See J. S. Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam (1971).
The word is usually used to refer to either the spiritual recluse or eremite or the common street beggar who chants holy names, scriptures or verses. Its current idiomatic usage developed primarily in Mughal era India, where the term was injected into local idiom through the Persian-speaking courts of Muslim rulers. When used referring to somber spiritual miracle-makers, fakir is applied primarily to Sufi, but also Hindu ascetics.
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). It is also used, usually sarcastically, for a common street beggar who chants holy names, scriptures or verses without ostensibly having any spiritual advancement.
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