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Dr Kirpal Singh

Long before the dawn of modern civilization and centuries before the establishment of United Nations Organisation Sikh Gurus had a vision to integrate the entire humanity on the basis of their respective religions. For this purpose Guru Arjan, the fifth Guru of the Sikhs took some practical steps. Guru Arjan ushered in a new era in the history of religious integration of the mankind when he declared that true religion consisted of two things only: Love of God’s Name and purity of conduct. The Guru dispensed with all formalities in favour of these two things which were never contradicted by the saints. They may be differing from the Gurus in their method of worship but did not differ in their aim. Guru Arjan writes:-

srb Drm mih sRyst Drmu ] hir ko nwmu jip inrml krmu ]
sgl ik®Aw mih aUqm ikirAw ] swDsMig durmiq mlu ihirAw ]
sgl audm mih audmu Blw ] hir kw nwmu jphu jIA sdw ]
sgl bwnI mih AMimRq bwnI ] hir ko jsu suin rsn bKwnI ]
sgl Qwn qy Ehu aUqm Qwnu ] nwnk ijh Git vsY hir nwmu ] (sRI gurU gRMQ swihb, pMnw 266)

Of all religions the best is the practice of Name with purity of conduct.
Of all rites the best in to purge one’s heart of filth and evil tendencies by association with those who have disciplined themselves.
Of all devotional practices, the best is the constant application of the heart to the Name.
Of all sacred texts the most sacred is that by which one hears the praise of beloved, utters it to others.
Of all holy places the holiest is where one feels the stir of the name in ones heart.1

Guru Amar Das writes:-

jgqu jlµdw riK lY AwpxI ikrpw Dwir ]
ijqu duAwrY aubrY iqqY lYhu aubwir ]

The world is burning, save it O God out of thy mercy
Save it through which ever dispensation it can be saved.1

This was a new orientation of religions which revolutionised the old conception that one’s own doxy was orthodoxy and every body else’s was heterodoxy. The Gurus made religion untheological. The Sikh Gurus thought that the world was burning and it was the duty of religion to save it in which ever way it could be saved. This was an attempt to integrate various religious approaches.

Guru Arjan included compositions of certain medieval Bhagati saints whose views in some matters of details do not tally with that of the Gurus. The Gurus were strictly monotheistic and had no truck with Avtar worship or in theory of incarnation. Some of the medieval Bhagati saints whose verses had been included in the Adi Granth rarely rose above the belief in Rama and Krishna or Incarnation of God. They are not averse to idol worship. Farid a Muslim curses himself for not going to mosque five times for offering namaz and refers to souls in grave waiting for the day or resurrection which clearly cut across the Gurus belief of transmigration of souls.2 These antithetical sayings are given an honoured place in a Book which not only holds scriptural position among Sikhs but wields authority equal to that of a Guru whose word is law. The saints may be different from the Gurus in the method of worship but did not differ in their aim, which was to love God and to do good. The various streams that merge in the statements of Sikh Gurus transcend all barriers and boundaries to symbolise a universal human vision.

According to Teja Singh, “The Sikhs Gurus religion was for the integration and unification of people, who needed a book which should synthesise their beliefs and cultures. The Holy Granth is the only inter communal book in India if not in the world.”3 The Adi Granth has thirty-six contributions including six Sikh Gurus. It contains the verses of medieval Bhagati saints belonging to different parts of India, viz., Jaidev from Bengal, Namdev from Maharashtra, Kabir and Ravidas from Utter Pradesh and Dhanna from Rajasthan. Dr Radhakrishnan stated, “a remarkable feature of the Adi Granth is that it contains writings of the religious teachers of Hinduism and Islam.”4 There are about half a dozen Muslims saints whose verses have been included in the Adi Granth. Prominent among them are Sheikh Farid, Mardana, Satta and Balwand etc.

The Adi Guru Granth made unique contribution in bringing the people of different culture in the main stream of national life. Arnold Toynbee has rightly stated, “The Indian and Judaic religions are notoriously different in spirit. Their principal meeting ground has been India, where Islam impinged on Hinduism violently. On the whole, the story of relations between these two great religions on Indian ground has been unhappy tale of mutual misunderstanding and hostility. To have discovered and embraced the deep harmony underlying the historic Hindus-Muslim discord has been noble spiritual triumph.”5

There is a dire need of communal understanding keeping in view the constant communal riots in India. The society is honey combed with social exclusiveness and superstitions of diverse kinds, religion could hardly be anything but a formal shapeless system of arid beliefs and lifeless rituals. The spirit of religion is hidden beneath a mass of formalities and extraneous observances. The Sikhs Gurus therefore emphasize that true religions consists of love of God and good conduct.

Before undertaking his long missionary tours Guru Nanak made a very significant statement viz “There is no Hindu and there is no Musalman.”6 It created a stir among the Muslims officials of the town who argued that Musalman were there and they were ruling over the country. On their enquiry Guru Nanak said :

muslmwxu khwvxu musklu jw hoie qw muslmwxu khwvY ]
Avil Aauil dInu kir imTw mskl mwnw mwlu muswvY ]
hoie musilmu dIn muhwxY mrx jIvx kw Brmu cukwvY ]
rb kI rjwie mMny isr aupir krqw mMny Awpu gvwvY ]
qau nwnk srb jIAw imhrMmiq hoie q muslmwxu khwvY ]1] (S.G.G.S. Page 141)

To be a Musalman is difficult, if one be really so, then one may be called a Musalman.
Let one first love the religion of saints, and put aside pride and pelf as the filo removeth rust.
Let him accept the religion of his pilots and dismiss ansciety regarding death or life.
Let him heartily obey the will of God, worship the creator and efface himself.
When he is kind to all men then Nanak, shall to be indeed a Musalman.”7

Similarly to the Hindus Guru Nanak said :

jogu n iKMQw jogu n fMfY jogu n Bsm cVweIAY ]
jogu n muMdI mUMif mufwieAY jogu n isM|I vweIAY ]
AMjn mwih inrMjin rhIAY jog jugiq iev pweIAY ]
glI jogu n hoeI ]
eyk idRsit kir smsir jwxY jogI khIAY soeI ]
jogu n bwhir mVI mswxI jogu n qwVI lweIAY ]
jogu n dyis idsMqir BivAY jogu n qIriQ nweIAY ]
AMjn mwih inrMjin rhIAY jog jugiq iev pweIAY ]

(S.G.G.S. Page 730)

“Religion consisteth not in patched coat or in a jogis staff
or in ashes smeared over the body.
Religion consisteth not in earrings worn, or a shaven head
Or in blowing of horns.
Religion consisteth not in mere words;
He who looketh on all men as equal is religious.
Religion consisteth not in wandering to tombs or places of cremation, or sitting in attitude of contemplation;
Religion consisteth not in wandering in foreign countries
Or bathing at the places of pilgrimages.
Abide pure amid the impurities of the world, thus shalt thou find the way of religion.”8
(Translation by M.A. Macauliffe)

Guru Nanak was once questioned by a crowd that surrounded him. The question was whether Hindus were superior or Muslims. His reply was, “Without good acts the professors of both religions shall suffer.”9 The Guru always emphasized the good action or good conduct in life whereas his contemporaries believed in formalities and rituals. When directly asked whether he was Hindu or Musalman he reply was “I am mere man made of five elements.”10

The Adi Guru Granth shunned class, caste and creed and vehemently stressed the equality of mankind. He gave the highest respect to the divinity of man - “man tu jot sarup hain.” “Man is the embodiment of God.” In his personal life he preferred sharing food with honest carpenter than enjoying the best dishes offered by feudal Lord. To him purity of mind and soul had the best appreciation. He never distinguished between Hindus and Muslims. He had with him a constant companion, a Muslim Bhai Mardana who used to play on rabab.11

The caste system which has been described as the “steel frame” of Hindu society. Guru Granth Sahib exhorted his followers to defy the rules of caste-exclusiveness which were the greatest obstacle in the development of integration. The positive steps were taken in this direction. The Adi Guru Granth exhorted his followers to meet in congregation and take meals in the common kitchen - viz. Langar where they were to sit together, worship together and eat together irrespective of the fact whether they belonged to the higher castes or the low castes.

In Hindu society caste and religion had been inseparable since times immemorial. As Bannerji has stated, “according to Ramanuja, the grace of God is not available for Sudras in this life but by good conduct he may work his way upto birth in a higher caste and then he admitted to the privileged group in social and religious matters.”12 No such restriction based on birth are recognised in the Adi Guru Granth.

The Sikh Gurus admitted their followers without any distinction of caste and creed rather so called low caste people joined in large numbers even Muslims are freely admitted and honoured. Guru Amar Dass, the third Sikh Guru appointed a Muslim named Allayar as a missionary. His name is still preserved among others in the Golden plaque at Goindwal, Amritsar.

In this way the Sikh Guru by their hymns in the Adi Guru Granth as well as by their actions provided basis for information of humanity on religious basis.


1. The Adi Granth, page 853, Bilaval Ki Var 370

2. Ibid pages 138-83, Sheikh Farid Slok no 70 and 97

PrIdw by invwjw kuiqAw eyh n BlI rIiq ]
kbhI cil n AwieAw pMjy vKq msIiq ]
PrIdw mhl insKx rih gey vwsw AwieAw qil ]
gorW sy inmwxIAw bhsin rUhW mil ]

3. The Holy Granth, Teja Singh, Punjabi University Patiala, 1985, page XXIV & XXV

4. Selections from the Sacred writings of the Sikh, George Allen and Unwin, London, page 17.

5. Foreward, Arnold Toynbee, Selections from the Sacred writings of the Sikhs, cit.op, page 10.

6. M.A. Macauliffe, Sikh Religion, Vol. I, New Delhi 1963, p. 37; Puratan Janamsakhi, Khalsa Samachar. Sakhi - 11.

7. Ibid., page 38, The Adi Guru Granth p.141

8. The Adi Granth, p. 730.

9. Bhai Gurdas Var. I pauri 33.

10. Secular Thoughts of Sikh Guru Vivek Ranjan Bhattacharya, Delhi, 1988, p. 15.

11. Puratan Janam Sakhi, Sakhi No. 12.

12. Dr A.C. Bannerji, Guru Nanak and His Tours Time, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1971, p. 175.



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