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Sikhism and Islam


Sikhism is a non-Semitic, Aryan, non-Vedic religion. It is a religion that has the sixth largest following in the world. Some consider it as an offshoot of Hinduism. It was founded by Guru Nanak at the end of the 15th century. It originated in the area of Pakistan and North West India called Punjab, meaning the land of the five rivers. Guru Nanak was born in a Kshatriya (warrior caste) Hindu family but was very strongly influenced by Islam and Muslims.


The word ‘Sikh’ is derived from the word sisya meaning disciple or follower. Sikhism is a religion of ten Gurus, the first Guru being Guru Nanak and the tenth and the last being Guru Gobind Singh. The sacred book of Sikhism is Sri Guru Granth also called Adi Granth Sahib.


Every Sikh is supposed to keep the following five ‘K’s, which also serve to identify him as a Sikh:

Kesh – uncut hair.

Kanga – comb; used to keep the hair clean.

Kada – metal or steel bangle; for strength and self-restraint.

Kirpan – dagger; for self-defence.

Kaccha – special knee length underwear or under-drawer for agility.



The best definition that any Sikh can give regarding the concept of God in Sikhism is to quote the Mulmantra – the fundamental creed of Sikhism, which occurs at the beginning of Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

It is mentioned in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, volume 1 Japuji, the first verse:

"There exists but one God, who is called The True, The Creator, Free from fear and hate, Immortal, Not begotten, Self-Existent, Great and Compassionate."

Sikhism is a monotheistic Religion

Sikhism enjoins its followers to practise strict monotheism. It believes in only One Supreme God who is, in the unmanifest form, called Ek Omkara.

In the manifest form He is called Omkara and has several attributes such as:

Kartar – The Creator 
Akal – The Eternal 
Sattanama – The Holy Name 
Sahib – The Lord 
Parvardigar – The Cherisher 
Rahim – The Merciful 
Karim – The Benevolent

He is also called Wahe Guru – the One true God.

Besides Sikhism being strictly monotheistic, it also does not believe in Avataravada – the doctrine of incarnation. Almighty God does not incarnate Himself in what is known as Avatara. Sikhism is also strongly against idol worship.

Guru Nanak was influenced by Sant Kabir

Guru Nanak was influenced by the sayings of Sant Kabir so much that several chapters of Sri Guru Granth Sahib contain couplets of Sant Kabir. One of the famous couplets of Sant Kabir is:

"Dukh mein sumirana sabh karein 
Sukh mein karein na koya
Jo sukh mein sumirana karein 
To dukh kaye hoye?"

"In times of trouble, God is remembered by all But none remembers Him during peace and happiness. If God is remembered in good times of happiness Why should trouble occur?"

Compare this with the following verse of the Qur’an:  "When some trouble toucheth man, He crieth unto his Lord, Turning to Him in repentance: But when He bestoweth A favour upon him As from Himself, (Man) doth forget what he cried And prayed for before, And he doth set up Rivals unto Allah." [Al-Qur’an 39:8]

The Sikh scriptures therefore emphasise monotheism and God-consciousness.

Sikhism as we know it today is the result of the teachings of the ten Gurus, the first of which was Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and the tenth and last of which was Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708).

Guru Nanak spread a simple message: "We are all one, created by the One Creator of all Creation." There is no definitive biography of Guru Nanak, though there have been many attempts to write the story of his life by his devotees after his death.

According to Dr. Hari Ram Gupta, author of A Life-Sketch of Guru Nanak, Nanak started his mission at a time when both Hinduism and Islam as practiced in the Indian Subcontinent had become distorted and degraded.

The caste system was at its worst, and all kinds of corruption had become rampant in society. Men of vision were worried, and they attacked the rot that had set in the society.


Rather than address the socio-political problems, the reformers of the day tried to initiate a spiritual movement that would turn people towards God. They believed that this was the way to cure the ills of the society.

Guru Nanak was indeed the most important of these reformers. He was born to a simple Hindu family. From an early age, he made friends with both Hindus and Muslims and acquired a good knowledge of Hinduism and Islam. He used to spend long hours in discussions with Muslim and Hindu holy men of the area.
There is a story of how he disappeared for three days and came back with enlightenment. It is reported that he was no longer the same person he had been. Then he uttered these words:

"There is but One God, His name is Truth, He is the Creator, He fears none, He is without hate, He never dies, He is beyond the cycle of births and death, He is self illuminated, He is realized by the kindness of the True Guru. He was True in the beginning, He was True when the ages commenced and has ever been True, He is also True now." (Japji)

These words are enshrined at the beginning of the Sikh holy scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. It was 1499 and Guru Nanak was thirty years old at this time.

After this, with a Muslim companion, Guru Nanak undertook long journeys as part of a spiritual mission. He took twelve years to return from this first journey. He then set out on a second journey traveling as far south as Sri Lanka. On his third journey Guru Nanak traveled to the north to Tibet.

Guru Nanak visited Sheikh Ibrahim, the Muslim successor of Baba Farid, the great Sufi dervish of the twelfth century at Ajodhan. When asked by Ibrahim which of the two religions was the true way to attain God, Guru Nanak replied, "If there is one God, then there is only His way to attain Him, not another. One must follow that way and reject the other. Worship not him who is born only to die, but Him Who is eternal and is contained in the whole universe."

On his fourth great journey Guru Nanak dressed in the blue garb of a Muslim pilgrim and traveled to Makkah. He visited Madinah and Baghdad, too.

After having spent a lifetime in traveling abroad and setting up missions, an aged Nanak returned home to Punjab. He settled down at Kartharpur with his family. People came from far and near to hear his hymns and preaching.

After Guru Nanak’s death in September 1539, his Hindu followers thought him to be a Hindu and his Muslim followers thought him to be a Muslim. That is to say, both Muslims and Hindus viewed him from the perspective of their respective faiths.

It was the later disciples of Nanak who gave shape to a new religion, of which Nanak is considered the first Guru. In 1604, Arjan Dev (one of the ten Gurus) compiled the hymns of Guru Nanak along with the compositions of both Hindu and Muslim holy men, like Jaidev, Surdas, Sheikh Farid, and Kabir. The compiled book was enshrined by Arjan in the Golden Temple and was called the Adi Granth.

It was the tenth Guru, Gobind Singh, who organized the community of Sikhs into a khalsa — "a spiritual brotherhood devoted to purity of thought and action." He taught his followers to wear long hair (kesh, denoting saintly appearance), underwear (kachha, denoting self-control), iron bangle (kara, denoting purity in acts), comb (kangha, denoting cleanliness of mind and body), and sword (kirpan, denoting fight for a just cause).

The Sikh scripture called the Adi Granth (called respectfully as Guru Granth Sahib) is considered the Supreme Spiritual Authority and Head of the Sikh religion, rather than any living person. It contains the works of not only the ten Gurus but also the hymns by sufis like Sheikh Farid (1175 - 1265) and Sheikh Bhikan (who died during the early part of Akbar’s reign).

From the foregoing, we understand the following:

  • Guru Nanak was a religious reformer at best; he was not the founder of any new religion.
  • Sikhism is the creation of the Gurus, particularly of Guru Gobind Singh, whose compositions and innovations form the content and the framework of the new religion.
  • The scripture of Sikhism is not any revelation from God but only the compositions of the Gurus as well as those of certain Muslim and Hindu mystics. For this reason, there is no meaning in talking about the authenticity of the book as a Divine Revelation. Because neither the book nor the authors claim it to have been revealed by God.

From the facts proven here and the faith in the Oneness of God the Muslims and Sikhs share, we should all make an effort not to fall into the comfortable trap of simply blindly following culture and tradition. Instead we should seek out the truth and this section should clarify some facts to our sikh brothers and sisters. Its clear from the facts that Guru Nanak respected Islam; the available evidence favors that conclusion. Anyway he did not try to replace Islam with a new religion; on the other hand, his utterances point to the fact that he certainly believed Islam to be the True Religion of God.

A clear and well-established fact in the Qur’an states that Allah Almighty sends Prophets and Messengers to all nations of the world to warn them against disbelief and give glad tidings of the reward that awaits them in the Hereafter, if they obeyed Allah’s Messengers, followed their guidance and acted upon the Divine teachings. Allah Almighty says, “Lo! We have sent thee (Muhammad) with the Truth, a bearer of glad tidings and a warner; and there is not a nation but a warner hath passed among them.” (Fatir: 24)

In his response to the question, Dr. Muhammad M. Abu Laylah, Professor of the Islamic Studies & Comparative Religions at Al-Azhar University, states the following:

"We, Muslims, believe that Allah never deprive any nation in the world of having access to a divine message. This fact is referred to in the Qur’an, as Allah Almighty says: “And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced out way. Had Allah willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). So vie one with another in good works. Unto Allah ye will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ.” (Al-Ma’dah: 48)

He Almighty also says: “Lo! We have sent thee with the Truth, a bearer of glad tidings and a warner; and there is not a nation but a warner hath passed among them.” (Fatir: 24)

Allah tells us in the Qur’an that He doesn’t hold any person accountable for his deeds and words unless He has sent a Prophet to guide and teach him, for our mental faculty can not in itself search and know about God and goodness. Allah Almighty says: “Whosoever goeth right, it is only for (the good of) his own soul that he goeth right, and whosoever erreth, erreth only to its hurt. No laden soul can bear another's load. We never punish until We have sent a messenger.” (Al-Israa’: 15)

Also, in the Qur’an Allah reveals that He sent many Prophets. Some of them are mentioned in the Qur’an and others are not. He Almighty says: “ O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His messenger and the Scripture which He hath revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime. Whoso disbelieveth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily hath wandered far astray.” (Al-Nisaa’: 136)

The Qur’an also refers to some Divine Scriptures such as the Scrolls of Abraham, the Torah of Moses, the Gospel of Jesus. We believe that before these books, Allah also revealed sacred revelations and inspirations.

Having stated this, we’d like to make it clear that India was not exempted from this general Divine rule. Ancient India might have Prophets and Messengers, and also some Divine books as well.

Until now, this can be seen in the religious practices and devotions of the Indians. The Indians are very keen in observing religion and their traditions. That is why when Muslims entered India they considered the Indian religions as of quasi-divine origin and treated them like Jews and Christians.

However, we should bear in mind that Islam neither accepts nor condones any practice of ascribing partners unto Allah. So there is no room in Islam for the belief in multi-gods. Islam is the submission to the will of the one and only God, this is the message that is preached by all religions if we are to have a deeper look.