Baba Nanak Was a Muslim

Baba Nanak was a Muslim (Dr. Qazi Muhammad Barkatullah) Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian was raised by Almighty Allah to defend Islam. Hazrat Ahmad came across the writings of Pandit Dayanand, a Hindu, who in his book Satyarath Parkash wrote offensively about Baba Nanak. Pandit Dayanand took the position that Baba Nanak had no religious knowledge, knew nothing about the Vedas, and was elevated to the rank of Guru by simple people after his death. Hazrat Ahmad took strong exception to Pandit Dayanand’s writings and wrote a book, Sut Bachan, in November 1895 in which he defended Baba Nanak and explained how he was a saint who had accepted Islam. Later on, Hazrat Ahmad, also presented the same point of view in some other books. At one time, Hazrat Ahmad had a vision in which it was revealed to him that Baba Nanak was a Muslim. (Nazulul-Masih, p. 203). Therefore the members of the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam believe Baba Nanak to be a Muslim for which they have strong supporting evidence. According to one source Baba Nanak was born in 1469 A.D. and according to another source in 900 A.H. ApparentlyBabaNanak’sparentswere Hindus of the Khatri or Kushatri caste. Baba Nanak’s father Bhai Kalu and his grandfather Sbbha had both pledged allegiance to a Muslim saint — Hazrat Shah Shams Tabraiz (Sut Bachan, p. 186). Therefore even at birth Baba Nanak had an affiliation with Islam. His birth place was Talwandi which later on came to be known as Nankana Saheb about forty miles from Lahore. At that time this town was governed by a nobleman Rai Bular of Hindu descent who converted to Islam (Man’s Religion, p. 235). In that village, B ab a Nanak spent his childhood and early manhood. (World Religions, p. 250). As a young man Nanak found that Hindus had gone astray from their religious teaching. Also, Muslims did not, generally, abide by their faith, therefore Baba Nanak strived to bring Hindus and Muslims together and make them live in peace and harmony. It is definite that Baba Nanak moved away from the teaching of the Hindu Vedas and came closer to the teachings of the Holy Quran. Baba Nanak, as a young man, was exhibiting his poetic skills and was BABA NANAK WAS A MUSLIM 15 mostly given to meditation and religious speculation. During this period, he was accompanied by two companions Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana. Bhai Bala was originally a Hindu but had later accepted Islam. (Sut Bachan, p. 117). And Bhai Mardana also had similar religious leanings. (Man’s Religions, p. 237). Baba Nanak married twice and had children. From his first wife, he had two sons. Baba Nanak’s second marriage was solemnised with the daughter of a Muslim whose name was Hyat Khan. It is known that Baba Nanak, from his childhood, felt a distrust of the Hindu religion and its rites. He took no interest in Hindu rituals such as bathing in the river Ganges, He denied the spiritual authority of the Vedas. Instead of Sanskrit, Baba Nanak preferred to write in the vernacular. He strongly opposed the Brahmins for their barren ritualism. He did not believe in the Hindu belief of reincarnation. (World Religions, p. 235). Baba Nanak’s doctrinal position had a simple form. Its basic tenet is monotheism, which coincides with the Muslim belief. Baba Nanak believed the Creator to be One, Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient, rather than in multi-purpose Hindu gods. He believed that One Creator had created this world and not with the assistance of Maya, a Hindu mythical goddess. Baba Nanak did not like the teachings of Vedas because there was little in them of value for spiritual advancement. More and more people are reaching the same conclusion as translations of the Vedas are becoming available. Baba Nanak, however, had found out this truth in his own time. It is evident from the life of Baba Nanak that like a good Muslim he recited the Holy Quran and observed the five daily obligatory prayers. He also rendered some of the verses of the Holy Quran into the Punjabi language which formed part of the Granth saheb — Holy Scriptures of the Sikhs. It is said that the actual compilation of the Granth saheb took place during the time of Guru Arjan, fifth successor of Baba Nanak. At that time the Granth Saheb contained about half of the collection of hymns etc of Guru Arj an and the rest were the contributions of Baba Nanak (World Religions, p. 239). If the Granth saheb consisted of purely B aba Nanak’s sayings, hymns etc, then it would have been just a collection of verses from the Holy Quran translated into the Punjabi language. The first sacred collection of the Sikh writings which is called Janam Sakhi of Angad very clearly points out that Baba Nanak was a Muslim. Guru Angad was the first successor of Baba Nanak and Janam Sakhi simply means “life .history of the Guru”, There are more than one Janam Sakhis and they are biographical writings and tales about Baba Nanak in prose form. The word Sikh literally means a disciple. Baba Nanak wanted his disciples to be good, pure in motive and action and to be virtuous. He also enjoined brotherhood among his people, avoidance of trouble and strife and good 16 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS , relations within the families. He preached humility and respect for the rights of others. He stressed upon his disciples to seek the company of those who were pious and holy. There is a distinct tinge of the Islamic faith in his teachings. The followers of Gurus were first called Nanakpanthis but later on assumed the name ‘Sikh’ which literally means learner or disciple. It was a devotional system and to the Sikhs themselves it was known as Guru Mut, that is followers of the Spiritual Leader. As time passed, the pure spiritual system was replaced by what came to be known as Khalsa. The khalsa can be described as an order, a brotherhood in which religious, military and social duties are merged in a single discipline. It was the tenth Guru Govind Singh who founded the Khalsa organisation in 1699. In fact the spiritual element had already been replaced by resorting to force when the fifth Guru Arjan left a will for his son Hari Govind to: “sit fully armed on his throne and maintain an army to the best of his ability” (Dorothy Fields, The Religion of the Sikh, p. 19). Baba Nanak was considered to be a Muslim during his life time. (Janam Sakhi, Bhai Bala p. 132). He was considered to be a Muslim Saint. (History of Guru Khalsa by Sundar Singh, pp. 24-44). He was known as Nanak Darwaish — a pious man. He went to Mecca as a Muslim darwaish. Some called him Nanak Qalundar. In Mecca Baba Nanak had a house designed in the shape of a Mosque. In Arab countries he was known as a Muslim Saint from India. In Baghdad, Baba Nanak was considered a Muslim Pir. In Hazara (Pakistan) there were groups of people who had expressed their allegiance to Baba Nanak as a Muslim Saint. He was known as Nanak Shah and Nanak Malung. (Janam Sakhi Bhai Bala, p. 208. Also History of Guru Khalsa by G.G.S., p. 128). Baba Nanak exchanged greetings like a Muslim saying assalamo alaikum and when so greeted he said wa alaikomus salam that is Peace be on you and Peace be on you too. He called people to prayer in the formal Muslim way known as Azan. When the Sikhs came to power in the Punjab they prohibited Muslims from calling Azan. Today in Pakistan, President Zia has made it a crime for Ahmadiyya Muslims to call Azan. Baba Nanak was educated by a Muslim religious scholar and theologian Syed Mir Hasan who lived in his neighbourhood. Syed Mir himself was a saint and shared with Baba Nanak many spiritual experiences and secrets (Tawarikh Guru Khalsa, p. 86). Baba Nanak also visited Sarhand Sharif and spent forty days in fasting and worshipping on the burial place of a celebrated saint Kh. Abdul Shakoor. (Tawarikh Khalsa, p. 224). Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad — the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya BABA NANAK WAS A MUSLIM 17 Movement in Islam, separated historical facts from some imaginary stories which the passage of time had gathered around B aba Nanak in the writings of the Sikhs. Some of these legends were far from being factual. For example”, Bhai Bala was enjoying the company of Baba Nanak in Madina but he wished to return to his home in the Punjab, India. Baba Nanak asked Bhai Bala to close his eyes and at the next moment on opening his eyes Bhai Bala found himself sitting in his village at home. Hazrat Ahmad pointed out that the miracle attributed to Baba Nanak was not factual. That was an interpolation of a later date. Similarly, while visiting Mecca, the town of Mecca and the Kaaba itself kept moving from one place to another to stay towards Baba Nanak’s feet. This was not something that actually happened. Another attributed non-historical incident pointed out by Hazrat Ahmad is that the Meccans started conversing in Punjabi language with Baba Nanak because that was his language. This incident can be outrightly rejected as non-factual. Again, some Sikh writings assert that while in Mecca, Baba Nanak met Imam Azam who in fact had died about seven hundred years earlier. This attributed miracle to Baba Nanak did not actually take place. Again, it is said that Baba Nanak met Syed Abdul Qadir Jailani in Baghdad. But Syed Jailani had died about four hundred years before and therefore no such meeting could take place. Further, according to Sikh writings, Qaroon and Baba Farid Shakar Ganj were made to meet Baba Nanak. Actually, Qaroon was a contemporary of Hazrat Moses and lived long before Baba Nanak’s time; and Baba Farid had died about two hundred years before Baba Nanak. Therefore these incidents were far from being factual. Also, it is generally accepted that the Holy Book of the Sikhs, Granth Saheb, was actually compiled about two hundred years after Baba Nanak. Hazrat Ahmad, nevertheless, contended that there could be no contradictions in Baba Nanak’s words. Evidently at a later time some writers interpolated their own ideas into the Granth Saheb. The Encyclopaedia Britannica contends that the Granth actually contains the composition of many people. It is very easy to separate the real sayings of Baba Nanak from the sayings attributed to him. The yard-stick is the teachings of the Holy Book of the Muslims, the Holy Quran. Baba Nanak’s sayings in the Granth Saheb which are an explanation, translation of the verses from the Holy Quran are authentic. Any other contradictory material, contrary to Holy Quran’s teachings, is an interpolation of a later date. (Sut Bachan, pp. 134-137). It is certain that Baba Nanak went to perform the Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca once or even twice according to some traditions. An area of land situated on the right bank of the river Ravi had been donated to him where he built a village named Kartarpur. It appears that he spent most of his remaining years in that village. Baba Nanak had designated Angad to succeed him. He passed away peacefully in September 1539 according to one tradition (World Religions, p. 250) and in 1538 according to another tradition. (Man’s Religions, p. 237). 18 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Baba Nanak knew beforehand that the time for him to leave this world was approaching. He wrote a letter to Muslims of Bukhara to visit him as early as possible and then also to join other Muslims in offering his final funeral prayers. (Sut Bachan, p. 176). At the time of his death another legendary lore has been introduced in the biography of Baba Nanak. It is said that after Baba Nanak had been laid to rest, a sheet was placed over his body. The Muslims then said that they should be allowed the body to let them offer funeral prayers for him. The Hindus wanted to cremate his body. The legendary tradition continues saying that on removing the sheet the body of Baba Nanak was not found and had disappeared. The Muslims took the half sheet and offered funeral prayers over it and then buried it. The Hindus cremated the other half of the sheet. Thus even in death, Nanak reconciled Hindus and Muslims. (M. A. MacAuliff, pp. 190-191). Hazrat Ahmad, very clearly pointed out in his book, Sut Bachan, that the incident of saying funeral prayers over half of the sheet without Baba Nanak’s body was untrue. Muslims do not say funeral prayers for a body that is not there. Some English authors contend that the disappearing of the body simply meant that some followers might have taken away the body without being noticed. In that way this incident resembles that of Jesus Christ, where the Jews suspected that his body might be secretly taken away. (Matthew 27:64). Hazrat Ahmad contends that as Baba Nanak was a Muslim, his body was taken away secretly by his Muslim followers, and after saying funeral prayers it was buried in a safe place. (Sut Bachan, p. 237). Baba Nanak spent his life like a pious Muslim. He performed ritual forty days fasting and divine worship on the:shrines of Shah Shams Tabraiz; Sheikh Mueen-ud-Din Chishti, Sheikh Abdul Shakoor and Baba Farid. He also prayed in solitude in Baghdad on the shrine of Syed Abdul Qadir Jailani, another reputable Muslim saint. Having performed Hajj, he also reached Madina and offered prayers in the Prophet’s Mosque. Baba Nanak is said to have come under the influence of Sufi groups of Muslims. As a result some of the doctrines held by the Sikh Gurus were distinctly Sufiastic. Indeed the early Gurus openly assumed the manners and dress of the faqirs — Muslim Darwaishes — holy men thus plainly announcing their connection with Sufiism. They are represented in pictures with small rosaries in their hands, according to Muslim fashion, as though ready to perform Zikr — remembrance of Allah. (Hughe’s Dictionary of Islam, pp. 583-591). Hazrat Ahmad points out that a very convincing evidence of Baba Nanak being a Muslim saint is his cloak which is called.the Chola Saheb. It is believed universally, by the Sikhs, that the Chola .Saheb came from heaven. Baba Nanak used to wear the Chola almost all the time. The Chola is made of cotton and accorded great respect by the Sikhs. It is preserved in Dera Baba BABA NANAK WAS A MUSLIM 19 Nanak, a place in District Gurdaspur, India, and an anniversary is held in honour of the Chola Saheb. Hazrat Ahmad personally went to look at the Chola Saheb on September 30,1895, in the company of some of his followers. In his book “Sut-Bachan” Hazrat Ahmad has narrated at length how he was able to look at the Chola Saheb which usually stays hidden under a heap of decorated covers. It was very unusual that anyone would be allowed to look at the actual sacred treasure. So the caretakers hesitated at first but later on agreed to show the Chola Saheb to Hazrat Ahmad and his companions. Slowly and with great care, they unveiled the Sacred Robe.’ It caused great amazement to the people who were in the company of Hazrat Ahmad just to look at the Chola Saheb because the Robe or Chola Saheb was inscribed with passages from the Holy Quran. The whole writing was then carefully copied and the picture of Chola Saheb appeared in Hazrat Ahmad’s book “Sut-Bachan” and later on in other books also. In a nut-shell, the Chola Saheb, beyond any doubt, proved that: 1. Baba Nanak was indeed a Muslim. 2. He was not a founder of any new religion and his spiritual influence tended to bring Hindus closer to Islam. 3. He believed in the Oneness of God and subscribed to the Muslim, creed which he preached wherever he went. 4. He carried out practically all the obligatory ordinances of Islam. He associated with Muslims, exchanged Muslim greetings and dressed like a Muslim. As such there is no doubt that Baba Nanak was not only just a Muslim but a saint and a holy personage. He combined in himself the best teachings of a true religion because being a Muslim saint he walked in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet of Islam. He did not make any compromise against Islamic tenets and exposed the errors of the Hindus and Muslims of his time. Baba Nanak lived like a true Muslim and led a righteous life. Beyond any doubt, the physical existence of the Chola Saheb stands as a landmark for the truth of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the Promised Messiah. For the Chola Saheb was a proof that the revelation he had received from Allah about Baba Nanak being a Muslim was true because: “He reveals not His secrets to anyone; except to him whom. He chooses, namely a Messenger of His.” (Holy Quran; 72:27-28).