A religion born out of dissatisfaction.
By Aisha Stacey
Sikhism originated from the word Sikh, which in turn comes from the Sanskrit root śiṣya meaning disciple or learner. It is the world’s fifth largest religion, with approximately 23 million adherents. The majority of Sikhs live in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan; however Sikhs live all over the world with more than 336,000 in the UK alone. Sikhism was founded in the 15th century by Guru Nanak and is based on his teachings, and those of the nine Sikh gurus who followed him.
Guru Nanak was born into a Hindu family at a time in history, not unlike our own when Hindu’s and Muslims where in a state of extreme conflict. He felt compelled to form the Sikh religion stating, “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim, so whose path shall I follow? I shall follow the path of God.” Guru Nanak and those who followed him rejected the Hindu caste system and went to great lengths to eradicate it from their thinking. Because the caste system was, at one time identifiable via names all male Sikhs use the name Singh, meaning lion and the women the name Saur, meaning princess.
The Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib is considered to be revelation from God and Nanak’s teaching of the scripture is practised in three ways: Chanting the Holy Name and thus remembering God at all times, making a living honestly, and sharing with others and helping those in need. Unlike most other religions Sikhs wear the five articles of their faith. These are, an undergarment for modesty and health, the hair is kept uncut and a wooden comb for untangling is kept in the turban. A steel wrist bracelet is worn as a sign of faith and a small symbolic sword is worn to represent defending the religious rights of all faiths.
Other Sikh beliefs include, that the mind and spirit are constantly being attacked by the Five Evils, lust, rage, greed, attachment and ego, therefore one needs to counter attack and overcome these vices. Sikhs are encourages to develop positive human qualities that can lead them closer to God including compassion, truthfulness, contentment, humility and love. Men and women in Sikhism are considered equal with the same rights and responsibilities before God. There are many Sikh beliefs that are similar to the practices identified with Islam including praying several times a day and the prohibition of worshipping idols images or icons.
Sikhism is known as one of the Indian religions along with Hinduism and Buddhism, which we have discussed, and Jainism. These four religions share certain key concepts that are interpreted slightly differently by each group or sub group. They are all linked by a belief in karma, and the concept of reincarnation. In Hinduism the soul, in many different forms repeatedly returns until it reunites with the source. In Buddhism the concept is different and is referred to as rebirth, there is no unchanging or eternal soul; instead it is a series of separate lifetimes from conception to death.
Sikhism accepts the Hindu belief in karma and reincarnation but preaches a simple way of ending the cycle. They believe that through the grace of God and by constantly contemplating upon and repeating His name one can be liberated from the cycle of birth and death. Guru Nanak explained to his followers that birth is due to Karma but liberation is due to God’s grace. Sikhism is a monotheistic religion and for that reason it has more in common with Islam then either Hinduism or Buddhism, however, there are glaring differences in the concept of God.
Sikhs believe that God is shapeless, timeless, and sightless and that before creation, all that existed was God and His hukam (will or order). They also use the numeral 1 to signify the universality of God. Guru Nanak said that God is omnipresent and visible everywhere to the spiritually awakened. He stressed that God must be seen from heart of a human being; meaning devotees must meditate to progress towards enlightenment.
The concept of God as the Creator God, different and not part of the creation is essentially the same as the concept of God in Islam.
He created all, fills all, yet is separate. (Guru Granth Sahib)
God created all things. (Quran 39:62 )
The mind alone can never know Him. (Guru Granth Sahib)
There is nothing like Him. (Quran 42:11)
However Sikhism states that God is in everything and everywhere, a concept denied by Islam that sounds similar to the Hindu notion of God. Sikhism though makes it very clear that they too deny the Hindu concept of God. Islam states categorically that God is not everywhere; rather He is above the heavens and close to His creation through His knowledge.
Islam is a religion revealed for all places, all people and all times. Muslims believe that the Quran is the last revealed book and that Prophet Muhammad is the seal or final Prophet, God’s final message to humankind was revealed to him. Therefore Islam rejects out rightly the notion that the Guru Granth Sahib is revelation from God.
On the surface there are many similarities but there are differences that expose the incompatibility of Islam and Sikhism. These include the fact that Sikhs are prohibited from eating ritually slaughtered meat (halal), Sikhs do not believe in pilgrimages whereas the pilgrimage to Mecca (Haj) is a pillar of Islam, and Sikhs cremate their dead while Muslims are buried. In Sikhism there is no concept of divine reward and punishment such as Heaven and Hell, the Sikhs believe, like Hindus and Buddhists that karma determines whether or not a person finally reaches unity with God.
Few points I can make here:
1- God as we learn from the Quran: Is a being and he has his throne in heaven. We do not know how he looks like and God promised those of us who will go to heaven will see him, which will be the best enjoyment to us as human beings. However, his authority is everywhere he knows everything and he is closer to us than our neck veins. How his authority to close to us we do not know it could be his ability to see and know everything. Physically how he does that we do not know how he does that.
2- No doubt Sikhism was born out of frustration, Muslims and Hindu should be able to coexist peacefully. Muslims respected Ghandi as one of the best human beings and he was Hindu. In the same times despised many of their Muslims leaders. Thus Islam is the religion of humanity and God talk in the Quran to all humans.
3- The way to God is true revelation. People came and converted to Islam in the time of Prophet Muhammad or after were from disbelievers, skeptics or even hated Islam. People who to seek religion is not for self-comfort but for finding the truth. Humans have the inner feeling that there is God and expected him to try to contact us. The main task of humans is to find which is the true revelation and follow it. God in the Quran answered all questions about faith and about all the unseen that necessary to know.
4- God as he revealed himself to Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad wanted us to have this special relation you feel he is with you all the time. The way to stay with him is to read his revelation and maintain this close relationship with him as he is God and you are his servant. You obey him and you have happiness in this world and the after world. When I would try to ponder about God and look at the huge sea in Alexandria, Egypt and the huge endless sky I try to look for more signs, like and angel or something as more of proof. But I come back with what he allowed us to know him: looking at the universe, reading his revelations which he choose only few people of us for that and establishing this total time personal relationship as he is with us all the time. The relation is as a servant and the creator of me and all the universe and his ability to resurrect me again. Whenever, I get a doubtful thought I read the Quran more if you read thoroughly and deeply you find that he answered most of our Questions. The prophets who carried the revelations to us were known by prophecies about them or prophecies given to them. Miracles given to them usually extend to people who saw them and possibly next couple of generations as people here it from witnesses of the miracles. It make sense that very unlikely a large group of people will lie about these miracles. Prophecies tell you about the future and no one know exactly the future except God. Even those who forecast financial markets can not get it right all the time. It looks to a lot of us now we are at the end of times. Thus time to all people around the world to read the Quran.