Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Sikh-Muslim Similarities & Question of Mistaken Identity

In the first week of December 2011, a Sikh preacher was stabbed by a 26-years old American at Fresno airport. Most probably, he was attacked because he looked like the turban-wearing bearded Islamic jihadis (religious warriors) who are fighting the Americans at places like Afghanistan. Bodies of dead American soldiers are arriving daily from that part of the world.

As other similar assaults on turban wearing Sikhs since 9/11, this life threatening attack too was probably due to mistaken identity.

A turban wearing bearded person is seen as a threat to security, even by ignorant or misguided officials in Western countries. Practising Sikhs are put on the defensive while real terrorists get away, literally, with murder !

At about the same time as the Fresno airport attack on the UK based Sikh preacher, a heated debate was going on under the heading, “Seeking Sikh Muslim Peace” on a cyber forum, Gurmat Learning Zone (GLZ).  I started taking an interest when a Sikh writer, Nanak Singh Nishter, introduced his paper to the debate. He wrote, “To add further, following is my paper "Similarities between Muslims and Sikhs" to be submitted at a scheduled international seminar on "Islamic Culture & Art" being organised by the Maulana Azad National Urdu University at Hyderabad.”

In this paper, he writes, “There are seven Muslim co-authors of Shri Guru Granth Sahib.”

To describe the galaxy of bhagats honoured in Guru Granth Sahib, as co-authors of Guru Granth Sahib, is misleading. We also need to bear in mind that these saints associated with the God-loving bhagti movement, which preached One Divine Light in all, were socio-religious reformers of their time. They were often punished for their egalitarian teachings by the orthodox religions they were associated with by their birth. It may even be argued that they had opted out of the dogma based divisive ideologies of the orthodox religions.

It is necessary to quote one part of Nanak Singh Nishter’s paper at length, to show the extent to which our scholars bend over backwards to please Muslim audiences. He writes:

Quote starts:
"To elaborate the subject of the paper, I will confine to one very interesting fact worth mentioning found in an Urdu book “Muslims’ loving opinion about the Sikh Nation and their Founders” written by a Muslim luminary divine Hazrat Khaja Hasan Nizami. It is found in Khuda Bakhash Library, Patna, Bihar and was published on 27th December 1922 by the Khaja Press, Batala, Punjab. On page 8, under the subheading “Sikhs are Muslims”, he says, “Though politically Congress and the Government have accepted the special and separate existence of the Sikhs, but according to religious traditions, they are absolute Muslims. And the days are not far away when the Sikhs and Muslims will religiously unite”.

On page 10, he [Nizami] has scholarly proved the similarities of staunch belief in Formless Absolute One God, saying that there is “Bal brabar ka bhi faraq nahi hai” that is there is no difference not even as minute as hair. He has discussed at length the similarities between Sikhs and Muslims of faith, traditions, worships, so on and so forth in a very convincing manner. Further he has also projected the strange contradictions between Sikhs and Hindus, which do not compromise at any level.

On page 12, he [Nizami] says, “Summarising, there are hundreds of things which are common between them and the Muslims which shows that the Sikhs are Muslims and Muslims are Sikhs. Now it is the time for them that they should forget the previous political quarrels and become the two arms of Hindustan and lead their life”. Nobody can deny the fact that Sikhism and Islam are the most monotheistic religions and do not tolerate sharing of Absolute God with any other form."  (Quote ends)

So, those are the views of Hazrat Nizami, quoted by Nanak Singh Nishter, apparently with approval, in a paper to be submitted at a scheduled international seminar.

Using all sorts of arguments to show how close Sikhi and Islam are, Nanak Singh Nishter also goes on to list gurdwaras named after Muslims. The average reader is left wondering, if a Sikh “scholar”, after much research is making those sort of admissions before an international audience at an Islamic university dominated by Islamic scholars, then the white American rednecks can be forgiven for thinking that Sikhs are Muslims! 
I do hope our scholars and, especially those in the interfaith area, would wake up before it is too late. Sikh thought cannot be reconciled with any belief system of the dark ages. Any apparent similarities between New Age Sikh thought, and orthodox ideologies, hide some fundamental differences. For example, both, Sikhi and Islam preach One God, yet the "Ik Oangkaar" of Guru Nanak Sahib cannot possibly be reconciled with the Allah of Islam, who is given almost human attributes, and who sits outside creation (e.g. according to Dr Zakir Naik). Both religions preach acquisition of knowledge, yet Islamic "knowledge" must not go further than the dogma of Islam. One has to just watch “Peace TV” run by Dr Zakir Naik to fully understand that Islamic ideas of "peace" and “acquisition of knowledge” are conditional and very Islamic !

The myth that Guru Nanak Sahib agreed with the underlying teachings of all religions, has been exploded by great Sikh scholars like Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha and Professor Sahib Singh by using Gurbani grammer (e.g. the significance of different spellings of similar sounding words i.e. “laga(n) matra(n) de bhed”) and by interpreting Gurbani in the light of a holistic view of the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib. The Snatan dharmi misinterpretation of Gurbani has been totally rejected. The folk lore, idiom and allegory have been distinguished from the Guru’s own teaching of an independent life affirming Sikhi model.

The Guru’s own description of a true Muslim, and a true pundit/Brahmin etc is another way of rejecting these religions as interpreted by the followers and as practised. Guru ji’s advice to Muslims that they should be compassionate (Musalmaan momdil hovai) is another way of pointing out that, in practice, that is one quality missing in those who practise this ideology.

Muslim rulers were being exhorted by Muslim religious leaders to be cruel to their non-Muslim subjects. For example, the death punishment handed out to a Hindu youth Yodhan (in original Persian script also mentioned as Bodhan) by the Nawab of Lahore (about 1500 CE) was following a seminar of most Muslim religious scholars of northern India. This case is well documented by respected scholar Harbans Singh Noor in his book, “Connecting the dots in Sikh history.”  All the youth had said was something to the effect that both, Islam and Hinduism are equally good religions. He was reported all the way to the Muslim ruler of Lahore who invited top Muslim religious scholars of Northern India to pronounce judgement, which was "either convert to Islam or die !"

There is no doubt that those who pronounced the death sentence for Yodhan were practising Muslims well versed in the teachings of Islam. It is possible that Guru Nanak Sahib at the age of 30 at the time, was much touched by this well reported case. Therefore, his cryptic response, "Na ko Hindu, na Musalmaan" i.e. there is no Hindu, and no Muslim, interpreted variously by scholars, depending upon own inclination!  

Some say, giving examples from Sikh history, that not all Muslims are bad Muslims, but then not all Muslims are practising Muslims either ! It is for Islamic scholars and highest Islamic authorities to announce to the whole world the answer to the question, "Who is a good Muslim."  The Sikhs should do the same. Only then can real similarities be agreed !  

In Gurbani, there is no conscious attempt to reconcile or accept parts of orthodox ideologies. These are often quoted and rejected, to bring out the universal egalitarian values of Sikh thought.

Some years ago, during one local presentation before a multifaith audience, I did say light-heartedly, that given the choice, I would prefer to be beaten up in my own identity-right as a "Sikh" than as a "Masleem" by some ignorant hoodlum. I hope my Muslim brothers share the same sentiments. In fact, once in a while they should speak out against the Sikhs for not educating the ignorantia at large about their true Sikh identity; for, getting beaten up as “Muslims” is the well earned religious right of the Muslims !

As taught by the Guru, Sikhs see human race as one, while accepting and defending its rich diversity. There are many religions and schools of thought. The path of Sikhi too is distinct (niari). Nevertheless, when the Guru sees all human race as one and prays before Waheguru for the wellbeing of all and to save them no matter which religious path they follow, that does not mean that the Guru or his Sikhs agree with all that is taught or practised by those religions and cults. When we say that we should respect and preserve all life, that does not mean that we should respect the biting habit of a poisonous snake. We need to think carefully when we say “Sikhs respect all religions”. We need to reflect deeply about the shaheedi (martyrdom) of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Was it to save Hinduism, or was it for a Sikhi human rights principle ?

When the Islamic jihadi warrior (invader and marauder) and the Khalsa warrior (defender and protector), faced each other in the plains of 18th Century Panjab, both may have looked alike but they carried the inner conviction of two diametrically opposed ideologies. We suffer from the same mistaken identity today. Let us not make matters worse by accepting Sikh/Islamic similarities at interfaith forums, without in-depth research.

Dozens of well funded Islamic TV channels in the UK, run to the highest professional standards, are brainwashing millions in the name of Islam & peace on earth.

Orthodox religions have a long way to go to show the world that they really mean peace on earth. Regrettably, they cannot do this without dismantling much of the myth and dogma - the main pillars of their ideologies. Their aggressive form of evangelism is causing much interfaith friction.

The danger is that today's Sikhi(sm) and its highest institutions under Biparwaadi control, are weakening the reformation/revolutionary movement started by Guru Nanak Sahib to prepare human society for the New Age of science and discovery.

Sikh scholars should not feel apologetic for the independent path of Sikhi; nor can interfaith peace be based on doubtful similarities derived through tortuous interpretation of Sikh ideology and tradition.


(For further reading click www.sikhmissionarysociety.org – go to “publications”, “multifaith” and click “Sikh Religion & Islam”
Also related topic: “Sikh Approach to War & Peace”, Arches Quarterly, Vol 3 Edition 5 Dec 2009 - Feb 2010 ISSN 1756-7335 War, Peace & Reconciliation Cordoba Foundation - Cultures in Dialogue. www.the cordobafoundation.com

The article can be read
http://sewauk.blogspot.com/2010/05/sikhi-approach-to-war-peace.html


Gurmukh Singh UK
E-mail: sewauk2005@yahoo.co.uk

Copyright: Gurmukh Singh
Article may be published, or quoted from, with acknowledgment.

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