Introduction / History
The Faqir (or Fakir) of India are beggars by tradition. They are Sunni Muslim by religion. Fakir comes from the Arabic word meaning poverty. Some of them live in Muslim cemeteries. The mourning period for a death is forty days and then food is given to the poor. The birth pollution period is for forty days too.
What are Their Lives Like?
In Uttar Pradesh, most of the Faqir are landowners and work in cultivation. Poultry work is a second occupation for them. Only a few do begging at Islamic shrines now but they have been discriminated against. They speak Urdu and a local dialect of Hindi. Most of them are living in multi caste villages where there are many religions. Every sub division has a caste council that judges local problems and matters. They are endogamous and also have a caste association that covers India.
In Gujarat, the Faqir are endogamous and marriages usually happen in their community. Parallel cousin marriages and cross cousin marriages are favored. They traditionally beg and some work at Sufi shrines. Most now work as laborers. They are a marginalized people group. Though Sunni Muslims, they have folk beliefs.
In Maharashtra, the Faqir speak Urdu and Marathi. They live in the regions of Amravati and Nagpur. They are endogamous and do parallel cousin and cross cousin marriages. They do begging but there is a slow change towards work such as selling baskets, crockery and also craft items. Most are laborers, particularly in Nagpur. They have been given the Other Backward Classes position which means they have a part in education and work. They are marginalized though.
In West Bengal, the Faqir are also called Sahajia and were beggars. They are supposed to be called by that name as they were followers of Sher Ali Sahaji who is classed as a Sufi saint. They are an endogamous caste. Most who work in cultivation live in the regions of Nadia, Howrah, Bankura, Birbhum, Purulia, Murshidabad and Malda. They cultivate jute and mustard seeds for example and produce cooking oil. A few are agricultural laborers but with no land. They speak Bengali and are Sunni Muslims. They have folk beliefs too.
What are Their Needs?
The Faqir speak Urdu, Hindu and Bengali. They have a low literacy level so the gospel will probably have to be presented in oral form.
* Pray that the Faqir though beggars by tradition will realize that Jesus Christ does not look down on them and that they will give their lives to Him.
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