thought to be self-sufficient and only possesses the spiritual need for God.[1]

Faqirs are characterized by their attachment to dhikr (a practice of repeating the names of God, often performed after prayers).[2] Sufism gained adherents among a number of Muslims as a reaction against the worldliness of the early Umayyad Caliphate (661–750 CE[3]). Though, Sufis have spanned 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.[4]

The term is also applied to Hindu ascetics (e.g., sadhus, gurus, swamis and yogis).[5] These usages developed primarily in the Mughal era in the Indian subcontinent.

There is also a distinct clan of faqirs found in North India, descended from communities of faqirs who took up residence at Sufi shrines.


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.

Historically, the terms tasawwuf, faqr, and faqer (noun of faqr) were first used (with full definition) by Husayn ibn Ali, who was the grandson of Muhammad. 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.[6]

In the 10th century, highly reputed Muslim Abdul-Qadir Gilani, who is the founder of Qadri 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.

In English, faqir or fakir originally meant 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 Shadhiliyyah, Chishtiyah, Qadiriyah, Naqshbandiyah, and Suhrawardiyah.[7]

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines faqir as "a member of an Islamic religious group, or a holy man".[8] Winston Churchill is known to have referred to the peaceful resistance (satyagraha) promoting independence leader of India, Mahatma Gandhi, as a "seditious fakir".


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

The early Muslim saint, 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."[9][10]

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[11][12][13][14]

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."[15] 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."[16]


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).[17]

Indian subcontinent

Fakir on bed of nails Benares India 1907

Fakir on bed of nails in Benares, India 1907.

Emperor Jahangir receiving a petition from a fakir

Emperor Jahangir receiving a petition from a fakir.

The Fakir and Goshai was with the stronger religious influence, and there are even Bauls who would shave their heads as in their past and kept on practicing and believing in many of the basic creeds of Vaishnava-Sahajiya. 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


  1. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica". britannica.com. Retrieved 2015-07-10.
  2. ^ A Prayer for Spiritual Elevation and Protection (2007) by Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, Suha Taji-Farouki
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Michael Sells, Early Islamic Mysticism, pg. 1
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ A brief history of Islam by Tamara Sonn, 2004, p60
  7. ^ "Online Dictionary / Reference". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Dictionary of Cambridge". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  9. ^ Biographical encyclopaedia of Sufis: Central Asia and Middle East by N. Hanif, 2002
  10. ^ The Sultan of the saints: mystical life and teaching of Shaikh Syed Abdul Qadir Jilani, Muhammad Riyāz Qādrī, 2000, p24
  11. ^ 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
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-'Arabi's Metaphysics of Imagination, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.1981
  14. ^ Sufis of Andalusia, London, George Allen & Unwin.1971
  15. ^ "Reference from Sultan Bahoo's book". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  16. ^ "Noor ul Khuda book of Sultan Bahoo". Retrieved 1 October 2014.
  17. ^ The Fourth Way: Teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, Random House USA, 2000

External links

Abdul "Duke" Fakir

Abdul "Duke" Fakir (born December 26, 1935) is an American singer. He is a founding member of the Motown act the Four Tops, from 1953 to the present day. A first tenor, Fakir is the group's lone surviving original member, performing today with Ronnie McNeir, Lawrence "Roquel" Payton Jr. (son of original member Lawrence Payton), and Harold Bonhart.

Allan Fakir

'Allan Fakir (1932– 4 July 2000) (Sindhi: علن فقيرُ, Urdu: علن فقیر), was a Pakistani folk singer. One of the foremost exponents of Sufi music in Pakistan. He was particularly known for his ecstatic style of performance, marked with extreme devotional rhetoric and Sufi dance-singing.

F. C. Kohli

Faqir Chand Kohli (born 28 February 1924) popularly known as F. C. Kohli is an Indian industrialist. He is frequently referred to as the Father of the Indian Software Industry due to his significant contribution in Indian IT industry. He was the founder and first CEO of Tata Consultancy Services, India's largest software consultancy company. He has also worked as the deputy general manager of the Tata Power Company. He is Chairman of the Board of Governors of College of Engineering, Pune.

Fakir-Sannyasi rebellion

The Sannyasi rebellion or Sannyasi Revolt (1763-1800) (Bengali: সন্ন্যাসী বিদ্রোহ, The monks' rebellion) were the activities of sannyasis and fakirs (Hindu and Muslim ascetics, respectively) in Bengal against the East India Company rule in the late 18th century. It is also known as the Sannyasi rebellion (সন্ন্যাসী বিদ্রোহ) which took place around Murshidabad and Baikunthupur forests of Jalpaiguri. Historians have not only debated what events constitute the rebellion, but have also varied on the significance of the rebellion in Indian history. While some refer to it as an early war for India's independence from foreign rule, since the right to collect tax had been given to the British East India Company after the Battle of Buxar in 1764, others categorize it as acts of violent banditry following the depopulation of the province in the Bengal famine of 1770.

Fakir Baykurt

Fakir Baykurt or born Tahir Baykurt (15 June 1929 - 11 October 1999) was Turkish author and trade unionist.

Fakir Khana

Fakir Khana (Urdu: فقیر خانہ‬‎) is a private museum and house located in Lahore, Pakistan, owned by the Fakir family. The museum contains over 20,000 objects, and is the largest privately owned museum in South Asia.

Fakir Mohan Senapati

Fakir Mohan Senapati (Odia: ଫକୀର ମୋହନ ସେନାପତି; 13 January 1843 – 14 June 1918), often referred to as Utkala Byasa Kabi (Odisha's Vyasa), was an Indian writer, poet, philosopher and social reformer. He played a leading role in establishing the distinct identity of Odia, a language mainly spoken in the Indian state of Odisha. Fakirmohan Senapati is regarded as the father of Odia nationalism and modern Odia literature.

Fakir Mohan University

Fakir Mohan University (FM University) is named after prominent Odia writer Fakir Mohan Senapati. The seat of the Vice-Chancellor is in the new campus located at Nuapadhi, Balasore, Odisha, India.

Fakir Musafar

Roland Loomis (August 10, 1930 – August 1, 2018), known professionally as Fakir Musafar, was an American performance artist and early proponent of the modern primitive movement.

He experimented with and taught body modification techniques such as body piercing, tightlacing, scarification, tattooing, and flesh hook suspension. He was involved in the BDSM, kink and fetish communities.

Four Tops

The Four Tops are a vocal quartet from Detroit, Michigan, USA, who helped to define the city's Motown sound of the 1960s. The group's repertoire has included soul music, R&B, disco, adult contemporary, doo-wop, jazz, and show tunes.

Founded as the Four Aims, lead singer Levi Stubbs, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton remained together for over four decades, performing from 1953 until 1997 without a change in personnel.

The Four Tops were among a number of groups, including the Miracles, the Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas, the Temptations, and the Supremes, who established the Motown Sound heard around the world during the 1960s. They were notable for having Stubbs, a baritone, as their lead singer, whereas most male and mixed vocal groups of the time were fronted by a tenor.

The group was the main male vocal group for the highly successful songwriting and production team of Holland–Dozier–Holland, who crafted a stream of hit singles for Motown. These included two Billboard Hot 100 number-one hits for the Tops: "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" in 1965 and "Reach Out I'll Be There" in 1966. After Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown in 1967, the Four Tops were assigned to a number of producers, primarily Frank Wilson, but generally with less success.

When Motown left Detroit in 1972 to move to Los Angeles, California, the Tops stayed in Detroit but signed a new recording deal with ABC Records' Dunhill imprint. Recording mainly in Los Angeles, they continued to have chart singles into the late 1970s, including the million-seller "Ain't No Woman", their second release on Dunhill, produced by Steve Barri and the composers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter.

In the 1980s, the Four Tops recorded for Casablanca Records, Arista Records and Motown, returning to that label on two occasions for brief stays. Apart from their album Indestructible (owned by Sony Music Entertainment), Universal Music Group controls the rights to their entire post-1963 catalog (through various mergers and acquisitions) and also their 1956 single, "Could It Be You".

A change of lineup was forced on the group when Lawrence Payton died on June 20, 1997. The group initially continued as a three-piece under the name the Tops, before Theo Peoples (formerly of the Temptations) was recruited as the new fourth member. Peoples eventually took over the role of lead singer when Stubbs suffered a stroke in 2000, with Ronnie McNeir then joining the group. On July 1, 2005, Benson died of lung cancer. Payton's son Roquel Payton replaced him. Levi Stubbs died on October 17, 2008.

Fakir, McNeir, Roquel Payton, and Harold "Spike" Bonhart, who replaced Peoples in 2011, are still performing together as the Four Tops. Fakir is the only surviving founding member of the group. As of January 1st, 2019 Harold Spike Deleon Bonhart was replaced by Alexander Morris. Morris a pastor in the city of Detroit was born into a musical family, his mother Betty L. Morris-January was lead singer of the 50’s gospel group The January Sisters. His father, the Late Reverend Joseph A. Morris was also a prominent pastor in the city of Detroit, but in his early years was a jazz musician, playing for Gene Calloway, older sister of Cab Calloway. Morris also known for his songwriting and production, has worked with many artist throughout the music industry, and as of January 1st 2019 has taken the lead vocal position once held by Levi Stubbs.

Jamal Fakir

Jamal Fakir (born 30 August 1982) is a Moroccan rugby league footballer who plays as a prop or second-row for the Lezignan Sangliers club in the Elite One Championship.


Lalon also known as Fakir Lalon Shah, Lalon Shah, Lalon Fakir or Mahatma Lalon (Bengali: লালন; c. 1772 – 17 October 1890; Bengali: 1 Kartik 1179) was a prominent Bengali philosopher, Baul saint, mystic, songwriter, social reformer and thinker from the Indian subcontinent. Regarded as an icon of Bengali culture, he inspired and influenced many poets, social and religious thinkers including Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, and Allen Ginsberg although he "rejected all distinctions of caste and creed". Widely celebrated as an epitome of religious tolerance, he was also accused of heresy during his lifetime and after his death. In his songs, Lalon envisioned a society where all religions and beliefs would stay in harmony. He founded the institute known as Lalon Akhrah in Cheuriya, about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from Kushtia railway station. His disciples dwell mostly in Bangladesh and West Bengal. Every year on the occasion of his death anniversary, thousands of his disciples and followers assemble at Lalon Akhrah, and pay homage to him through celebration and discussion of his songs and philosophy for three days.In 2004, Lalon was ranked number 12 in BBC's poll of the Greatest Bengali of all time.

Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi (Persian: مرجان ساتراپی‎) (born 22 November 1969) is an Iranian-born French graphic novelist, cartoonist, illustrator, film director, and children's book author.


Mymensingh-3 is a constituency represented in the Jatiya Sangsad (National Parliament) of Bangladesh since 2016 by Nazim Uddin Ahmed of the Awami League.

Nanak Shah Fakir

Nanak Shah Fakir is a biographical 2018 film on the life of Guru Nanak, produced by Gurbani Media Pvt Ltd. It has been mired in controversies with protests from Sikhs asking for a ban on the film.

The supreme Sikh body, Akal Takht, and the SGPC recently announced a ban on the movie, as the movie is claimed to depict Guru Nanak and other prominent Sikh figures (Bebe Nanaki, Bhai Mardana) through human actors, which violates Sikh tenets. A related resolution adopted by the SGPC in 2003 had prohibited human actors from playing the roles of Sikh Gurus or their family members.The Government of Punjab has decided against allowing the release of the film. The film producer Resul Pookutty, Gurbani media also appealed to the Supreme Court of India to allow for the release of the film. The Supreme court has cleared the film for release, citing the certification provided by India's Central Board for Film Certification.

Rebel Heart (song)

"Rebel Heart" is a song recorded by American singer Madonna for her thirteenth studio album, Rebel Heart (2015). Madonna co-wrote and co-produced the song with Avicii, Arash Pournouri, Salem Al Fakir, Magnus Lidehäll and Vincent Pontare. An early demo of "Rebel Heart" as well as the final version, both leaked to the internet prior the album's scheduled release. The final version was made available on March 6, 2015 when Rebel Heart was released.

While the demo was a dance song, the album version of "Rebel Heart" is acoustic and composed in a major key. The recording was generally well received by music critics, who admired the autobiographical nature of the composition where Madonna acknowledges her musical legacy. The song was included on the set list of the Rebel Heart Tour (2015–2016), where Madonna performed it in front of a backdrop displaying fan art. She also performed it during a concert in support of Hillary Clinton.

Salem Al Fakir

Salem Al Fakir (born 27 October 1981) is a multiple Swedish Grammy Award winning songwriter, producer, musician and singer from Sweden. He regularly collaborates with Vincent Pontare as songwriting, producer and artist duo Vargas & Lagola. Together they have written, co-written and produced songs for the likes of Avicii, Axwell Ʌ Ingrosso, Madonna, Seinabo Sey and more.

First release as Vargas & Lagola was "Rolling Stone" in January 2017. They were later featured artist on Avicii's "Friend Of Mine" from his 2017 EP "Avīci (01)", which they also co-wrote.

The Days (song)

"The Days" is a song by Swedish DJ and record producer Avicii, featuring vocals by English singer Robbie Williams. The song was written by Brandon Flowers, Robbie Williams, Salem Al Fakir, Avicii and Vincent Pontare, and was produced by Avicii, Fakir and Pontare. The song was played for the first time in Boston, featuring uncredited vocals by Fakir. The song was released worldwide on 3 October 2014. It was released alongside "The Nights" in The Days / Nights EP. A planned release in the United Kingdom on 23 November 2014 was cancelled.

The Fakir of Venice

The Fakir of Venice is a 2009 Hindi-language comedy drama film directed by Anand Surapur. The film stars Farhan Akhtar, Annu Kapoor and Kamal Sidhu in the lead roles and is written by Rajesh Devraj with a story from Homi Adajania. It was presented as Opening Night Film in April 2009 at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. It was released on 8 February 2019, 10 years after its premier. The film's release was halted for ten years due to production related issues and was Akhtar's first acting role. The music is composed by A. R. Rahman.

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