Guru Nanak's Understanding of Islam
Guru Nanak concept of religion has been clarified by Bhai Gurdas, the nephew of Guru Amardass, the third Sikh Guru in his first var. He narrates an anecdote connected with Guru Nanak's visit to Mecca. He writes that when Guru Nanak visited the holy place, he was surrounded by a number of pilgrims who began to question his religious identity. But instead of asking any direct questions, they enquired whether Hindus were better or the Muslims? The Guru's reply was "without good actions both would come to grief." "Shub Amlan Bajhon Doveny Roi".1
In Ramkali Var, Guru Nanak has stressed the same point. He says, "The Muslims praise their faith. But without good conduct none is accepted.
ਕਰਨੀ ਬਾਝਹੁ ਭਿਸੁਤ ਨਾ ਪਾਇ॥
Even when way is pointed out rare is one who reaches there.
Without good deeds heaven is attained not.2
Guru Nanak's concept of religion can be understood from various dialogue conversations and accounts recorded in the Janamsakhi. According to Bhai Mani Singh's Janamsakhi a Muslim mob surrounded Guru Nanak at Mashed (its sold name was thus, the birth place of Firdaus) and enquired whether the Guru believed in Prophet Mohammad. The Guru replied that Prophet Mohammad was Pagambar- messenger of God. His message was that everyone should be devoted to God and he believed in his message. Later on, one Abdul Rehman enquired whether the Guru was Shia or Sunni. The Guru replied that he found the light of God in every body.3
In Bhai Bala's Janamsakhi, one Muslim enquires about Guru Nanak's religious identity to which the Guru is believed to have replied thus:- "Those who love God do not enter into the religious controversy and dispute Veda or Kateb (Quran). Every one had got the light of God and we cannot see it in ourselves because of evil tendencies and ego".4
According to Guru Nanak religion has two aspects-one is spiritual and other is ritualistic. The Hindus, the Muslims and various other religious denominations mentioned by the Guru in his verses were very particular about ritualistic aspect. The rituals of one usually came into clash with other's and thus the spirit of religion was lost. Bhai Gurdas has rightly stated:
ਸਚੁ ਕਿਨਾਰੇ ਰਹਿ ਗਇਆ ਖਹਿ ਖਹਿ ਮਰਦੇ ਬਾਹਮਣ ਮਉਲਾਣੇ॥
"Brahmin and Mullan quarrel with one another leaving aside the truth (spirit of religion).5
As Principal Teja Singh has stated,"Guru Nanak saw that the real difficulty in making the people truly religious was not so much their want of religious spirit as the very peculiar turn of their mind with which they would take those things as ends in themselves were originally intended only as means."6 The trouble lay in confusion of means with the ends in utter disregard of the spirit. Hollow formalities of the Hindus and the Muslims have been lamented by Guru Nanak as well:-
ਕਲਿ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ਕਤੇਬ ਕੁਰਾਣੁ ॥ ਪੋਥੀ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਰਹੇ ਪੁਰਾਣ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਉ ਭਇਆ ਰਹਮਾਣੁ ॥ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਤਾ ਤੂ ਏਕੋ ਜਾਣੁ ॥
"In the Kali age the approved books are Quran or somatic Texts.
And of Brahmins the Vedas and Puranas one hears no more Merciful
Khuda is now the Lord's name O Nanak.
Know that there is but one creator of creation."7
At another place, Guru Nanak says:-
ਥਲਿ ਕਲਵਾਲੀ ਸਚਾ ਨਿਬੇੜਾ
ਥਾਜੀ ਕ੍ਰਿਸ਼ਨਾ ਹੋਆ ॥
In this turbulent age, it is the Muslim Code that settles all issues and the (blue robed)
Qazi occupies the blue Krishna's place.8
According to Dr. R.P. Tripathy the Muslim administration in India was run practically by two officials-Sipahsalar and Qazi.9 Qazi used to decide all types of cases and was respected in the religious circles of the Muslims. How mechanical was the religion with the Qazi has been described by Guru Nanak:
ਕਾਜੀ ਹੋਇ ਕੈ ਬਹੈ ਨਿਆਇ॥ ਫੇਰੇ ਤਸਬੀ ਕਰੇ ਖੁਦਾਇ ॥
ਵਢੀ ਲੈ ਕੇ ਹਕੁ ਗਵਾਏ ॥ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਪੁਛੈ ਤਾ ਪੜਿ ਸੁਣਾਏ ॥
ਤੁਕ ਮੰਤ੍ਰੁ ਕਨਿ ਰਿਦੈ ਸਮਾਹਿ॥ ਲੋਕ ਮੁਹਾਵਹਿ ਚਾੜੀ ਖਾਹਿ ॥
"Qazi sits in Judgement upon others
And tells the rosary and mutters the name of Allah
But he does Justice if his palm is greased.
And if any one asks him why he quotes chapters and verses from the Quran
The Kalma of Turks is in their minds and ears.
But they beguile people and indulge in backbiting."10
How blue colour became popular with the advent of the Muslims, Guru Nanak writes in Basant Raga:
ਕੂਜਾ ਬਾਂਗ ਨਿਵਾਜ ਮੁਸਲਾ ਨੀਲ ਰੂਪ ਬਨਵਾਰੀ॥
"The ablution pot, the prayer, the prayer mat to call the prayer have all assumed the Muslim garb and even God is now robed in blue."11
Guru Nanak has vehemently exposed the hypocrisies of his times. He saw the moral degradation in which the people were steeped. He tried to raise the moral and religious standards by exhorting people not to go after formalities but understand the real meanings of what they do. He has described the five Muslim prayers in the following way:
ਪੰਜਿ ਨਿਵਾਜਾ ਵਖਤ ਪੰਜਿ ਪੰਜਾ ਪੰਜੇ ਨਾਉ ॥
ਪਹਿਲਾ ਸਚੁ ਹਲਾਲ ਦੁਇ ਤੀਜਾ ਖੈਰ ਖੁਦਾਇ ॥
ਚਉਥੀ ਨੀਅਤ ਰਾਸਿ ਮਨੁ ਪੰਜਵੀ ਸਿਫਤਿ ਸਲਾਹ ॥
ਕਰਣੀ ਕਲਮਾ ਆਖਿ ਕੈ ਤਾ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ਸਦਾਇ ॥
"Thou sayest thy prayer five times giving them five names
Let truth be thy first, Honest living the second and the good of all the third.
Let thy fourth prayer be of deeds and be thou then a true Muslman."12
In the same strain he writes in the Majh Ki Var:
ਮਿਹਰ ਮਸੀਤਿ ਸਿਦਕੁ ਮੁਸਲਾ ਹਕੁ ਹਲਾਲੁ ਕੁਰਾਣੁ ॥
ਸਰਮ ਸੁੰਨਿਤਿ ਸੀਲੁ ਰੋਜਾ ਹੋਹੁ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ॥
ਕਰਣੀ ਕਾਬਾ ਸਚੁ ਪੀਰੁ ਕਲਮਾ ਕਰਮ ਨਿਵਾਜ ॥
ਤਸਬੀ ਸਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਵਸੀ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਖੈ ਲਾਜ ॥
Let mercy be thy massage mosque
Faith thy prayer mat; honest living thy Quran
Humbility thy circumcision;
Good conduct they fast
Thus dost thou become a true Muslim
If pious works be thy Kaaba
Truth thy teacher and good deeds thy prayer
And if thy rosary be o his will
The Lord will keep thy honour."13
Guru Nanak has described the attributes of true Musalman in the following words:-
ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ਕਹਾਵਣੁ ਮੁਸਕਲੁ ਜਾ ਹੋਇ ਤਾ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ਕਹਾਵੈ ॥
ਅਵਲਿ ਅਉਲਿ ਦੀਨੁ ਕਰਿ ਮਿਠਾ ਮਸਕਲ ਮਾਨਾ ਮਾਲੁ ਮੁਸਾਵੈ ॥
ਹੋਇ ਮੁਸਲਿਮੁ ਦੀਨ ਮੁਹਾਣੈ ਮਰਣ ਜੀਵਣ ਕਾ ਭਰਮੁ ਚੁਕਾਵੈ ॥
ਰਬ ਕੀ ਰਜਾਇ ਮੰਨੇ ਸਿਰ ਉਪਰਿ ਕਰਤਾ ਮੰਨੇ ਆਪ ਗਵਾਵੈ ॥
ਤਉ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਰਬ ਜੀਆ ਮਿਹਰੰਮਤਿ ਹੋਇ ਤ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ਕਹਾਵੈ ॥
"Hard it is to call one self a Muslim.
If one has these attributes then alone be is one
First he ought to deem sweet the religion of Lord's
devotees and have his pride and self effected as rasped with a scraper.
Becoming the true disciple of the faith of prophet, let him first aside the illusion of death and life.
He should heartily submit to the Lord's will, worships the creator and efface his self conceit.14
Therefore if he is merciful to all the sentient being, o' Nanak then alone he shall be called a Musalman.
Thus Guru Nanak's concept of Islam is based on the real content and underlying spirit of Prophet Mohammad as expounded in the Islam's Holy Scripture. The Quran / Koran rather than in the various external rituals and practices observed by the followers of his organized religion.
1 First Var of Bhai Gurdas, Pauri-33.
2 The Adi Granth, page 951-52, Ramkali Ki Var
3 Janamsakhi Bhai Mani Singh, Bombay Edition, page 183-86
4 Janamsakhi Bhai Bala, Appendix of p.315-16 in Janamsakhi Prampara, Kirpal Singh, Punjabi University, also p. 143.
5 First Var,Bhai Gurdas, Pauri-21.
6 Teja Singh,The Japji, p. 2.
7 Ram Kali Ashatpadian, Adi Granth, p. 903.
8 Adi Granth, page-903.
9 Dr.R.P Tripathy, Some Aspects of Muslim Administration, Allahabad, 1936, p. 273.
10 Ram Kali Var, Adi Granth, p. 937.
11 Adi Granth, page. 1191.
12 Majh Ki Var, Adi Granth, p. 141.
13 Adi Granth, p. 141.
14 Adi Granth, p. 141.
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2019, All