following is an article by Frederic Pincott, M.R.A.S.,
which has been taken with thanks from 'The World of the Sufi' by Idries Shah.(Kanwal)
literature and traditions of Sikhism present a strange intermingling of Hindu
and Muhammadan ideas and superficial enquirers have been led to conclude that
Nanak intended his creed to be a compromise between those two great religions.
Dr Trumpp, the translator of the Adi Granth (the sacred book of the Sikhs) is,
however, distinctly of the opinion that Sikhism has only an accidental relationship
with Muhammadanism. In his Introduction (p. ci) he says:
'It is a mistake if Nanak is represented as having endeavoured to unite the Hindu and Muhammadan ideas about God. Nanak remained a thorough Hindu, according to all his views; and if many Mussulmans became his disciples, it was owing to the fact that Sufism, which all these Muhammadans professed, was in reality nothing but a Pantheism, derived directly from Hindu sources and only outwardly adapted to the forms of Islam. Hindu and Muslim Pantheists could well unite together, as they entertained essentially the same ideas about the Supreme'.
In fact the balance of evidence is heavily on the other side. A careful study of early Sikh traditions points strongly to the conclusion that the religion of Nanak was really intended as a compromise between Hinduism and Muhammadanism. Because very little seems to be known as to the views of the early Sikh teachers, it is necessary to establish the relationship which actually existed between the two faiths. The information given in this article is taken chiefly from original Punjabi books and from manuscripts in the India Office Library, and it is supported by the authority of the Adi Granth, which is the sacred canon of the Sikhs.
Guru Nanak with disciple Mardana
or biographical sketches of Nanak and his associates, contain a profusion of curious
traditions which throw considerable light on the origin and development of the
Sikh religion. From these old books we learn that in early life Nanak, although
a Hindu by birth, came under Sufi influence and was strangely attracted by the
saintly demeanour of the faqirs, who were thickly scattered over Northern India
and swarmed in the Punjab. Sufism is not derived from Hindu pantheism; it arose
in the very earliest days of Muhammadanism and is almost certainly due to the
influence of Persian Zoroastrianism on the rude faith of Arab Islam. Persian has
ever been the stronghold of Sufistic doctrine, and the leading writers who have
illustrated that form of Muhammadanism have been the Persian poets Firdusi, Nizami,
Sa'di, Jalaludin Rumi, Hafizandjami.
Hafiz, the prince of Sufi poets, boldly declares: 'I am a disciple of the old Magians: be not angry with me, O Sheikh! For thou gavest me a promise; he hath brought me the reality'. Although this stanza alludes directly to two persons known to Hafiz, its almost obvious meaning is: 'I, a Persian, adhere to the faith of my ancestors. Do not blame me, O Arab conqueror, that my faith is more sublime than thine.'
That Hafiz meant his readers to take his words in a general sense may be inferred from the stanza in which he says: 'I am the servant of the old man of the Tavern (i.e. the Magian); because his beneficence is lasting: on the other hand, the beneficence of the Shaikh and of the Saiyid at times is, and at times is not'. Indeed, Hafiz was fully conscious of the fact that Sufism was due to the influence of the faith of his ancestors; for, in another ode, he plainly says: 'Make fresh again the essence of the creed of Zoroaster, now that the tulip has kindled the fire of Nimrod'. And Nizami, also, was aware that his ideas were perilously akin to heterodoxy; for, he says in his Khusru wa Shirin: 'See not in me the guide to the temple of the Fire-worshippers; see only the hidden meaning which cleaveth to the allegory'. These quotations, which could be indefinitely multiplied, sufficiently indicate theZoroastrian origin of the refined spirituality of the Sufis. The sublimity of the Persian faith lay in its conception of the unity of Eternal Spirit, and the intimate association of the Divine with all that is manifest. Arab Muhammadans believe in the unity of a personal God; but mankind and the world were, to them, mere objects upon which the will of God was exercised. The Sufis approached nearer to the Christian sentiment embodied in the phrase, 'Christ in us'.
The Persian conquerors of Hindustan carried with them the mysticism and spirituality of the Islamo-Magian creed. It was through Persia that India received its flood of Muhammadanism; and the mysticism and asceticism of the Persian form of Islam found congenial soil for development among the speculative ascetics of northern India. It is, therefore, only reasonable to suppose that any Hindu affected by Muhammadanism would show some traces of Sufi influence. As a fact we find that the doctrines preached by the Sikh Gurus were distinctly Sufistic; and, indeed, the early Gurus openly assumed the manners and dress of faqirs, thus plainly announcing their connection with the Sufistic side of Muhammadanism. In pictures they are represented with small rosaries in their hands, quite in Muhammadan fashion, as though ready to perform zikr. Guru Arjun, who was fifth in succession from Nanak, was the first to lay aside the dress of a faqir. The doctrines, however, still held their position; for we find the last Guru dying while making an open confession of Sufism. His words are: 'The Smritis, the Sastras, and the Vedas, all speak in various ways: I do not acknowledge one (of them). O possessor of happiness, bestow they mercy (on me). I do not say, "I", I recognize all as "Thee".' (Sikhan de Rajdi Vithia p. 81.) Here we have not only the ideas, but the very language of Sufis, implying a pantheistic denial of all else than Deity. The same manner of expression is found in the Adi Granth itself, e.g. 'Thou art I; I am thou. Of what kind is the difference?' (Translation, p. 130); and again, 'In all the One dwells, the One is contained' (p.41). Indeed, throughout the whole Adi Granth a favourite name for Deity is the 'True One', that is, that which is truly one the Absolute Unity. It is hardly possible to find a more complete correspondence of ideas than that furnished by the following sentences, taken from the Yusuf wa Zulaikha of Jami, the Persian Sufi; and the others, from thejap-ji and the Adi Granth. Jami says:
'Dismiss every vain fancy, and abandon every doubt;
Blend into one every spirit, and form, and place;
See One know One speak of One
Desire One chant of One and seek One'. In Jap-ji, a formula familiar to every Sikh household, we find:
'The Guru is Isar (Siva), the Guru is Gorakh (Vishnu),
Brahma, the Guru is the mother Parbati.
I should know, would I not tell? The story cannot be
O Guru, let me know the One; that the One liberal
patron of all living beings may not be forgotten by me'. In the Adi Granth, we read:
'Thou recitest the One; thou placest the One
in (thy) mind; thou recognizest the One.
The One (is) in eye, in word, in mouth;
thou knowest the One in both places (i.e. worlds).
In sleeping, the One; in waking, the One;
in the One thou art absorbed'.
(India Office MS., No. 2484, fol. 568.) It is not only with respect to the idea of the unity of God that this identity of expression is descernible; for other technical terms of Sufism are, also, reproduced in Sikhism. Thus the Sufi Faridu'd Din Shakrganj calls Deity 'the light of life', and Jalu'd-Din speaks of 'flashes of His love', while Jami represents the 'light' of the Lord of Angels as animating all parts of the universe; and Nizami exclaims, 'Then fell a light, as of a lamp, into the garden (of my heart)', when he feels that a ray of the Divine has entered into his soul. It is not difficult to collect many such instances from the works of Persian Sufis. Turning to Sikhism, we find that the Adi Granth is full of similar expressions. It is enough to cite the following exclamation of Nanak himself: 'In all (is) light. He (is) light. From His light, there is light in all'. (India Office MS., No. 2484, fol. 35.) And in another place he says: 'The Luminous One is the mingler of light (with himself)', (fol. 186.) On fol. 51 we find: 'There death enters not; light is absorbed in the Luminous One'.
Another favourite metaphor of Sufis for the Deity is 'the Beloved'; for example, when Hafiz says: 'Be thankful that the Assembly is lighted up by the presence of the Beloved'. This term is well recognized in Sikhism; thus in the Adi Granth, 'If thou call thyself the servant of the Beloved, do not speak despitefully (of Him)'. (India Office MS., No. 2484, fol. 564.) 'Love to the Beloved naturally puts joy into the heart. I long to meet the Lord (Prabhu); therefore why should I be slothful?' (India Office MS., No. 2484, fol. 177.) Also, 'In my soul and body are excessive pangs of separation, how shall the Beloved come to my house and meet (with me)?' And again: 'The Beloved has become my physician'. (India Office MS., No. 1728, fol. 87.) The words used in Punjabi texts are piria, pritam, andpiri, 'a lover', or 'beloved one'.
Another remarkable proof of Persian influence is found in the form of the Adi Granth itself. It consists of a collection of short poems, in many of which all the verses composing the poem rhyme together, in singular conformity with the principle regulating the construction of the Persian ghazal. This resemblance is rendered more striking by the fact that the name of Nanak is worked into the composition of the last line of each of the poems. This last characteristic is too persistent to be considered the result of accident; and while it is altogether foreign to the practice of Hindu verse, it is in precise accord with the rule of the correct composition of the ghazal.
The foregoing facts seem conclusive as to the influence of Persian Sufism on the origin of the Sikh religion. Dr Trumpp, when discussing the philosophy of the Adi Granth, admits the intimate connection between Sikhism and Sufism in the following words:
'We can distinguish in the Granth a grosser and a finerkind of Pantheism ... In this finer shade of Pantheism,
creation assumes the form of emanation from the Supreme
(as in the system of the Sufis), the atomic matter is either
likewise considered co-eternal with the Absolute and
immanent in it, becoming moulded into various, distinct
forms by the energizing vigour of the absolute joti (light);
or, the reality of matter is more or less denied (as by the
Sufis), so that the Divine joti is the only real essence in
all'. (Introduction to Translation of the Adi Granth, pp. cci.)
Any doubt that may remain on the question seems to be set at rest by the express statement in the life of Guru Arjun, who was urged by his followers to reduce to
writing the genuine utterances of Nanak, because 'by reciting the numerous verses and speeches uttered by other Sufis, which have received the name of Baba Nanak, pride
and worldly wisdom are springing up in the hearts of men'. (Sikhan de Raj di Vithia, p. 29.) And in the Adi Granth itself, we find the following remarkable verses ascribed to Nanak:
'A ball of intoxication, of delusion, is given by the Giver.
The intoxicated forget death, they enjoy themselves four
The True One is found by the Sofa, who keep fast his
Here we have not only a plain claim of kinship with the Sufis, but the incorporation of several of their favourite terms.
The traditions of Nanak preserved in the Janam-Sakhi, are full of evidences of his alliance with Muhammadanism. He was a Hindu by birth, of the Bedi Khattri caste; and was the son of the patwari, or village accountant, of the place now called Nankana, in the neighbourhood of Lahore. In his very early days, he sought the society of faqirs; and used both fair and unfair means of doing them service, more especially in the bestowal of alms. At fifteen years of age, he misappropriated the money which his father had given him for trade; and this induced his parents to send him to a relative at Sultanpur, in order that he might be weanedfrom his affection for faqirs (India Office MS., No. 1728, fol. 29). His first act in his new home was to join the service of a Muhammadan Nawab, named Daulat Khan Lodi; and, while serving him, he continued to give to faqirs all his salary, except the bare subsistence he reserved for himself. While in the service of the Muhammadan, Nanak received the ecstatic exaltation which he felt to be Divine inspiration. It is stated in the tradition of his life that Nanak went to the river to perform his ablutions, and that whilst so engaged, he was translated bodily to the gates of Paradise. 'Then a goblet of amrita (the water of life) was given (to him) by command (of God). The command was: "This amrita is the goblet of my name; drink thou it".
Nanak in the abode of God
Then the Guru Nanak made
salutation, and drank the goblet. The Lord (Sahib) had mercy (and said): "Nanak,
I am with thee; I have made thee happy, and whoever shall take thy name they all
shall be rendered happy by me. Go thou, repeat my name, and cause other people
to repeat it. Remain uncontaminated from the world. Continue (steadfast) in the
name, in alms-giving, in ablutions, in service, and in the remembrance (of me).
I have given to thee my own name: do thou this work".' (fol. 33.) Here we
have notions closely akin to those of the Sufis, who lay much stress on the repetition
of the name of God, which they term zikr, on religious ablutions (wazu), and on
meditating on the unity of God (wahdaniya). No sooner had Nanak recovered from
his trance than he uttered the key-note of his future system in the celebrated
phrase, 'There is no Hindu, there is no Mussulman', (fol. 36.) The janam-Sakhi
then goes on to say that 'The people went to the Khan (his former employer) and
said, "Baba Nanak is saying, 'There is no Hindu, there is no Mussulman'."
The Khan replied, "Do not regard his statement; he is a faqir". A Qazi
sitting near said: "O Khan! it is surprising that he is saying there is no
Hindu and no Mussulman". The Khan then told an attendant to call Nanak; but
the Guru Nanak said: "What have I to do with thy Khan?" Then the people
said: "This idiot is become mad". . . Then the Baba (Nanak) was silent.
When he said anything, he repeated only this statement: "There is no Hindu,
there is no Mussulman". The Qazi then said: "Khan, is it right that
he should say, 'There is no Hindu, there is no Mussulman'?" Then the Khan
said: "Go fetch him". The attendant went, and said: "Sir, the Khan
is calling (you). The Khan says: 'For God's sake give me an interview; I want
to see thee".' The Guru Nanak arose and went, saying: "Now the summons
of my Lord (Sahib) is come, I will go". He placed a staff upon his neck and
went. The Khan said: "Nanak, for God's sake take the staff from off thy neck,
gird up thy waist; thou art a good faqir". The Guru Nanak took the staff
from off (his) neck, and girded up his loins. The Khan said: "O Nanak, it
is a misfortune to me that a steward such as thou shouldst become a faqir".
Then the Khan seated the Guru Nanak near himself and said: "Qazi, if thou
desirest to ask anything, ask now; otherwise this one will not again utter a word".
The Qazi becoming friendly, smiled and said: "Nanak, what dost thou mean
by saying, 'There is no Hindu, there is no Mussulman'?" Nanak replied: "To
be called a Mussulman is difficult; when one (becomes it) then he may be called
a Mussulman. First of all, having made religion (din) sweet, he clears away Mussulman
wealth. Having become firm, religion (din) in this way brings to an end the revolution
of dying and living".' (India Office MS., No. 2484, fol. 84.) 'When Nanak
had uttered this verse, the Qazi became amazed. The Khan said: "Qazi, is
not the questioning of him a mistake"? The time of afternoon prayer had come.
All arose and went (to the mosque) to prayers, and the Baba (Nanak) also went
with them'. Nanak then demonstrated his supernatural power by reading the thoughts
of the Qazi. 'Then the Qazi came and fell down at his feet, exclaiming, "Wonderful,
wonderful! On this one is the favour of God".' Then the Qazi believed, and
Nanak uttered this stanza: "A (real) Mussulman clears away self; (he possesses)
sincerity, patience, purity of speech: (what is)erect he does not annoy: (what)
lies (dead) he does not eat. O Nanak! that Mussulman goes to heaven (bihisht)".
When the Baba had uttered this stanza, the Saiyids, the sons of the Shaikhs, the
Qazi, the Mufti, the Khan, the chiefs and leaders were amazed. The Khan said:
"Qazi, Nanak has reached the truth; the additional questioning is a mistake".
Wherever the Baba looked, there all were saluting him. After the Baba had recited
a few stanzas, the Khan came and fell down at his feet. Then the people, Hindus
and Mussulmans, began to say to the Khan that God (Khuda) was speaking in Nanak'.
(India Office MS., No. 1728, fol. 36-41.)
The foregoing anecdotes are taken from the India Office MS., No. 1728; but the ordinary Janam-Sakhis current in the Punjab vary the account somewhat by saying that when the Khan reproved Nanak for not coming to him when sent for, the latter replied: '"Hear, O Nawab, when I was thy servant I came before thee; now I am not thy servant; now I am become the servant of Khuda (God)". The Nawab said: "Sir, (if) you have become such, then come with me and say prayers (nimaj). It is Friday". Nanak said: "Go, Sir". The Nawab, with the Qazi and Nanak, and a great concourse of people, went into the Jami Masjid and stood there. All the people who came into the Masjid began to say, "Today Nanak has entered this sect". There was a commotion among the respectable Hindus in Sultanpur; and Jairam, being much grieved, returned home. Nanaki perceiving that her husband came home dejected, rose up and said, "Why is it that you are today so grieved?" Jairam replied, "Listen, O servant of Paramesur (God), what has they brother Nanak done? He has gone, with the Nawab, into the Jami Masjid to pray; and, in the city, there is an outcry among the Hindus and Mussulmans that Nanak has become a Turk (Muslim] today".' (India Office MS., No. 2885, fol. 39.)
From the foregoing it is perfectly clear that the immediate successors of Nanak believed that he went very close to Muhammadanism; and we can scarcelydoubt the accuracy of their view of the matter, when we consider the almost contemporaneous character of the record, from which extracts have been given, and the numerous confirmatory evidences contained in the religion itself. It is particularly worthy of remark that a 'cup of amrita' (i.e., immortality) is considered the symbol of inspiration; just as Hafiz exclaims, 'Art thou searching O Hafiz, to find the waters of eternal life?' And the same poet expresses his own ecstasy in a way almost identical with the reception accorded to Nanak at the gate of Paradise. His words are: 'Then he gave into my hand a cup which flashed back the splendour of Heaven so gloriously, that Zuhrah broke out into dancing and the lute-player exclaimed, "Drink! ".' The staff (muttaka) that is mentioned is, also, that of a faqir, on which a devotee supports himself while in meditation. Another significant fact is that when Nanak speaks of himself as the servant of God, he employs the word Khuda, a Persian Muhammadan term; but when his brother-in-law Jairam speaks of God, he uses the Hindu word Paramesur. It will, also, be noticed that Muhammadans are affected by the logic and piety of Nanak; and to them he shows himself so partial that he openly accompanies them to the mosque, and thereby causes his Hindu neighbours and friends to believe that he is actually converted to the faith of Islam. But, of course, the most remarkable expression of all is the emphatic and repeated announcement that 'There is no Hindu; there is no Mussulman'. This can mean nothing else than that it was Nanak's settled intention to do away with the differences between those two forms of belief, by instituting a third course which should supersede both of them.
Nanak's employer, in consequence of the foregoing manifestations of wisdom, became his devoted admirer. After this, Nanak undertook a missionary tour; and it is noticeable that the first person he went to and converted was Shaikh Sajan, who showed himself to be a pious Muhammadan. Nanak then proceeded to Panipat, and was met by a certain Shaikh Tatihar, who accosted himwith the Muhammadan greeting, 'Peace be on thee, O Darvesh!' (Salam-aleka Darves}; to which Nanak immediately replied, 'And upon you be peace, O servant of the Pir!' (aleka us salamu, ho Pir ke dasta-pes}. (India Office MS., No. 1728, fol. 48.) Here we find Nanak both receiving and giving the Muhammadan salutation; and also the acknowledgment that he was recognized as a darvesh. The Punjabi form of the Arabic salutation is given lest it might be thought that the special character of the words is due to the translation.
Nanak in Muslim attire? or is he a Pir of 'Silsila'
disciple then called his master, the Pir Shaikh Sharaf, who repeated the salutation
of peace, and after a long conversation acknowledged the Divine mission of Nanak,
kissed his hands and feet, and left him. (fol. 52.) After the departure of this
Pir, the Guru Nanak wandered on to Delhi, where he was introduced to Sultan Ibrahim
Lodi, who also called him a darvesh. The previous conversations and acts are found
to have awakened the curiosity of Nanak's attendant Mardana, who asked in surprise:
'Is God, then, one?' To which Nanak firmly replied: 'God (Khuda) is one', (fol.
55.) This was intended to satisfy Mardana that there is no difference between
the Muhammadan and the Hindu God.
Nanak is next said to have proceeded to the holy city of Benares, and there he met with a Pandit named Satrudas. The MS. No. 1728 (fol. 56) says: 'He came to this Nanak, and cried, "Ram! Ram!" Seeing his (Nanak's) disguise (bhekhu), he sat down and said to him, "O devotee (bhaqat), thou has no sallgram; no necklace of tulsi; no rosary; no tika of white clay; and thou callest (thyself) a devotee! What devotion has thou obtained?".' In other words, the Pandit is made to challenge his piety; because he has none of the marks of a Hindu upon him. Nanak explains his peculiar position and views: and is reported to have converted the Hindu Pandit to his own way of thinking. This anecdote, also, shows that the immediate successors of Nanak were aware that their great Guru occupied an intermediate position between Muhammadanism and Hinduism; for we see that he ismade to convert Muhammadans on the one hand, and Hindus on the other. After this primary attack on Hinduism, Nanak is said to have converted some Jogis, Khattris, Thags, necromancers, witches, and even the personified Kaliyug, or present age of the world. These conquests over imaginary Hindus are obviously allegorical; though they clearly point to a well-recognized distinction between the teaching of Nanak and that of orthodox Hinduism.
The most significant associate Nanak found was, undoubtedly, Shaikh Farid. He was a famous Muhammadan Pir, and a strict Sufi, who attracted much attention by his piety, and formed a school of devotees of his own. Shaikh Farid must have gained considerable notoriety in his day; for his special disciples are still to be found in the Punjab, who go by the name of Shaikh Farid's faqirs. This strict Muhammadan became the confidential friend and companion of Nanak; and if all other traditions had failed, this alone would have been enough to establish the eclectic character of early Sikhism. The first greeting of these famous men is significant enough. Shaikh Farid exclaimed, 'Allah, Allah, O Darvesh'; to which Nanak replied, 'Allah is the object of my efforts, O Farid! Come, Shaikh Farid! Allah, Allah (only) is ever my object'. The words in the original being Allah, Farid, juhdi; hamesa ait, Sekh Farid, juhdi Allah Allah. (India Office MS., No. 1728. fol. 86.) The use of the Arabic termjuhd implies the energy of the purpose with which he sought for Allah; and the whole phrase is forcibly Muhammadan in tone.
Sheikh Farid with disciples
An intimacy at once sprang up between these two remarkable men; and Shaikh Farid accompanied Nanak in all his wanderings for the next twelve years. The intended compromise between Hinduism and Islam is shown not only in the fact of this friendship, but in the important circumstance that no less than 142 stanzas composed by Shaikh Farid are admitted into the Adi Granth itself. An examination of these verses still further proves the mingling of the two religions which Nanak effected. They are distinctly Sufistic in tone, containing such lines as: 'Youth is passing, I am not afraid, if love of the Beloved does not pass'; and still more pointedly, 'Full of sins I wander about; the world calls me a Darvesh'; while, between those declarations of steady adherence to Islam, comes the remarkable Hindu line, 'As by fire the metal becomes purified, so the fear of Hari removes the filth of folly.' The fact that the compositions of a genuine Sufi should have been admitted into the canonical book of the Sikhs, and that they should contain such a clear admixture of Hindu and Muhammadan ideas, is conclusive evidence that Nanak, and his immediate successors, saw no incongruity in the mixture.
Sheikh Farid (The real Sheikh Farid, whose bani is in the Adi Granth lived long before Guru Nanak. The leaders in the lineage of Farid are also called by the same name (Kanwal)
As soon as Nanak and his friend Shaikh Farid began to travel in company, it is related that they reached a place called Bisiar, where people applied cow-dung to every spot on which they had stood, as soon as they departed. (India Office MS., No. 1728, fol. 94.) The obvious meaning of this is that orthodox Hindus considered every spot polluted which Nanak and his companion had visited. This could never have been related of Nanak had he remained a Hindu by religion.
In his next journey Nanak is said to have visited Patan, and there he met with Shaikh Ibrahim, who saluted him as a Muslim, and had a conversation with him on the Unity of God. Nanak expressed his views in the following openly Sufistic manner: 'Thou thyself (art) the wooden tablet; thou (art) the pen; thou (art) also the writing upon (it). O Nanak, why should the One be called a second?' (India Office MS., No. 1728, fol. 117.) The Pir asks an explanation of this verse in these words: 'Thou sayest, "There is One, why a second?" but there is one Lord (Sahib), and two traditions. Which shall I accept, and which reject? Thou sayest, "The only One, he alone is one"; but the Hindus are saying that in (their) faith there is certainty; and the Mussulmans are saying that only in (their) faith there is certainty. Tell me, in which of them is the truth, and in which is there falsity?' Nanak replied, 'There is only one Lord (Sahib), and only one tradition', (fol. 119.) This anecdote serves still further to illustrate the intermediate position between the two religions ascribed to Nanak by his immediate followers.
Shortly after the foregoing episode, Nanak was captured among the prisoners taken by the Emperor Babar, who seems to have been attracted by the Guru's piety, and to have shown him some attentions. The chronicler informs us that 'all the people, both Hindus and Mussulmans, began to salute (Nanak)'. (fol. 137.) After his release, Nanak recommenced his missionary work, and is described as meeting a Muhammadan named Miyan Mitha, who called upon him for the Kalimah, or Muhammadan confession of faith (fol. 143); which leads to a long conversation, in which Nanak lays emphasis on the Sufi doctrine of the Unity of God. In this conversation Nanak is made to say, 'The book of the Qur'an should be practised', (fol. 144.) He also acknowledged that 'justice is the Qur'an'. (fol. 148.) When the Miyan asked him what is the one great name, Nanak took him aside and whispered in his ear, 'Allah'. Immediately the great name is uttered, Miyan Mitha is consumed to ashes; but a celestial voice again utters the word 'Allah!' and the Miyan regains life, and falls at the feet of Nanak. (fol. 147.)
In precise conformity with this deduction is the tradition of Nanak's pilgrimage to Makkah. The particulars of his visit to that holy place are fully given, in all accounts of Nanak's life; and although, as Dr Trumpp reasonably concludes, the whole story is a fabrication, yet the mere invention of the tale is enough to prove that those who most intimately knew Nanak considered his relationship to Muhammadanism sufficiently close to warrant the belief in such a pilgrimage. In the course of his teaching in Makkah, Nanak is made to say: 'Though men, they are like women, who do not obey the Sunnat, and Divine commandment, nor the order of the book (i.e., the Qur'an)'. (India Office MS., No. 1728, fol. 212.) He also admitted the intercession of Muhammad, denounced the drinking of bhang, wine, etc.,acknowledged the existence of hell, the punishment of the wicked, and the resurrection of mankind, in fact, the words here ascribed to Nanak contain a full confession of Islam. These tenets are, of course, due to the narrator of the tale; and are only useful as showing how far Nanak's followers thought it possible for him to go.
A curious incident is next related to the effect that Makhdum Baha'u'd-Din, the Pir of Multan, feeling his end approaching, said to his disciples, 'O friends, from this time the faith of no one will remain firm, all will become faithless (be-iman)\ His disciples asked for an explanation; and in reply he delivered himself of an oracular statement, 'O friends, when one Hindu shall come to Heaven (bihisht), there will be brilliancy (ujala) in Heaven'. To this strange announcement his disciples replied: 'Learned people say that Heaven is not decreed for the Hindu; what is this that you have said?' (India Office MS., No. 1728, fol. 224.) The Pir told them that he was alluding to Nanak; and sent one of his disciples to ask Nanak if he, also, had received an intimation of his approaching death.
In this anecdote we have the extraordinary admission from a Muhammadan that Nanak would succeed in breaking up the faith of Islam. It is in consequence of a Hindu's having conquered Heaven itself, and vindicated his right to a place in the paradise of Muhammad, that those who were then in the faith of the Prophet would lose confidence in his teaching. Here again the words employed are useful; for the Pir is made to say that Muslims will become be-iman, the Arabic term specially applicable to the 'faith' of Islam; and Heaven is called in the Punjabi story bhisat, that is bihisht, the Paradise of Muhammadans; for had the Hindu heaven been intended, some such word as swarg, or paralok, or Brahmalok would have been used.
The final incident in the life of this enlightened teacher is in precise accord with all that has been said of his former career. Nanak came to the bank of the Ravi to die in conformity with Hindu custom by the side of a natural stream of water. It is expressly said that both Hindus and Muslims accompanied him. He then seated himself at the foot of a Sarih tree, and his Assembly of the faithful (Sangat) stood around him. His sons asked him what their position was to be; and he told them to subordinate themselves to the Guru Angad whom he had appointed as his successor. They were to succeed to no power or dignity merely on the ground of relationship; no hereditary claim was to be recognized; on the contrary, the sons were frankly told to consider themselves non-entities. The words are: 'Sons, even the dogs of the Guru are not in want; bread and clothes will be plentiful; and should you mutter "Guru! Guru!" (your) life will be (properly) adjusted'. (India Office MS., No. 1728, fol. 238.) The anecdote then proceeds in the following remarkable manner: 'Then the Hindus and Mussulmans who were firm in the name (of God), began to express themselves (thus): the Mussulmans said, "We will bury (him)", and the Hindus said, "We will burn (him)". Then the Baba said, "Place flowers on both sides; on the right side those of the Hindus, on the left side those of the Mussulmans, (that we may perceive) whose will continue green tomorrow. If those of the Hindus keep green, then burn (me); and if those of the Mussulmans keep green, then bury (me)". Then the Baba ordered the Assembly to repeat the praises (of God); and the Assembly began to repeat the praises accordingly. (After a few verses had been recited) he laid down his head. When the sheet (which had been stretched over him) was raised, there was nothing (under it); and the flowers of both (sides) remained green. The Hindus took away theirs; and the Mussulmans took away theirs. The entire Assembly fell to their feet'. (India Office MS., No. 1728, fol. 239, 240.)
The mixture of Hinduism and Muhammadanism is evident in this tradition. It is obviously intended to summarize the life of Nanak and the object of his teaching. He is not represented as an outcast and a failure; on the other hand, his purposes are held to have
been fully accomplished. The great triumph was the establishment of a common basis of religious truth for both Muhammadan and Hindu; and this he is shown to have accomplished with such dexterity that at his death no one could say whether he was more inclined to Hinduism or to Muhammadanism. His friends stood around him at the last moment quite uncertain as to whether they should dispose of his remains as those of a Muhammadan, or as those of a Hindu. And Nanak is represented as taking care that the matter should ever remain a moot point. The final miraculous disappearance of the corpse is obviously intended to convey the idea that Nanak belonged specially neither to one party nor to the other; while the green and flourishing appearance of the flowers of both parties conveys the lesson that it was his wish that both should live together in harmony and union. The narrator of the life clearly wishes his history to substantiate the prophetic statement recorded at the commencement of his book (India Office MS., No. 1728, fol. 7) that, at Nanak's birth, 'The Hindus said, "The manifestation of some God (Devata ) has been produced", and the Mussulmans said, "Some holy man (sadiq) of God (Khuda) has been born".'
The most potent cause of the uncertainty as to Nanak's true position in the religious world arises from the initial fact that he was born a Hindu, and necessarily brought up in that form of belief. He was a perfectly uneducated man, there being no reason to suppose that he could either read or write, or perform any other literary feat, beyond the composition of extemporaneous verses in his mother tongue. Guru Arjun, the fourth successor of Nanak, appears to have been the first chieftain of the fraternity who could read and write. The necessary result of Nanak's early associations was that all his ideas throughout life were substantially Hindu, his mode of thought and expression was Hindu, his illustrations were taken from Hindu sources, and his system was based on Hindu models. It must be borne in mind that Nanak never openly seceded from Hinduism, or ever contemplated doing so. Thus in the Sakhi of Miyan Mitha it is related that towards the end of Nanak's life a Muhammadan named Shah Abdu'r-Rahman acknowledged the great advantages he had derived from the teaching of Nanak, and sent his friend Miyan Mitha to the Guru so that he might derive similar benefit. 'Then Miyan Mitha said, "What is his name? Is he a Hindu, or is he a Mussulman?" Shah Abdu'r-Rahman replied, "He is a Hindu, and his name is Nanak".' (Sikhan de Raj di Vithia, p. 258.) He struck a heavy blow at Hinduism by his rejection of caste distinctions; and on this point there can be no doubt, for his very words, preserved in the Adi Granth, are: 'Thou (O Lord) acknowledgest the Light (the ray of the Divine in man), and dost not ask after caste. In the other world there is no caste'. (Translation of the Adi Granth, p. 494.) In consequence of this opinion Nanak admitted to his fraternity men of all castes; his constant companions being spoken of as Saiyids and Sikhs, that is, Muhammadan and Hindu pupils. Sikhs have ever before them the intermediate character of their religion from the stanza (21) of the Jap-Ji which says, 'Pandits do not know that time, though written in a Purana; Qazis do not know that time, though written in the Qur'an'. Hindu scholars are told in the Adi Granth that they miss the true meaning of their religion through delusion. 'Reading and reading the Pandit explains the Veda, (but) the infatuation of Maya (Delusion personified) lulls him to sleep. By reason of dual affection the name of Hari (i.e., God) is forgotten'. (Translation, p. 117.) In the same way Nanak turns to the Mussulman and says:
'Thou must die, O Mulla! Thou must die!
Remain in the fear of the Creator! Then thou art a Mulla, then thou art a Qazi,
if thou knowest the name of God (Khuda). None, though he be very learned, will remain,
he hurries onwards. He is a Qazi by whom his own self is abandoned,
and the One Name is made his support.He is, and will be, He will not be destroyed,
true is the creator. Five times he prays (niwajgujarhi), he
reads the book of the Qur'an.'
(Translation, p. 37.)
Nanak does not seem to have been particular as to the name under which he recognized the Deity, he was more concerned with impressing on his companions a correct understanding of what Deity was. The names Hari, Ram, Govind, Brahma, Parameswar, Khuda, Allah, etc., are used with perfect freedom, and are even mixed up in the same poem. The most common name for God in the Adi Granth is certainly Hari; but that does not seem to have shocked the Muslim friends of Nanak. Thus, in a poem addressed to Hari as 'the invisible, inaccessible, and infinite', we are told that, 'Pirs, prophets, saliks, sadiqs, martyrs, shaikhs, mullas, and darveshes; a great blessing has come upon them, who continually recite his salvation'. (Translation, p.*7'5.)
The chief point of Nanak's teaching was unquestionably the Unity of God. He set himself firmly against the idea of associating any other being with the Absolute Supreme. This exalted idea of Divine Majesty enabled Nanak to treat with indifference the crowd of Hindu deities. To such a mind as that of Nanak it would have been sheer waste of time to argue, with any earnestness, about the attributes, powers, or jurisdictions, of a class of beings, the whole of whom were subordinate to one great, almighty, and incomprehensible Ruler. Without any overt attack on the Hindu pantheon, he caused the whole cluster of deities to subside into a condition similar to that of angels in modern Christianity; whose existence and operations may be the subject of conversation, but the whole of whom sink into utter insignificance compared with the central idea of the Divine Majesty. The One God, in Nanak's opinion (and, it may be added, in the opinion of all Sufis), was the creator of plurality of form, not the creator of matter out of nothing. The phenomenal world is the manifestation of Deity, and it is owing to pure illusion that the idea of separateness exists. In the Adi Granth we read:
'The cause of causes is the Creator.
In His hand are the order and reflection.
As He looks upon, so it becomes.
He Himself, Himself is the Lord.
Whatever is made (is) according to His own pleasure.
He is far from all, and with all.
He comprehends, sees, and makes discrimination.
He Himself is One, and He Himself is many.
He does not die nor perish. He neither comes nor goes.
Nanak says: He is always contained (in all)'.
Notwithstanding this conception that the Supreme One comprehends both spirit and matter, and therefore is what is; He is nevertheless spoken of as in some way different from the creatures He has formed, and has been endowed with moral and intellectual qualities. Thus we find in the Adi Granth:
'Whose body the universe is, His is not in it, the Creator is not in it.
Who is putting (the things) together, He is always aloof (from them), in what
can He be said (to be contained)?'
The soul of man is held to be a ray of light from the Light Divine; and it necessarily follows that, in its natural state, the soul of man is sinless. The impurity, which is only too apparent in man, is accounted for by the operation of what is called Maya, or Delusion; and it is this Maya which deludes creatures into egotism and duality, that is, into self-consciousness or conceit, and into the idea that there can be existence apart from the Divine. This delusion prevents the pure soul from freeing itself from matter, and hence the spirit passes from one combination of matter to another, in a long chain of births and deaths, until the delusion is removed, and the entrammelled ray returns to the Divine Light whence it originally emanated.
The Cycle of rebirth
The belief in metempsychosis
is thus seen to be the necessary complement of pantheism; and it is essential
to the creed of a Hindu, a Buddhist, and a Sufi.
In Sikhism, as in Buddhism, the prime object of attainment is not Paradise, but the total cessation of individual existence. The method by which this release from transmigration is to be accomplished is by the perfect recognition of identity with the Supreme. When the soul fully realizes what is summed up in the formula so ham, 'I am that,' i.e., 'I am one with that which was, and is, and will be,' then emancipation from the bondage of existence is secured. This is declared by Nanak himself in the Adi Granth in these words:
'Should one know his own self as the so ham, he believes
in the esoteric mystery.
Should the disciple (Gur-mukhi) know his own self, what more can he do, or cause to be done?'
(India Office MS., No. 2484 fol. 53.)
The principles of early Sikhism given above are obviously too recondite for acceptance among masses of men; accordingly we find that the pantheistic idea of Absolute Substance became gradually changed into the more readily apprehended notion of a self-conscious Supreme Being, the Creator and Governor of the universe. Here Dr. Trumpp himself admits the influence of Muhammadanism, when he says: 'It is not improbable that Islam had a great share in working silently these changes, which are directly opposed to the teaching of the Gurus'. (Introduction to Translation of the Adi Granth, p. cxii.) The teaching of Nanak was, however, very practical. His followers are daily reminded in the Jap-Ji that, 'Without the practice of virtue there can be no worship'.
In all that has preceded we have confined ourselves strictly to the intimate relationship subsisting between early Sikhism and the Muhammadan religion. It is, however, necessary to allude to the fact that certain surviving relics of Buddhism had no small share in moulding the thoughts of the Founder of the Sikh religion. A full examination of this part of the subject would be out of place in the present work. It must suffice to say that Buddhism held its position in the Punjab long after it had disappeared from other parts of Northern India; and the abundance of Buddhistic relics, which are continually being unearthed in the district, prove the widespread and long-continued influence of the tenets of the gentle-hearted Buddha. Indications of this influence on early Sikhism are seen in its freedom from caste, in the respect for animal life, the special form of metempsychosis accepted, the importance ascribed to meditation, the profuse charity, the reverence paid to the seat of the Guru (like the Buddhistic worship of the throne), Nanak's respect for the lotus, his missionary tours, and the curious union subsisting between the Guru and his Sangat. In the Travels of Guru Tegh Bahadur, translated from the original Gur-mukhi by an excellent scholar Sirdar Atar Singh, we find the following remarkable sentence: 'The Guru and his Sangat are like the warp and woof in cloth there is no difference between them' (p. 37). In the Adi Granth there is an entire Sukhmani, or poem, by Guru Arjun, wholly devoted to a recitation of the advantages of 'the society of the pious', the term employed being, however, in this case, sadh kai sang. (Indian Office MS., No. 2484, fol. 134.) In addition to these points of resemblance, there is found in early Sikhism a curious veneration for trees, offerings to which were sometimes made, as will be seen by reference to pp. 67, 70 and 83, of the Travels of Guru Tegh Bahadur, just cited. In precise conformity with the tradition that Buddha died under a Sal tree, we have seen that Nanak purposely breathed his last under a Sarih tree. Anyone familiar with Buddhism will readily recognize the remarkable coincidences stated above; but the most conclusive of all is the positive inculcation of views identical with the crowning doctrine of Buddhism the Nirvana itself. The following is what Dr. Trumpp says on the subject:
'If there could be any doubt on the pantheistic character of the tenets of the Sikh Gurus regarding the Supreme, it would be dissolved by their doctrine of the Nirban. Where no personal God is taught or believed in, man cannot aspire to a final personal communion with him, his aim can only be absorption in the Absolute Substance, i.e., individual annihilation. We find, therefore, no allusion to the joys of a future life in the Granth, as heaven or paradise, though supposed to exist, is not considered a desirable object. The immortality of the soul is only taught so far as the doctrine of transmigration requires it; but when the soul has reached its highest object, it is no more mentioned, because it no longer exists as individual soul.
'The Nirban, as is well known, is the grand object which Buddha in his preaching held out to the poor people. From his atheistic point of view, he could look out for nothing else; personal existence, with all the concomitant evils of his life, which are not counterbalanced by corresponding pleasures, necessarily appeared to him as the greatest evil. His whole aim was, therefore, to counteract the troubles and pain of this existence by a stoical indifference to pleasure and pain, and to reduce individual consciousness to its utmost limit, in order to escape at the point of death from the dreaded transmigration, which he also, even on his atheistic ground, had not ventured to reject. Buddhism is, therefore, in reality, like Sikhism, nothing but unrestricted Pessimism, unable to hold out to man any solace, except that of annihilation.
'In progress of time, Buddhism has been expelled from India, but the restored Brahmanism, with its confused cosmological legends, and gorgeous mythology of the Puranas, was equally unable to satisfy the thinking minds. It is, therefore, very remarkable, that Buddhism in its highest object, the Nirban, soon emerges again in the popular teachings of the mediaeval reformatory movements. Namdev, Trilochan, Kabir, Ravidas, etc., and after these Nanak, take upon themselves to show the way to the Nirban, as Buddha in his time had promised, and find eager listeners; the difference is only in the means which these Bhagats (saints) propose for obtaining the desired end'. (Introduction to Translation of the Adi Granth, p. cvi.)
Such then was the Sikh religion as founded by Guru Nanak. It is based on Hinduism, modified by Buddhism and stirred into new life by Sufism. There seems to be superabundant evidence that Nanak laboured earnestly to reconcile Hinduism with Muhammadanism, by insisting strongly on the tenets on which both parties could agree and by subordinating the points of difference. It is impossible to deny that Nanak in his lifetime actually did effect a large amount of reconciliation and left behind him a system designed to carry on the good work. The circumstances which led to the entire reversal of the project and produced between Muhammadans and Sikhs the deadliest of feuds does not come within the purview of the present article. It is enough to state that the process was gradual and was as much due to political causes as to a steady departure from the teachings of the Founder of Sikhism.
The Sikh fraternity was under the guidance of individual Gurus from 1504 A.D., when Nanak received the spiritual impulse which gave birth to the new sect, until 1708 A.D., a total of 203 years. After the death of Guru Govind Singh, the Adi Granth itself was taken to be the ever-present impersonal guide.
Govind Singh was the tenth and last Guru; he succeeded his father Tegh-Bahadur when only fifteen years of age. He was brought up under Hindu guidance and became a staunch devotee of the goddess Durga. By his pronounced preference for Hinduism he caused a division in the Sikh community. He introduced several important changes into the constitution of Sikh society. The chief among these was the establishment of the Khalsa, by which he bound his disciples into an army and conferred upon each of them the name of Singh, or lion. He freely admitted all castes to the ranks of his army and laboured more earnestly over their military than over their religious discipline. The nature of the changes which Govind Singh effected in the fraternity is best shown by the fact that the followers of Nanak's own teaching separated themselves from him and formed a community of their own, rejecting the title of Singh. In other words, they clung to the religious and rejected the military idea. The spirit of tolerance so marked during the lifetime of Nanak was clearly gone and in yet later times this hostility gave birth to the saying that 'a true Sikh should always be engaged in war with the Muhammadans and slay them, fighting them face to face'. After a turbulent reign, Guru Govind Singh was treacherously slain by the dagger of a Pathan follower. He refused to name a successor, telling his followers that after his death the Granth Sahib, or 'the Lord of the Book', was to be their guide in every respect. (Sikhan de Raj di Vithia, p. 79.)
The religion of Nanak began in large-hearted tolerance but political causes operated to convert its adherents into a narrow-minded sect. The Hinduism which Nanak had disciplined reasserted its superiority under his successors and ultimately became predominant. While this change was in progress the religious aspect of the movement became gradually converted into military and political propaganda. No contrast indeed could well be greater than that between the inoffensive and gentle-minded Nanak and the warlike and ambitious Gurus of later times. But while we cannot help being painfully impressed by the apparently undying feud which still subsists between the Sikhs and the Muhammadans, it seems perfectly clear that the intention of the Founder was to reconcile the differences between these creeds and that in this excellent work he attained a large measure of success.
(Adapted and abridged from the original.)