What is a Malang?
The word Malang itself is a term used in Urdu/Punjabi/Saraiki to identify certain people with distinguishable characteristics of action or appearance pertaining to devotion to the Aimma (as) and a non-conformist attitude towards the religious status quo.
In Arabic, the comparative term is faqeer and dervaish in Persian,
The word Malang itself most likely derives from the Persian language but is used in many languages with varying meanings. The word can be found in Persian, Pashto, Dari, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, and Malay (Indonesia) with similar meanings.
The word can mean someone:
- A person who is not aware of himself, not aware of his surroundings, not worried about worldly things-
- Shaman, magician, sorcerer, beggar, addict, insane person, vagrant wanderer, destitute-
- A saint, a devotee, a person not enamoured of worldly possessions or an attendant at a shrine or a religious mystic.
J L Lee in his research paper ‘The Ancient Supremacy’- Bukhara, Afghanistan and the Battle for Balkh 1731-1901 defined malang as:
A religious mystic, often with heterodox or extreme sufi tendencies; a shrine attendant.
These are the literal meanings, but socially through common usage, the word in Pakistan and India has a commonly understood meaning limited to a saint, religious mystic shrine attendant, not enamoured with worldly things.
Not only that but the Feroz ul Lughat (Dictionary) defines the word with 5 meanings specific to Urdu:
- Bekhood-a person who is in a trance, or has lost of self-awareness.
- Apney se bahir- beyhosh- One who is not in control of himself, not conscious
- Mujrid Admi- A Hermit, or has forsaken the world or is celibate.
- Mota Taaza Admi- somoen who is a bit overweight.
- The followers/devotees of Shah Madaar.
So in Urdu we can accept that a ‘Malang’ is a person who is not aware of himself and not aware of the world, intoxicated with the love of another and someone who has forsaken the world.
Malang’ism is a state of mind which affects the physical appearance and actions. It is a state of varying degrees according to the amount of devotion an individual can manage.