Sikhism Case Study

The Sikh religion is the premier Indo-Abrahamic religion in the world. Sikhism took birth in Punjab, the exact geographical region of the globe where the Abrahamic religions come into first contact and dialogue with the Indic religions.

The relationship of Sikhism with Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainsim is well known and documented. Similarly, the kinship of Sikhism with Judaism, Christianity and Islam is equally intimate and can be easily understood from a study of the Mool Mantar.

The Mool Mantar means ‘FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES’ and was complied by Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of the sikh religion. The Mool Mantar enunciates the nine fundamental principles of Sikhism. The genesis and origin of many of these fundamental precepts of Sikhism clearly establishes the consanguinity of Sikhism with Abrahamism -

  1. EK ONKAR – means ONE GOD. Prophet Abraham was the first person to mainstream the belief that there is only one God in this world, and no other. Guru Nanak re-attests this fundamentally Abrahamic message of monotheism to mankind more clearly, unequivocally and unconditionally than anyone else in the world with these first two words of the Sikh Holy Book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

  2. SAT NAM – means TRUE NAME. Guru Nanak melds the Sikh faith to very early Jewish traditions by use of this form of address to refer to God. The early Jews considered it a blasphemy to mispronounce the name of God by even a single consonant or syllable. Some Jews considered it a blasphemy to even utter the name of God outside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Therefore, the early Jews began to say or write Ha Shem when referring to God.

    HaShem means the Name in Hebrew language. Ha Shem (Name) thus became a synonym of God among the Jews. From Judaic usage HaShem got absorbed in Christian tradition as in ‘ In the Name of the Lord’. From the Christians this tradition passed into Islamic usage. From the Christians and the Muslims this tradition came into the Indic traditions, especially via the Christian missionaries and Sufi clerics.

    The Persian muslims began to say Nam as a synonym of God. Nam in Persian language, like in Indian languages, means Name.The Sufis, many of them Persians, introduced this Abrahamic tradition of referring to God as Nam to the Indic and Indo-Abrahamic faiths.
    Sat, meaning True, was also used to refer to God for the same reasons by the Abrahamics. The Indic tradition too refers to God as Sad, with the same meaning.

Sikhism assiduously avoids assigning any specific name to God and invokes Him, like the Abrahamics, as SAT NAM meaning True Name. Sikhism thus freely uses the extant names of God in the Abrahamic and Indic religions like Allah, Hari, Ram, Rahim etc but astutely maintains fundamental allegiance to the One and Only One God,referred to as Sat Nam (True Name), whatever that name may or may not be.

  1. KARTA PURKH – means CREATOR BEING. This description of God again brings Sikhism into shared theological space with Abrahamic and Indic religions. Sikhism, like the Abrahamic religions, believes creation is the work of One God who is without gender but this genderless God is referred to in a male gender. In the Hindu tradition creation is the work of both Male (Purush) and Female (Shakti) deities. Purush is a Sanskrit word which becomes Purkh in Prakrit, the language of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Book.

Guru Nanak thus uses an Indic expression to corroborate Sikhism’s alignment with the Abrahamic tradition of referring to the essentially genderless Creator (Karta) as Karta Purkh.

  1. NIRBHAU – means WITHOUT FEAR . This is Guru Nanak’s and Sikhism’s original contribution to organized world religion. This is where Sikhism separates from both Indic and Abrahamic ideology. The Mool Mantar professes that God is without the attribute of fear, fright, terror etc. It is not possible to be frighten or be frightened, terrorise or be terrorised etc. in the name of God. Fear and Terror are worldly attributes and not attributes of the divine.

  1. NIRVAIR – means WITHOUT ENEMITY . This is again Guru Nanak’s and Sikhism’s seminal contribution to world theology. The Mool Mantar professes that God is without the attribute of enemity. God is not the enemy of anyone or anything and it is not possible for to hold enemity against anyone or anything in the name of God.

  1. AKAL MOORAT – means God is Eternal (Akal) and imagined as such ( Moorat means IMAGE, as in imaginary concept and not as in physical representation ). This is common belief between the Abrahamic and Indo-Abrahamic religions. In fact, scholars opine that the Jewish name of God (YHVH) itself means Eternal.

  1. AJOONI – means WITHOUT LIFE. God is never born and never dies. God is beyond life and death. This belief of Sikhism totally coincides with the Abrahamic concept of God.

  1. SAIBHAN – God is self-existent and eternal but he can terminate all all existence just as he created it. This is again a fundamentally Abrahamic concept and also tallies with some of the Indic philosophies.

  1. GURPARSAD - means GURU’s GRACE – God is realised by the Grace of the Guru (GOD/Prophet/). In Sikhism GUR/SATGUR is used to refer to both GOD and also to a human teacher.

Thus, the study of the Mool Mantar, the Fundamental Principles of Sikhism, shows that Sikhs are closely related in theology to both the Abrahamic and Indic religions. This qualifies the identity of Sikhism as an Indo-Abrahamic religion. The other Indo-Abrahamic religions like Radha Soami, Kabir Panthi, Satnami, Eksarna Sankardev, Sacha Sauda, Sri Narayan Dharam Paripalan, Namdev, Shirdi Sai Baba, etc also have similar commonalities with both Indic and Abrahamic religions.

The Indo-Abrahamic religions are therefore truly world religions and act as a bridge between Judaism/ Christianity/Islam ) and Hinduism/Buddhism/Jainism.