A fakir or faqir (Arabic: فقیر) (pronounced: fəˈkɪə(r)) is a Sufi, especially one who performs feats of endurance or apparent magic. Derived from faqr (Arabic:فقر, "poverty").[1]

In English, the term is often used to refer to Hindu ascetics (e.g., sadhus, gurus, swamis and yogis) as well as Sufi mystics. It 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 local idiom through the Persian-speaking courts of Muslim rulers. It has become a common Urdu, Bengali, and Hindi word for "beggar".

Many stereotypes of the great fakir exist, among the more extreme being the picture of a near-naked man effortlessly walking barefoot on burning coals, sitting or sleeping on a bed of nails, levitating during bouts of meditation, or "living on air" (refusing all food).


In the Fourth Way teaching of G. I. Gurdjieff the word "fakir" is used to denote the specifically physical path of development, compared with the word "yogi" (which Gurdjieff used for a path of mental development) and "monk" (which he used for the path of emotional development).[2]

In Bangladesh and India

There are similarities between Muslim fakirs in India and Bangladesh and Buddhist bauls. So all followers of different religions and religious practices came to be called Baul which has its etymological origin in the Sanskrit words "Vatula" (madcap), or "Vyakula" (restless) and is used for someone who is "possessed" or "crazy". Bauls were known as '"mad" perormers in a worshiping trance of joy - transcending above both good and evil. Though fond of both Hinduism and Islam, the Bauls focused on the individual and centered on a spiritual quest for God from within. They came to believe that God lives within each of us: stated simply, they believe the soul that lives in all human bodies is God.

See also


  1. God Speaks, Meher Baba, Dodd Meade, 1955, 2nd Ed. p. 305
  2. The Fourth Way: Teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, Random House USA, 2000
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