Guru Nanak Sahib’s visit to Mecca and its Significance
“When in Rome, do as Romans do”, is ascribed to St. Ambrose. It means if you were in Rome, live the Roman way, if you were elsewhere, live as they do there. Do not live like a stranger among other people. This will facilitate the people adopting you as their own. At the same, time you will have the advantage of looking like one of them for better interaction, understanding and communication. That is what I think Shri Guru Nanak Sahib had done during his extensive travels.
We find that sometimes, contradictory and unbelievable events are attributed to the travels and teachings of Shri Guru Nanak Sahib. Unfortunately, motivated by deep devotion, we blindly repeat stories without applying our mind, as to what could be the possibilities of their being true and reliable? This is the reason, why we have generally failed to convey and spread the Guru’s message in its true perspective, or a convincing manner, to others, as well as to our new generation.
Guru Sahib undoubtedly sought out centres of learning of Hindus as well as Muslims, such as those of Siddhas and Sanyasis, Yogis and Ulema, Buddhists and Jains. During his extensive travels to various places in the absence of the modern transport system, he had sufficient time to get acquainted with the customs and languages of several regions. He even dressed himself in the similar robes of the people with whom he carried out on effective dialogue.
No wonder the Hindus claim that Guru Sahib was a Hindu (born to Hindu parents of superior Khatri caste), quote his travels as Yatra to their pilgrim centres, holy Dhams. Similarly, Muslims claim that Guru Sahib had performed Hajj at Mecca. They go to the extent of saying that he embraced Islam and that is how he could enter Mecca. They forget that Guru Sahib was the most universal Man of God, the world has ever produced, beyond all the barriers of religion. He gave a clarion call to the human race, proclaiming: “Na Ko Hindu Na Musalman’, i.e., God makes no distinction between a Hindu or a Muslim, everybody is a human being. When he had refused to put on Janeu (the sacred thread of upper caste of Hindus) at the young age of 11 years, though he was born to Hindu parents, how could he then embrace Islam?
It is a fact that, over the centuries, no non-Muslim is allowed to enter into the cities of Mecca and Medina. It is also a fact that for entering into Mecca, no body is made to recite “Kalma” for becoming a Muslim. In case of Guru Sahib, due to his close affinity to monotheism, ethical and spiritual doctrines between his teachings and those of Islam, he was taken to be a Muslim, and given due reverence. There is historical evidence as well as a safe assumption that Guru Sahib spent about 11 (eleven) years travelling in Muslim Centres in West Asian countries and Middle East, having dialogues in Palestine, Syria, Istanbul (Turkey), Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt, Palestine and many other centres of Islamic Learning.
Guru Sahib is believed to have stayed for a long period at Baghdad, capital of Iraq. In those days, Baghdad was the great centre of Islamic learning. It was customary for Baghdadi rulers to confer Quranic Choga (amama – a type of gown) on which the Ayats of Quran Shareef were written as a mark of honour to distinguished Islamic Scholars and saints in high appreciation. Guru Sahib was similarly offered such a Quranic Choga by the then king Sultan Hameed Farooqui, which has been preserved at Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak on the banks of river Ravi, near Amritsar. This is how Guru Sahib was presumed to be a Muslim and nobody might have objected for his entry to the Muslim shrines. Among Indian saints, such a Chogha was conferred upon Hazrat Sheikh Badiuddin Shahmadari which is still preserved at Manakpur near Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
It is interesting to record an incident with my friend, Mr. Sayeed, an architect of Hyderabad, who had visited Baghdad and made a Video recording of a place where Sri Guru Nanak Sahib had stayed and had discourses with the Muslim saints. There is an inscription commemorating the visit of Baba Nanak-i-Fakir, at a place next to a mosque, which is looked after by a Muslim father and son. Upon asking about the history of the place, he was told by them that this has been built in memory of Baba Nanak’s visit. They added that “He was not a Hindu, but his followers have become Hindu.”
Kaba Tul Allah:
Let us now analyze the possibilities of truth and reality of the Mecca episode. According to a belief, Mecca is a city where “Kaba Tul Allah” (house of God) was constructed by Hazrat Ibrahim Sahib a.k.a Saint Ibraham, the founder of Semitic religion more than four thousand years ago, their religion being Judaism, Christianity and Islam. At the time of Hazrat Mohammad Sahib (PBUH), this city of Mecca was ruled by the Quraish tribe which came into power by ousting Banu Khuzah people who were the custodians of this sanctuary. He conquered the city and entered into the sanctuary of Kaba. There were 360 (three hundred and sixty) Idols around the main structure. All Idols were broken and burnt. He asked one of his companions Hazrat Bilal Habshi to climb over the roof of this structure and give “Azan” (loud call for Namaz) so the first Namaz was offered at this holy place. Hazrat Bilal was an African slave and was purchased for domestic help.
Hazrat Mohammad Sahib was the first prophet to courageously demolish the age old fake and blind accessories to this structure. He vehemently gave the message of one monotheistic Divine entity called Allah. This is the place where Muslims go for Haj.
It is an unchallenged fact that Guru Sahib went to Mecca. Even the Muslims admit Guru Sahib’s visit to Kaba, but they say that since he was taken to be a Muslim, so he went for performing Haj. There is every possibility of his stretching the feet towards Kaba to attract the audience to convey the same message of Hazarat Mohammad Sahib (PBUH) given in the First Namaz offered at this holy place declaring monotheistic identity of God. Guru Sahib had no intention to hurt the sentiments of the Muslims or disrespecting the Kaba.
People with vested interests have deliberately misinterpreted and interpreted this episode in an unbelievable manner in the sakhis and histories by proclaiming that, to whichever direction Guru Sahib’s feet were turned, Mecca also turned. This is far from the truth and should not be believed and propagated, as this contention gives a wrong message. It is definitely a concocted myth to totally misrepresent the Guru Sahib’s message and to create a gulf between the Sikhs and the Muslims. This story undoubtedly amounts to desecration of their Most Holy Structure and badly hurts the sentiments of the Muslims, who were Guru Sahib’s admirers.
It is said that “Falsehood does not have its legs to stand-up”. Let us analyze, what could possibly be the essential meaning of this episode. We have completely failed to convey even the simple distinction between the Kaba and Mecca. Bhai Gurdas in his Var has mentioned to the metaphorical implications of turning the Mecca not the sacred shrine of Kaba. It means Guru Nanak brought about a change in people’s thinking about the real identity of the Divine power rather than a change in direction of the Physical structure of Holy Kaba. It was a symbolic gesture to highlight the universal presence of God everywhere in all directions.
Moreover, Guru Sahib’s own philosophy and the philosophy of Sikhism are against performing any miracles. Submission to the Will of God is our prime and fundamental belief. Miracles displaying supernatural powers mean challenging God’s laws of nature and going against His Will. This shows that this episode has been wrongly interpreted.
This interpretation related to Mecca seems to have been created by some vested interests to create a wedge between these two religions which are more in conformity than any other two religions. Instead of highlighting the miraculous powers of Guru Nanak in this episode, the Sikhs should rebut such a version and convey the correct message pertaining to this historical event, bringing both the communities together in the true letter and spirit of the Guru Sahib’s teachings.