Sikhism

Guru Nanak and Sikh Religion

10 GURU NANAK AND SIKH RELIGION (Giani Ibadullah) All the revealed religions which are practised in different parts of the world were .founded by divinely inspired chosen people of God. These religions are known from each other by their particular articles of faith and their peculiar modes of worship which their holy founders laid down for their followers. We, the Ahmadi Muslims, who have missions all over the world, sincerely respect all these religions and believe that to deny or denounce the holy founder of any religion is a highly despicable act which can even prove fatal to one’s own personal faith. The world has witnessed, and shall continue to witness, the spectre when the critics went down and the faithful sailed across. Most of our Sikh friends believe that Guru Nanak who was born in a middle class Hindu family of the Punjab, India, in 1469 AD (1526 Bikrimi) and whose birth had been foretold by a Muslim saint, was the founder of the Sikh religion, (Sant Sapahi Nov. 1965 issue). No learned Sikh, however, can deny the fact that, though born and bred in a Hindu family, Guru Nanak was not a Hindu by faith; and that he had, in fact, refuted each and every doctrine of his ancestral Hindu faith. A Sikh scholar writes: Guru Nanak had throughly read the Vedas and Shastras but he had rejected them all as useless. (Nuskha Khabt-e Diya Nandian p. 19 7) Another Sikh scholar, Prof. Sher Singh M.Sc says that: Gum Nanak never accepted and respected the authenticity of the Vedas as is done by the Vedic people. He did not believe the Vedas to be ‘revealed books’ nor did he believe the Vedic dogmas taught the whole truth. (Gurmat Darshan p.91) Another Sikh scholar, Pandit Kartar Singh Waka, has this to say on this issue: The Guru sahib had rejected the Vedas calling them creators of discord, preachers of sin and a treasure of worldly greed that takes one away from God. And he had called the followers of the Vedas as selfish liars who shall be punished by angels of death (Kharak Khalsa p.118) REVIEW OF RELIGIONS I 1 He further says: No doubt Guru Nanak came of a Vedic family but it will be highly absurd to consider him Vedic in faith only on this flimsy ground while we know that his heart was totally against the Vedas. (Kharak Khalsa p. 110) The late Giani Lai Singh, ex-secretary Punch Khalsa Diwan had also commented on this issue. He said: Most of the ‘Gurbani’ deals with the refutation of Hinduism. It preaches very effectively against the superstitious Hindu ideology. (Sikh Kanoon p.257) The above cited references make it abundantly clear that despite his birth in a Hindu family, Guru Nanak was not a Hindu at all. He refuted very boldly in his sermons each and every doctrine and rite of Hinduism. It was this very refutation of Hinduism that had made Pandit Daya Nand, the founder of Arya Samaj, criticise Guru Nanak. (Satyarath Parkash class 2) The Sikh community of our times believe that Guru Nanak was the Founder and the First Guru ofSikhism. They think that the Sikh ideology, as preached and practised by them today, is based on the teachings of Guru Nanak. A Sikh scholar has claimed: The temple of ‘Gurmat’ was founded by Guru Nanak. This temple was later completed and given final and finishing touches by the tenth guru, Gobind Singh! (Gurumat Darshan p.95) A book named Janam Sakhi Guru Nanak Devji has been published by Dr. Peyar Singh. On the title of this book it is stated that this text has been taken from the original hand-written text NO. PNJ B40, found in the India Office Library, London, and is being published with the permission of the Incharge of Records of that library. In this Janam Sakhi while introducing Guru Nanak it is mentioned that: He came to be known by the name ‘Baba Nanak’ and ushered in his own new creed. (Janam Sakhi Guru Nanak Dev Ji p.33) But a well known Sikh scholar Dr. Surendar Singh Dosanj, has expressed a different view on this topic. He says: For a biography to depict the true features of any person it is essential that it should present the facts in the light of 12 RKVIEW 01-‘ RELIGIONS contemporaneous events and circumstances. In this particular aspect ‘every Sikh scholar has been very unfair to Guru Ji. A biographer of Guru Nanak, in our times, would assert in the very beginning that ‘he was the founder and the first Guru of Sikhism’ But to portray Guru Nanak as the founder of Sikhism is to present a very narrow view of his personality; and this is not expected of a good biographer (Guru Nanak barey sach de khoj, X) The statement of Dr. Surendar Singh, given above, hardly needs any comments. Two important facts are borne out by his statement. 1. To believe Guru Nanak to be the founder and first Guru of Sikhism is to do injustice to him. 2. To open the biography of Guru Nanak by introducing him as the founder of Sikhism is not a good biography. Dr. Dosanj has further supported his observation by citing two historical facts. He writes: 1. All that makes the Sikhs so different from others is undoubtedly an addition made after the days of Guru Nanak. 2. The present set up of Sikhism is not the work of Guru Nanak although it has adopted most of all from the person and preachings of Guru Nanak. (Guru Nanak barey sach de khoj, p.116,120) So we see that it is an open secret that all that is peculiar to Sikhism and is used to prove that Sikhs are a community distinct and different from others, has been added to it long after Guru Nanak. He had nothing to do with it whatsoever, nor can we historically attribute all these later additions to his person. The important question in this context, which all the learned Sikhs should think about is how could Guru Nanak preach the dogmas and practise the rituals which did not even exist in his days? In the pictures, painted by earlier Sikh (artists) Guru Nanak was not shown as a Sikh observing/iV kakas. Even Dr. Surendar Singh agrees that in the pictures, prepared in those earlier days, Guru Nanak was shown like a Muslim saint. He says: In earlier paintings Guru Nanak looks like a Muslim ‘peer’ (Guru Nanak barey sach de khoj, p.59,1 38) REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 1 3 It may be noted that these ancient pictures of Guru Nanak were painted not by Muslim artists but by Guru Nanak’s non-Muslim devotees. And the fact that these artists have shown Guru Nanak in their paintings dressed like a Muslim saint, proves that the concept of Guru Nanak dressed like a five kaka Sikh did not exist at that time. When there was no such thing as Jive kakas in those days, naturally Guru Nanak could not be shown to be observing them. It has been mentioned by Sardar Tehel Singh that Guru Gobind Singh had some picture of Sikh Gurus which he had handed over to his Sikh disciples from Peshawar. Among those pictures, he says, was a painting where Guru Nanak was shown as a Hajj ready to go to Mecca. (Rag Mala Mandal p.112) Now it cannot be said at this stage that the picture where Guru Nanak has been shown ready to go’to Mecca to become a Hajji, could actually be showing him as afive kekar Sikh because it is an established historical fact that Guru Nanak had undertaken that journey to the Holy city of Mecca dressed and equiped like a Muslim going for Hajj. In this respect, a well known Sikh personality, Bhai Gurdas Ji has affirmed that: Dressed in blue, Baba then went to Mecca, with staff in hand, book under the arm and holding a pot and a prayer mat. (Var 1-32) Which Book the Guru travelled with, we need not guess because a Sikh scholar, Sardar G. B. Singh, Postmaster General Rtd. has mentioned it. He says: Bhai Gurdas Ji has written ‘a book under the arm’, which can be a reference to a ‘Hama.il Sharief. ‘Hamail’ is a copy of the Holy Quran, small in volume and fine in print, which the Muslims, finding light and handy, usually put in a satchel and hang on their slioulders (Pirachin Beeran p.30) It may be noted that this copy of the Holy Quran which Guru Nanak carried with him on his journey to Mecca, was presereved at Guru Harsahai, District Ferozpur till as late as the year 1931. This was confirmed by a popular Sikh newspaper Khalsa Smachar: At Guru Harsahai District Pero’zpur, there is presereved a copy of the Holy Quran which is stated to be the same Holy Quran which Guru Nanak carried with him on his journey to Mecca and Medina. (Khalsa Smachar,’Amritsar, Oct 8, 1931) 14 REVIEW OH RELIGIONS The above mentioned reference proves that that copy of the Holy Quran was there at Guru Harsahai, District Ferozpur, upto the year 1931. But it was removed from there and destroyed sometime in 1944-45; and a hand written copy of Guru Garanth was replaced instead. Commenting on this incident, Sardar G. B. Singh has remarked that: It is indeed a miracle that a copy of the Holy Quran turned into ‘Guru Garanth’; and it has been exposed after the Ahmadis carried out their investigations. And all this was brought about silently sometime between 1908 and 1944. But this ‘miracle’ has one big snag — that instead of using some other book as a substitute, a copy of Guru Garanth has been used; and it can never be said of any copy of ‘Guru Garanth’ that it could be book (Pothi) used by Guru Nanak. (Pirachin Biran p.21) It may be remembered that the compilation of Guru Garanth Sahib dates back to the year 1604 AD (1661 Bikrimi) while Guru Nanak Ji had passed away sixty five years earlier in 15 3 8-3 9 AD (159 5-9 6 Bikrimi). Now the important question in this context which all the well meaning Sikhs should ponder over is, how could the book which came into existence 65 years after the death of Guru Nanak, be the book (Pothi) used by Guru Nanak? It also seems appropriate to mention here that in 1908 AD a delegation of Ahmadiyya Jama’at had visited Guru Harsahai to examine that copy of the Holy Quran. One of the honourable members of that delegation was no less a personality than Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmad, the illustrious son of the Holy Founder of Ahmadiyya Commu- nity who was later chosen as the second Khalifa of this Community. Commenting on this delegation’s visit, Sardar G. B. Singh, Postmaster General Rtd. observed: All the members of this delegation were educated people, well versed in the Holy Quran. Having seen the ‘Pothi Sahib’, they could never be mistaken in declaring it to be a copy of the Holy Quran. (Piracheen Beeran p. 18) Another Sikh scholar Kalyan Das Ji has related in respect of this visit as under: On April 4, 1 908 (Hazrat) Mirza Ghulam Ahmad sent some of his people to Guru Harsahai, district Ferozpur. They visited the ‘Sodees’ there and examined the ‘Pothi’ in the presence ofSodi Bishan Singh; and they discovered that it was the Holy Quran! (Sachi Khoj part I, p.7) REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 1 5 And yet another Sikh scholar and our respectable friend, the. late Sardar G. B. Singh, editor Pareet Laree commented thus on this visit by our delegation: When the delegation of ‘Jama’at Ahmadiyya’ examined the ‘Pothi’, it presented to the press a convincing proof that Guru Nanak was a Muslim. It was publicised widely by the Sodees’ of Guru Harsahai that ‘Guru Ji’ used to keep this ‘Pothi’ with him while travelling around. (Pareet Laree, June 1945) . It is indeed very unfortunate that this convincing proof of Guru Nanak’s faith in Islam has been destroyed and thus the world has been deprived of a very sacred and useful relic of Guru Nanak. And without considering the consequences, a hand written copy of Guru Garanth was substituted for it as if it could be the Pothi Guru Nanak used to keep with him on his journeys. Nobody bothered to reflect that Guru Granth which came into existancein 1604 AD (1661 Bik) could in no case be proved to be the relic of Guru Nanak who had died in 15 3 9 AD (1596 BIK) and that too a copy of Guru Garanth which was written in the times of Guru Harsahai; Dr. Surendar Singh has said in this respect that the Sikhs have adopted the teachings of Guru Nanak more than the others. But, looking on the practical side of it, they could not have cared less in putting those teachings into practice. Here are two examples, again from the same learned doctor, of their total neglect of Guru Nanak and his teachings. He admits: 1. The present shape of Sikh religion is not the work of Guru Nanak. 2. It is true that to find the realities about the life of ‘historical Guru Nanak’ is a very difficult task but to find the ‘historical features’ of Guru Nanak is not difficult at all. These (features) are there in ‘Guru Garanth’ portrayed in his own words for every one to see and study. Millions must have chanted (his words) to keep their vows when their desired objectives were acheived but hardly anyone would have studied those words to look for the real features of Guru Nanak. That is why Guru Nanak which we believe in today, is the Guru Nanak of Sikh folklore and not the Guru Nanak of Gurbani. (Guru Nanak barey sach de khoj p. 10) In short, it is an open secret now that the image of Guru Nanak presented to the world by our Sikh brothers who claim to have adopted 1 f> RKVIKYV OK RKI.IG10NS the teachings of Guru Nanak more than the others, is the self made product of the imagination of the Sikh tale tellers. This fictitious image has nothing to do with the real Guru Nanak of Gurbani who was an entirely different and distinct personality. And what is most disturbing, even the pictures of this imaginary Guru Nanak are now being prepared and displayed. Lamenting on this new trend, a Sikh scholar writes: We have made a mess of the pictures of Guru Nanak]}. The pictures that were therefor the past forty years, have been completely altered; and we do not know what kind of conspiracy is operating behind this trend, who knows that in the pictures of Guru Nanak to be printed tomorrow, even his name may be changed; and instead of ‘Guru Nanak’ they may start writing him as ‘Guru Nanak Dev Singh’. (Sant Sapahi, Amritsar, August 1963) It is true, indeed, that in the current pictures of Guru Nanak, his features have been noticeably altered so as to make him look like a Guru observing/fve kekar, and we are afraid, his name too will now be changed so as to read Guru Nanak Dev Singh. May God save our Guru Nanak from such followers! The fact of the matter is that, quite contrary to the general concept, Guru Nanak preached and practised entirely different doctriness. In this respect. Dr. Tarlochan Singh has affirmed that: 1. Guru Nanak had accepted the Muslim faith in ‘only one God’. 2. Guru Nanak believed Mohammad Sahib to be God’s Messenger with singular status. (Jewan cherter Guru Nanak Dev p.300,305) Both the above mentioned doctrines, namely faith in the unity of God and belief in the prophethood of Mohammad (peace be on him) are the essentials of the Islamic creed (Kalima) which reads: There is no God except Allah and Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah. Anybody who sincerely professes this creed is a Muslim, and he needs no stamp or certificate to that effect from any Alfa, Mullah or any other self-styled custodian of Islam. Guru Nanak was evidently a true Muslim. In this respect, the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, peace be upon him, expressed his views thus: Our opinion about Baba Nanak Sahib is that he was undoubtedly a REVIEW OP RELIGIONS 17 true Muslim, Disgusted with the Vedas and blessed by the sacred ‘Kalima’ – There is no God except Allah and Mohammad is the Messenger of Allah – he had surely found that new life which no one can get without following the Holy Prophet of Allah, the Exalted (Sat Bachan 31) In persuance of the above mentioned declaration by the Holy Founder of our Community, we, the Ahmadi Muslims all over the world, deeply respect and sincerely accept Guru Nanak to be our venerable saint whom we shall hold in high esteem throughout our lives. However, we dissociate ourselves completely from that imaginary Guru Nanak which is presented to the world by the Sikhs these days. We hope the Sikhs would appreciate our stand and would listen to the advice of yet another Sikh scholar who said: We should not feel offended if the Muslims call Jagat Pir Nanak a Muslim. This in fact is an expression of respect, excellence and.praj.se for our Guru Nanak. Guru Nanak belonged to the Muslims first and to us later. Apart from that, there were only two major nations (Hindu and Muslims) in the days of Guru Nanak; and the ‘Khalsa Panth’ came into existence some two hundred years later. (Sacho sach p.72) Obviously, therefore, it will be absolutely wrong for any of our Sikh brothers to connect Guru Nanak with the Khalsa Panth which originated two hundred years after the Guru -Ji. There was no such thing .as Khalsa Panth in his days nor can he be regarded as its architect. This sorry state of affairs, evidently, needs our serious consideration without’being emotional and partial in any way. To sort out and settle such sensitive and sacred issues that touch so deeply the spiritual sides of our lives, it is not the sentiments but the sober reflection and sensible appraisal that is required. Perhaps it is in view of these very noble considerations that some Sikh scholars have now made a bold and open confession that: No new religion was ushered in by Guru Nanak and to say that he was the founder of any new religion is to do injustice to him (Weekly • Guru Nanak Number 1967) Dr. Kirpal Singh Nareng has said that: A deep insight into the life and teachings of Guru Nanak would reveal that he did not intend to introduce any new faith; nor did he start any new religion (‘Sant Sapahi’ Amritsar Nov. 62) 18 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS And again Dr. Tarin Singh Ji has explained: Personally, Guru Nanak did not preach any new religion; nor did he aim at originating any new religion! (Pothi ? p.38) All these references make it abundantly clear that as far as the teachings of Guru Nanak are concerned, there is nothing to prove that he founded any new religipn. If any Nanak did introduce any such thing, it must be the fictitious Nanak of Sikh folklore and not the real Nanak of Guvbani! We must not lose sight of the fact that for any real founder of .a new religion, it is basically essential for him to clearly claim that he has been deputed by God to introduce that particular religion. And having founded that religion,, it is also imperative for. him to give his religion, and its adherents, a specific name, defining their particular doctrines and mode and manner of their ‘worship. Now, in the case of Guru Nanak none of these-basic requirements are met with. It is, therefore, absolutely baseless to think him to be the founder of any new religion. Guru Nanak never made any sort of claim. Even the Sikh scholars agree to that: From Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, no one called himself anything like ‘the great, the prophet or the messenger’. No claim was made whatsoever!(Khalsa smachar, Amritsar, Nov 13, 1939) and that: Guru Nanak Ji never said he was the ‘Guru’ Nanak. (Jagat ? p.14) Besides the above mentioned two scholars, there are many others who have accepted the fact that Guru Nanak did not make any sort of claim to any particular rank. (See Guru mat darshan p.35; Pareetam Delhi, Dec 1940; Pareet Lari Nov 1946.) Sardar Gur Bakhsh Singh, editor Pareet Lari has even gone on to say that: . As the time passed by, the devotees made him (Guru Nanak) into a ‘special Guru’; and on the throne of his ‘Guruship’ a new religion was built up. (Pareet Lari 1948) So the truth of the matter is that Guru Nanak neither made any claim to REVIEW OF RELIGIONS 19 any sort of rank or leadership, nor did he start any new creed, sect or religion. All these things are innovations introduced by the people in his name long after his death. Moreover, it is also an established fact known to and accepted by the Sikh scholars that the Gurus are made not by people but by God; and that He bestows this honour upon whom He pleases as and when necessary. (Guru Garanth Sahib, shabdar p.929; Gagat Rakh, p.33; Sant sapahi Amritsar July, 1959) And as we have seen above, Guru Nanak made no claim to the fact that he had been sent by God or that he had been deputed to start any new religion. And even the Sikh elite, scholars and other men of letters and learning have deemed it an act of injustice to call Guru Nanak to be the founder of any religion. It is also a well known and widely accepted fact that in the days of Guru Nanak, there were only two main religions in India! One was Islam which was politically dominant and the other, was Hinduism which -enjoyed numerical superiority. In respect of this historical fact, here are some authentic statements of Sikh scholars: 1. The only two major nations in the days of Guru Nanak were Hindu and Muslim. The ‘Khalsa Panth’ came into existence some two hundred years later. (Sacho sach, p. 16) 2. Bhai Gurdas Ji, a well known Sikh scholar said: This third religion ‘Khalsa’ started on the orders of Guru Gobind Singh. 3. You started this third ‘Panth’. Well done! Guru Gobind singh! You are the Guru and the disciple, (both in one). (Var 41:16-17) 4. Guru Gobind Singh himself said in this respect: From Nanak to Gobind you see only one; we have, started the third religion. (Tenth Garanth p.263) 5. From Nanak to the nine Gurus, no one started any new religion, it is we who, despising the Hindu Dharm, introduced this third ‘Panth’ of Sikhs. (Baje Sakat, p.303) To sum up the whole discourse, we can say that Guru Nanak was neither the founder of any religion, nor did he claim that he had been sent (continued on page 42)