Islam and Sikhism
Islam is an Abrahamic religion founded in the Arabian peninsula, while Sikhism is a Dharmic religion founded in the Indian subcontinent. Islam means “submission” (to the will of God). The word Sikh is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘disciple’, or one who learns.
Both religions are monotheistic. Sufi Muslims and Sikhs believe that the ‘One’ creator permeates the creation. Salafi Muslims on the other hand disagree. Sufi Muslims differ from Sikhs in that they believe that God manifests his attributes, namely the 99 names or attributes of God through creation. According to Salafi Muslims, God’s attributes are distinct and separate from his creation. Islam believes that Muhammad was the last prophet, to whom the Quran was revealed by God in the 7th century CE. Its primary sources of teachings come from the Quran, which Muslims believe is the word of God, and the Sunnah, the life examples and practices of the prophet Muhammad. Sikhism was founded in the 15th century CE by Guru Nanak and the Guru Granth Sahib is the scripture followed by Sikhs as “The Living Guru”.
In Islam, the legal system based on the Quran and the Sunnah is known as Sharia; there is no such legal system mentioned in Guru Granth Sahib. Daily prayers are one of the pillars of Islam and is mandatory for eligible Muslims. Baptized Sikhs read the five banis (prayers) as part of their daily routine, Nitnem. Islam requires annual zakah (alms giving) by Muslims, while Sikhism encourages alms giving but does not compel it. Kirat Karna (doing an honest livelihood – earning honestly without any sort of corruption), Naam Japna (to praise, read and follow “The One”) and Vand Chhako (Selfless service (Sewa) and sharing with others) are fundamental to Sikhism given by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Pilgrimage (to Mecca) is a crucial part of Islam, while Sikhism denounces pilgrimages, circumcision and rituals.
There has been a history of constructive influence and conflict between Islam and Sikhism. The Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib includes teachings from two mystics of a Muslim background namely saints (Kabir, Bhagat Farid). In contrast, of total 10 Sikh gurus, last six gurus were persecuted by Mughal rulers, two gurus – Guru Arjan and Guru Tegh Bahadur – were tortured and executed for refusing to convert to Islam, children of Guru Gobind Singh were killed, along with numerous other revered figures of Sikhism such as Banda Bahadur, Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dayala). for refusing to convert to Islam, and for opposing the persecution of Sikhs and Hindus. Some sources contest such a historical rendition.
Sikhism believes that God is formless (nirankar). It has been called a form of pantheism, as well as monotheism.
Islam believes in one God with Muhammad as his last messenger. It denies other gods, and is strictly monotheistic (tawḥīd). This Islamic doctrine is a part of its Shahada.
Guru and Messengers
Sikhism reveres the ten human Gurus of Sikhs, but accepts that there were many divine messengers, including Krishna, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed in other religions.Islam believes that before Muhammad there were many messengers of God, Muhammad was the last messenger, and Quran was the last revelation to the last prophet.
Duties/Articles of Faith
The Five Pillars of Islam are duties incumbent on every Muslim. These duties are Shahada (testimony that “There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God”), Salat (prayers), Zakat (Giving of Alms), Sawm (Fasting during Ramadan) and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). These five practices are essential to Sunni Islam; Shi’a Muslims subscribe to eight ritual practices which substantially overlap with the five Pillars.
The three duties of Sikhs are Naam Japna (meditating on Waheguru’s name), Kirat Karni (earn honest living) and Vand Chakna (sharing one’s earning with others).
Sikhism has an ambivalent attitude towards miracles and rejects any form of discrimination within and against other religions. Sikhism does not believe in rituals, but is permissive of traditions.
Sikhism rejects asceticism and celibacy. The Sikhism founder Guru Nanak adopted the Indic ideas on rebirth, and taught the ideas of reincarnation. Adi Granth of Sikhism recognizes and includes spiritual wisdom from other religions. Islam warns against wrongful innovation (bid‘ah) to what is revealed in the Quran and the Hadiths.
Islam considers itself to be a perfect and final religion. It warns against innovation (bid‘ah) to what is revealed in the Quran and the Hadiths. It considers other religions and non-believers in Islam as wrongly guided and infidels. Islam does not recognize and accept spiritual wisdom from other religions.Islam believes in miracles and a final judgment day (Qiyama). Islam believes that there are severe punishments in the afterlife (akhirah) for those who do not submit to God, who refuse or reject Islamic teachings, calling them kafir and infidels. Sikhism does not preach or accept this view of those who are not Sikhs.
Apostasy, that is the abandonment of Islam by a Muslim and conversion to another religion or atheism, is a religious crime in Islam punishable with death. According to the Hadiths, states John Esposito, leaving Islam is punishable by “beheading, crucifixion or banishment”, and Sharia (Islamic legal code) traditionally has required death by the sword for an adult sane male who voluntarily leaves Islam. However, adds Esposito, modern thinkers have argued against execution as penalty for apostasy from Islam by invoking Quranic verse 2:257.
Sikhism allows freedom of conscience and apostasy.
Sikhism teaches that all religious traditions are valid, leading to the same Waheguru, and it rejects that any particular religion has a monopoly regarding absolute truth for all of humanity.Islam teaches that non-Islamic religious traditions have been distorted by man to suit their desires.
Islam believes in predestination, or divine preordainment (al-qadā wa l-qadar), God has full knowledge and control over all that occurs. According to Islamic tradition, all that has been decreed by God is written in al-Lawh al-Mahfūz, the “Preserved Tablet”.
Sikhism also believes in predestination, and what one does, speaks and hears is already pre ordained, and one has to simply follow the laid down path per God’s fiat or Hukum.
Grooming and dress
The Khalsa panth among Sikhs are guided by the five Ks. They keep their head hair long (kesh) and men wear turbans (head hair cover) Women may also wear a turban by their choice. They carry a wooden comb, wear an iron bracelet, wear a cotton underwear, and carry a kirpan (steel sword). Non baptized Sikh women are free to dress as they wish in Sikhism. Sex segregation is not required in public places or Sikh temples by Sikhism.
Muslim males are encouraged to grow their beards and trim the moustache. Men in some Muslim communities wear turban (head cap). Muslim men, as well as women, must dress modestly. For Muslim women, it is highly recommended to cover their hair. Muslim women are required to cover body in public, with some Islamic scholars stating that the Islamic Hadiths require covering the face too. Islam encourages gender segregation in public, and Muslim men and women do not usually mix in public places such as mosques. These restrictions are part of ‘Adab’.
Circumcision: Khitan (circumcision) and Religious views on female genital mutilation
Sikhism does not require circumcision of either males or females, and criticizes the practice.
In Islam, no verse in the Quran supports male or female circumcision (FGM/C). Male circumcision is a widespread practice and considered mandatory for Muslim males according to Sunnah. Muslim scholars disagree whether any authentic Sunnah in the hadiths supports the practice of female circumcision. The Ijma, or consensus of Muslim scholars, varies by the Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) on whether circumcision is optional, honorable or obligatory for Muslim male and females. Prominent Islamic scholars have both supported and opposed FGM/C for female Muslims.Circumcision, however, has ancient roots among several ethnic groups in sub-equatorial Africa, and is still performed on adolescent boys to symbolize their transition to warrior status or adulthood. In Judaism, circumcision has traditionally been practiced among males on the eighth day after birth. Male circumcision and/or subincision, often as part of an intricate coming of age ritual, was a common practice among Australian Aborigines and Pacific islanders.
Islam has Quranic restrictions on food, such as how the meat is prepared. Halal meat is required in Islam, prepared by ritual slaughter that involves cutting the jugular veins of the animal with a sharp knife. This leads to death, through bleeding, of the animal. Meat from animals that die of natural causes or accident is not allowed, unless necessary. Beef is a religiously acceptable food to Muslims, but pork and alcohol is not. Muslims fast for the month of Ramadan.
Sikhs are prohibited from eating Islamic halal or Jewish kosher style meat because to them, this manner of obtaining meat involves a ritualistic component and a slow death of the animal. This is known as Kutha meat. The official Sikh Code of Conduct Sikh Rehat Maryada only forbids the consumption of Kutha meat and instead suggests Jhatka style of preparation. Charity meals distributed at a Sikh Gurudwara, called a langar, is only lacto-vegetarian. Some groups of Sikhism disagree with the consumption of meat altogether. In practice, most Sikhs avoid beef due to cultural reasons in India, and some Sikhs are strict lacto-vegetarians.
Muslim rulers in history, compelled the payment of a special tax called Jizya from dhimmi, those who refuse to convert to Islam but live in a Muslim state. Dhimmis were excluded from having to pay Islamic religious tax such as zakat and excluded from observing other Islamic religious obligations. Jizya was a tool of social stratification and treasury’s revenue from non-Muslims. Jizya was a reminder of subordination of a non-Muslim under some Muslim rulers, and created a financial and political incentive to convert to Islam.
Sikhism has never required a special tax for non-Sikhs.
The Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) in Amritsar, India is not only a central religious place of the Sikhs, but also a symbol of human brotherhood and equality. The four entrances of this holy shrine from all four directions, signify that people belonging to every walk of life are equally welcome. The Golden Temple is a holy site for Sikhs and is welcome to people of any faith.
Masjid al-Haram Mecca
Mecca in Saudi Arabia is the central religious place in Islam. Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in Islam, and a pilgrimage to it, known as the Hajj, is one of the pillars of Islam. Non-Muslims are prohibited from entering the city. Although in history, they’ve sometimes allowed non-Muslims to visit.
Sikhs do not believe in pilgrimages; Muslims, in contrast, consider Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) a crucial part of the faith.
During the Mughal Empire, Sikh gurus were persecuted along with other non-Muslims. The fifth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Arjan was executed by Jahangir. There were occasional exceptions to the historical persecution. During Mughal Emperor Akbar’s rule, for example, Sikhism and diverse religions were temporarily accepted. Akbar visited the third Sikh Guru, Guru Amardas at Goindwal, ate at the Langar kitchen, and offered donations for Langar.
In other periods, Sikhs were persecuted during the Islamic rule of South Asia. Guru Arjan was tortured and executed by Mughal emperor Jahangir. Guru Hargobind, (sixth Guru of the Sikhs), after the martyrdom of Guru Arjan saw that it would no longer be possible to protect the Sikh community without the aid of arms. He built Akal Takhat the Throne of the Immortal and it is the highest political institution of the Sikhs and he also wore two swords of Miri and Piri.Guru Tegh Bahadur (ninth Guru) was tortured and beheaded by Aurangzeb at Chandni Chowk in Delhi, for refusing to convert to Islam and for protecting Kashmiri Hindus who were being forced to convert to Islam. His fellow devotees Bhai Mati Das, Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dayala were also tortured and executed, while Guru Tegh Bahadur was forced to watch. Tenth Guru Guru Gobind Singh formed Khalsa known as Army of Akal Purakh (Immortal) and Gave 5 Ks to Khalsa. Two of the younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh aged 9 and 7 were bricked up alive by the Muslim governor Wazir Khan in Sarhand (Punjab). When Guru Gobind Singh was in South India, he sent Banda Singh Bahadur to chastise the repressive Mughal faiy`dar of Sirhind. Banda Singh captured Sirhind and laid the foundation of Sikh empire. According to a popular myth, the Nawab of Malerkotla Sher Mohammad Khan, protested against the execution of Sahibzadas, after which Guru Gobind Singh blessed the state. This is considered as a reason by many historians due to which Malerkotla was the only city not harmed by Banda Singh Bahadur during his military campaign.
The Muslims under Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire were mostly treated favorably and comprised the majority of the population of the empire. Ranjit Singh declared during his coronation that Muslims would be governed under Islamic law and appointed many of them in important official positions. The Muslim religious leadership and mosques continuously received state support under Sikh rule. This was in contrast with the Muslims of Kashmir valley where Sikh rule was generally considered oppressive, protected perhaps by the remoteness of Kashmir from the capital of the Sikh Empire in Lahore. The region had passed from the control of the Durrani Empire of Afghanistan, and four centuries of Muslim rule under the Mughals and the Afghans, to the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh in 1819. As the Kashmiris had suffered under the Afghans, they initially welcomed the new Sikh rulers, however this perception later changed. The Sikh rulers of Kashmir enacted a number of anti-Muslim laws, which included handing out death sentences for cow slaughter, closing down the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar, and banning the azaan, the public Muslim call to prayer. Several European visitors who visited Kashmir during Sikh rule wrote of the abject poverty of the vast Muslim peasantry and of the exorbitant taxes under the Sikh rulers. High taxes, according to some contemporary accounts, had depopulated large tracts of the countryside. However, after a famine in 1832, the Sikhs reduced the land tax.
During the partition of India in 1947, there was much bloodshed between Sikhs and Muslims, there was mass migration of people from all walks of life to leave their homes and belongings and travel by foot across the new border, on trains and on land people were killed in what was felt to be revenge attacks. Millions of Sikhs left Pakistan and moved into India, while millions of Muslims left India and moved into Pakistan. Malerkotla was however not affected and was viewed as a safe haven for Muslims during the partition. The popular myth associated with it is that the town was not impacted because of Guru Gobind Singh blessing it after its Nawab protested against the execution of the Guru’s sons.
Since 9/11 Sikhs in America have endured hate crimes, denial of employment, bullying in schools and profiling in airports.In the UK, there have some instances of tension between Sikhs and Muslims on allegations that some Sikhs have been forced to convert to Islam.
In 2009, the Taliban in Pakistan demanded that Sikhs in the region pay them the jizya (poll tax levied by Muslims on non-Muslim minorities).
In 2010 the Taliban, a terrorist group, attacked many minorities including Sikhs resulting in two beheadings.
In April 2016, two Muslim teens bombed a gurdwara in the German city of Essen. The two teen converted fire extinguishers into an explosive device. The devices detonated after a wedding party had left for the reception. A gurdwara priest was injured seriously, while two others were treated for minor injuries. The gurdwara building was damaged severely. One of the teens was in deradicalization program. The two denied it was religiously motivated saying “just for the kick of building fireworks!” However, before setting off the blast, the two 16-year-olds tried to break into the Sikh place of worship, North Rhine Westphalia (NRW).
Sufi Muslims and Sikhs
In South Asia alone there are over 200 million Muslims who are followers of Sufi traditions, the most notable being the Barelvi movement. The Sikh Gurus had cordial relations with many Muslim Sufi Saints.
In December 1588, a Sufi saint of Lahore, Mian Mir, visited Guru Arjan Dev at the initiation ceremony before the construction of the Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple).
Ahmadiyya Muslims and Sikhs
Ahmadiyya, a minority reform sect that arose within Islam, believe in prophets after Muhammad and consider themselves to be Muslims. They are, however, not recognized as Muslims by mainstream Sunni and Shia Islam, and are treated as blasphemous and persecuted. Since the 18th century, Sufis and ancestors of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad – the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement – had cordial relations with Sikhs, and they fought with Sikhs to resist the persecution by Sunni-based Mughal rule in northwest region of South Asia. However, as Ranjit Singh established the Sikh Empire, there were conflicts between the Sikhs and the Jagir of Ahmad’s father.