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c.1600, from Arabic faqir "a poor man," from faqura "he was poor." Term for Muslim holy man who lived by begging, misapplied in 19c. English (possibly under influence of faker) to Hindu ascetics. Arabic plural form fuqara may have led to variant early English forms such as fuckiere (1630s).
originally, 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, such as the ability to walk on fire. While less influential in urban areas since the spread of education and technology, fakirs retain some hold over the people of the villages and the interior of India. Among Muslims the leading Sufi orders of fakirs are the Chishtiyah, Qadiriyah, Naqshbandiyah, and Suhrawardiyah.