I wanted to comment on the latest Basics-Of-Sikhi video. Basics-Of-Sikhi is a YouTube Sikh educational channel whose primary aim is to inform people about Sikhism. It is run by Jagraj Singh, a former soldier, military-officer, and Oxford Philosophy graduate. I have immense respect for this brother and the superlative work he does in explaining our religion to people who may not have even heard of it, in the first place. I think he is probably one of the UK’s most eloquent, articulate and intelligent Sikhs, and in my opinion he would be a great representative for our community.
In this video, situated at Speakers’-Corner in Hyde-Park, Jagraj Singh has a heated argument with a Muslim da’i (proselytiser) who insists that Sri-Guru-Granth-Sahib-Ji instructs people to become Muslim.
Firstly, I would like to clarify what the Basics-Of-Sikhi videos are about. They are not for missionary purposes, as Sikhism discourages aggressive religious proselytism or attempting to get people to convert to your religion. They are produced primarily in an informative context, to raise awareness about Sikhism because it is not a particularly well-known religion (possibly due to the fact that promulgation is discouraged). Informing people about Sikhism is particularly important in this day and age where Sikhs are becoming increasingly conflated with Muslims and as a result misconceptions are circulated about the nature of our religion, and Sikhs are often the victim of mistaken-identity hate-crime attacks. In that sense you could say Bhai-Jagraj’s videos are entirely educational as opposed to promotional; “parchar” not “Dawah”.
In this recent video, fallacies were abundant. The first Muslim failed to comprehend the semantic composition of the first quote and how it was not a commandment for Sikhs to adopt the Islamic faith. Rather it was directed as an admonition towards pusillanimous Hindus who adopted an overly subservient attitude to their Mughal superiors by masquerading as a Muslim externally, whilst practising their Hindu beliefs privately. Guru-Sahib is therefore encouraging them to abandon their hypocrisy and duplicity and embrace their real belief.
It’s also important to note that while Sikhs believe that their Holy-Scripture is the complete and comprehensive truth (as the embodiment of a living Guru); they also acknowledge that many other religious texts contain elements of truth in them as well. Therefore, as Sikhs generally aren’t inclined towards aggressive proselytism and shoving their religion down another person’s throat, they believe that the correct course of action is to emphasise the truthful and commendable aspects of the other person’s belief, whilst encouraging them to relinquish the overly ritualistic conventions that lead to personal ruin or devastation on a greater scale. There is no intention to gratuitously offend their deeply-held sentiments or profound theological convictions, as such an approach is typically counter-productive and leads to argument and rancorous confrontation — the type of which has instigated untold bloodshed across the contemporary world. Humility, piety, devotion, mercy and charity — these are all virtuous attributes that should be prioritised over trivial rituals, are they not?
Guru-Sahib is trying to encourage people to become better human-beings by inspiring them through aspects of their own religion. Therefore from an objective outlook, if any Muslim coheres to the guidelines and the criterion that are expressed in the Guru-Granth-Sahib, then they will automatically become a better human-being. If their actions are commensurate with the instructions laid out in the Bani, then they will be more tolerant, more accepting, more peaceful and ultimately more righteous. This does not necessarily have to compromise or contradict their existing beliefs. Remember: in terms of soteriology, Sikhism claims that there is a supreme ultimate truth through which salvation can be obtained, but it does not claim that this truth is exclusive to Sikhism or that Sikhism has a monopoly on this truth. Rather it can and has manifested itself in different ways throughout the centuries, and it is accessible to everyone as long as they make a meaningful effort to connect with the omnipresent Divine. Adherents of different belief-systems or confessions, so to speak, are not exempt from enlightenment and are not necessarily condemned to a hellish conflagration. Sikhs simply believe that Sikhism is the best path, whereas Muslims like Adnan Rashid believe Islam is the only path. Again, Sikhism maintains that all religions have a certain degree of truth in them.
As for Adnan Rashid’s preposterous claim that Sikhs attacked, persecuted and victimised ordinary Muslims, there is a certain point in any interreligious argument where one of the participants demonstrates profound historical illiteracy and ignorance. What he said was somewhat analogous to saying that the French-Resistance oppressed the Germans. But what I will say is this: Sikhs were engaged in prolonged military resistance against the tyrannical Mughal Empire (as opposed to ordinary Muslims); the Guru’s incorporated the works of Sufi Saints into their scriptures; a Muslim was Guru Nanak’s lifelong companion and accompanying musician; a Muslim laid the foundation stone at Harmandir Sahib; Muslims served in the Guru’s armies as mercenaries or volunteers (Painde Khan); Many Gurus maintained amicable relations with their monarchical contemporaries in the Mughal-Empire; many of the Gurus had formal education in Arabic and Persian, were interested in Islam, and correspondended with Sufi saints; and the sixth Guru built a mosque for Muslims. So I do hope that clears that ridiculous statement up.
Ultimately, the reason why Guru Nanak didn’t instruct Muslims to embrace the complete truth is because Sikhs are not about being aggressive missionaries and salvation/enlightenment is attainable even if someone is not a Sikh, as long as they are essentially a good person.