Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Back Story | The Black Coated Fakir

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
The black-coated fakir suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the Sufi shrine of Moin'Uddin Chisti during the annual Urs...in a sense, he was almost an apparition. Clutching a green flag with the numerals 786*, he had a certain gentle presence, a wise demeanor about him...was it perhaps because of his white beard?

Was he just a pankiwallah or was he more than that? I couldn't find out as no one nearby spoke English, but I really didn't mind. I let my imagination roam free, and thought he was also a Muslim "sadhu", a fakir...a wandering mendicant who had renounced all material possessions in order to gain spiritual salvation.

But my imagination would not stop there.

Had this been some centuries ago, this gentle fakir may well have been one of the Sufis who walked from the west (Afghanistan and Persia) to Pakistan and India, and who were instrumental in establishing Islam in South Asia through their liberal attitude, tolerance and kindness towards the poor.

And time-traveling back to the 1200s when the establishment of the first two Sufi orders in India took place, I imagined this black-coated fakir could've stopped and settled in Ajmer after his lengthy wanderings. Had he lived at the time, who knows...he could've become a Sufi saint himself with a dargah bearing in his own name.

Yes, I should've found out his name.

* What is 786? According to Wikipedia and other sources, Muslims in South Asia use 786 as an abbreviation for the Arabic letters of the opening phrase of the Qur'an. 786 is the sum of these letters in the Arabic numeral system.

For more details on Sufis, see my photo essay The Possessed of Mira Datar.