Mystical Styles of Expression among North Indian Faq?r: Nara as a Manifestation of Hukm



This paper explores the mystical complex of North Indian ‘holy men’ commonly known as faqir and their relationship to mainstream Indian Islam. It is based on research done at the thirteenth century Indo-Muslim shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, India. Many faqir beliefs and practices diverge from Islamic orthodoxy by emphasising a mystical relationship with the saints. While faqir are Muslims, their emphasis on mystical expressions demarcates them from orthodox styles of Indian Islam. Two of these expressions are hukm, the mystical bond between a faqir and Muslim saint, and nara, a series of expletives used to communicate with the saint when in a euphoric state. Hukm and nara are pivotal to a faqir's mystical complex and are creative sources of his spiritual life. Prompted by a paucity of critical analyses into the area of North Indian faqir mysticism and ritual performance, this paper argues that the interplay between hukm and nara generates a form of creative expression for the faqir that is related to, but independent of, Indo-Muslim orthodox practices and constitutes an alternative style of religious expression within Indian Islam.