Sikhism . Comparative Articles . Gurmat and Islam

Dr Kanwar Ranvir Singh

Both faiths recognize the Oneness of God and regard it as human duty to follow what they describe as the hukm, the Divine Will. However, they differ on the content of this hukm. For Muslims, it can be derived from the Holy Koran, the hadith of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him), the consensus of the religious scholars (ijma) and argument by analogy (ijtihad). The kafir is the rebel, the unbeliever, who denies this hukm. For Sikhs, the hukm is unspeakable: “hukm na ka-ha ja-ye”. It can only be realized when lived. Therefore, the emphasis is on personal experience rather than social order. God’s laws and truths are written in every human heart, they are inscribed in the very being of our nature, articulated in the body, mind and soul.

The ideal Muslim social order is a return to the state established by the Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him), with all the world as Muslims, the remaining non-Muslims - zimmis – suitably subjugated and unable to promote their lies/practice their faiths. This ideal may be seen in a range of states from Afghanistan (where Sikhs may no longer perform nagar keertans), to Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan. It looks to an ideal past. The result of this has been what is termed Islam’s bloody borders, struggles with all non-Muslims be they Hindu (India), Jews (Israel), Sikhs, Christians (Sudan, Indonesia, Balkans), Buddhists (Bhutan). By contrast, for Sikhs it is an as yet unrealised one world (sabhe manas ko ik pachanbo = recognise all humankind as One), with pluralism in people’s approaches to the One Reality as a garden of many flowers, with an emphasis on the equal dignity of all, of which the langar is a microcosm. This pluralistic, one world vision is guarded by an armed and active citizenry in this republic of joy and is captured in the opt-repeated slogan, “Degh Tegh Fateh” = Victory to the Cauldron and the Sword. This ideal is also captured in the name of the birthplace of the Khalsa, Anandpur Sahib, City of Bliss. This is a physical manifestation of the spiritual transformation explained by holy bhagat Ravidass in the hymn about Begumpura, a description of the Kingdom of God. By entering that Kingdom within our heart, Sikhs strive to manifest that Kingdom in this world as a vanguard of this revolution, Akaal Purkh Ki Fauj – army of the Eternal Spirit.

 First, this manifests for the flourishing of all humanity irrespective of race, religion, or sex in changing human expressions of God’s Divine Order, an ever-changing, ever-fresh kaleidoscope of rainbow colors in front of the Light of God’s Word or Guru-Bani. God’s law is not an abstract system for self-defined ‘normal’ people, with the ‘abnormal’, the kafir to be changed or subjugated, but a growing personal development which manifests in all people. It is based on the growth of every single person  with the law (hukm)  the universal natural growth principle for each person as a unique plant in God’s Garden of Love and Life. Second, it is a vision which looks to the future manifestation of that Order on earth realizing that its success depends not on external coercion (law or sh’araih), but inner transformation through meditation (simran) and meditation in action (meeri-peeri). Finally, the victory of God’s Order is held to be part of God’s sovereignty so it will be. Trusting in this, Sikhs enjoy chardi kala, a dynamic optimism for the future, not looking to the past.


However, there are also those within the Islamic tradition who also seek a mystical communion with God, the sufis. Not surprisingly, the relations with some sufis were very close. The Qadiriya, Bahlol Shah, established one of the oldest Gurdwaras in the world in Baghdad, while another of that group, Saint Mian Mir laid the foundation stone of the Golden Temple, according to a persistent tradition. From the Chestiya, some writings of Baba Farid are included in the Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Pir Budhu Shah martyred himself and his children in service to the Truth when the Mughal forces attacked holy Guru Gobind Singh. These facts explain why it was Muslims who opened the gates to the city of Lahore, establishing a Sikh Kingdom or Khalistan, from 1799 to 1849. During the wars between the Sikhs and the later Mughal Emperors, many sufis fought alongside the Sikhs against the Mughal tyranny, even though the latter considered them as a jihad to eliminate the Sikhs in a series of holocausts.

Dr Kanwar Ranvir Singh


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