Similarities between Islam and the Sikh religion

by Mukeshwar Singh

Since the dawn of humanity, religion has been playing a pivotal role in shaping people’s beliefs, ethics, traditions, and behaviors. The most common characteristic of almost all major religions of the world is the belief in a universal God – the supreme divine authority.

Islam and Sikhism are two fundamentally different, widely practiced religions that reflect dissimilar principals. However, the only ideology of monotheism is what propagates the most similarities between the two religions.

Islam is an Abrahamic religion that has its roots on the Arabian peninsula, whereas Sikhism is a Dharmic religion founded in the Indian subcontinent. According to some historians, Islam (currently the second-largest and fastest-growing religion in the world) was originated in Mecca and Medina by the doctrine of Hazrat Muhammad at the start of the 7th century CE.

Sikhism is a considerably youngest and medium-sized organized religion founded in the 15th century in the Punjab region from the teachings of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and nine successive Sikh Gurus. In Sikhism, the most sacred scripture is Holy Guru Granth Sahib, and in Islam, it’s Holy Qur’an.

Despite differing rituals of worship and beliefs, little commonalities both religions share are majorly centered around the notion that depicts there is only one god that is all-powerful and loving.

Similarities Between Islam and Sikh Religion

Concept of God:
Being strictly monotheistic, both religions emphasize the oneness of the deity and believe that “God” is the absolute one, and he’s all-powerful and all-knowing ruler of the world that permeates the entirety of creation and beyond. In Islam, “Allah” is the supreme and all-comprehensive god, and in Sikhism, “Waheguru” is the divine almighty.

Chapter 112 of the Quran, titled Al-‘Ikhlās (The Sincerity) reads:
“He is God, [Who is] One.
God, the Eternal Refuge.
He neither begets nor is born,
Nor is there to Him any equivalent.”

The English translation of the first passage in the Guru Granth Sahib:
“There is only Oneness, and it is called the truth. It exists in all creation, and it has no fear. It does not hate, and it is timeless, universal, and self-existent! You will come to know it through the grace of the Guru.”

Against Idolatry:
Islam and Sikhism both condemn and criticize the worship of idols. Notably, in almost all monotheistic religions, idolatry has been considered as the worship of false gods and stated as fruitless and delusional. According to Sikh scriptures, it has been attributed that worshipping an idol is a futile and worthless practice. And in Islamic law, shirk (the sin of idolatry or polytheism) is an unforgivable crime.

War of Righteousness:
Also knows as militarized religions, both Islam and Sikhism strongly believe in war in defense of righteousness. In Sikhism, the holy war is referred to as “Dharam Yudha,” which is a Sanskrit word made up of two roots: dharma, meaning righteousness, and yuddha, meaning warfare. In all circumstances, the war fought must be the last resort that, too, without the intention of revenge or enmity, and all other ways of resolving the conflict must be tried first.

And Muslims called it “Jihad,” an Arabic word which means striving or struggling in the path of God, especially with a praiseworthy aim to comply with Allah’s guidance by combating evil inclinations. Also, according to classical Islamic law, the term Jihad is scrupulously stated as an armed struggle against unbelievers.

With regard to the said belief, the core concept of both religions is the same; however, Jihad is not fundamentally equal to Dharam Yudha as the principals and practices aren’t similar.

Use of Intoxicants:
Both Islam and Sikhism forbid the consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants. Sikh religion has a basic principle behind this, which is to keep the body pure.

While in Islam, the Arabic word used for intoxicants is “Khamr” that originates from the root word “Khamara,” which means “to cover.” That implies anything that covers or affects the mind, such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, Hashish, and alcohol is strictly prohibited for Muslims.

The Holy Quran says (HQ 2:219 and HQ 5:91):
“They question thee about strong drink and games of chance. Say in both is a great sin and some utility for me, but the sin of them is greater than their usefulness.”

Guru Granth Sahib says (SGGS pg 399):
“The misguided people who drink wine are the most foolish.”

Rejects Avtarwaad:
Both religions don’t endorse the Hindu philosophy of Avtarwaad that refers to the incarnation of God taking birth in human form.

Kabarprasati/Qabar Parasti:
Islam and Sikhism are against qabar parasti, which means worshipping or becoming a follower of a grave. However, some Muslim split does visit majhars of their renowned saints, and that makes this concept highly debatable in the Islamic community. Some sects call it a sin while rest consider qabar parasti as an authentic way of Islam.

And according to Sikh’s sacred texts and philosophy, it has been preached that “You do not remember Him, who has blessed you with soul and body. Visiting graveyards and cremation grounds does not provide a union with God.” (SGGS p1190)

Monasticism and Mendicancy:
Both religions deprecate the idea of monasticism and mendicancy and believe in having a family life. Monasticism also knows as monkhood, which is a religious way of life where one renounces worldly pursuits in order to devote oneself fully to spiritual duties. Such a lifestyle is more common in Catholic and Orthodox traditions, and also in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.

Holy Quran 57:27 says:
“But monasticism they invented–we ordained it not for them–only seeking Allah’s pleasure, and they observed it not with right reverence.”

Whereas, Sri Guru Granth Sahib depicts:
“According to the Guru’s teaching, what can be achieved outside the home can also be achieved at home. So Nanak has become a renunciate.” (SGGS pg 992)
“Seek salvation while you are living a normal life.” (SGGS pg 522)

Faith in Holy Writ:
It’s a compilation and discussion of central religious texts oriented towards beliefs, mythologies, ethical conduct, and ritual practices. Islam and Sikhism, both groups, trust in the authority of their respective sacred scripture and consider it as the divine revelation.

For Muslims, it’s the Holy Quran, and they believe that it’s orally revealed by God to the prophet Muhammad himself, incrementally over some 23 years. And for the Sikh community, Adi Granth, which is also known as Granth Sahib, is the holy scripture. It’s comprised of nearly 6,000 hymns of the Sikh Gurus and various early and medieval saints and sages of different religions and castes that interestingly have a contribution from Muslim Sufis as well.

Doing Charity:
Both religions have given utmost importance to charity. The term “zakat,” which means the charity is the Third Pillar of Islam and undoubtedly the major teaching of Muhammad. In the Holy Quran, it has been mentioned that being charitable and providing for the needy are important characteristics and moral principals of a Muslim. Zakat has also been called “sadaqat” in Islamic scriptures because it’s a kind of compulsory charity that means you are obligated to feed poor peoples, supporting orphans in the way of Allah.

In Sikhism, there is a strong belief that giving money to charity and by aiding peoples living in poverty and suffering is a religious duty that encourages compassion and is one of the ways to serve humanity. Giving is one of the three golden rules of Sikhism. The fundamental teachings Sikhs consider are, “Vand Chhakn” which means share what you have and consume it together in a community, “Seva” which means doing selfless service to others, and treat all humans with equality.

Caste system:
Islam doesn’t recognize any castes and is against it. However, Muslim communities spread among the South Asian continent does apply a caste system of social stratification. It’s because, in these countries, 80% of Indian Muslims were converted from Hinduism, and Sikhs also trace their background to Hindu families in some form or other.

Even though some say that in Sikhism, Guru Gobind Singh didn’t abolish the caste system, but merely implied equality of all castes, therefore this question still ends up being a conflict towards mutual agreement on the ideas.

Abolishing Priesthood:
There is, technically, no ordination and ordained priesthood in Islam and Sikhism according to religious adherents. The followers can themselves perform religious rites and recite their prayers to the supreme almighty.

In Islam, there are local spiritual and community leaders knows as the imam, the mullah, the mufti, the qadi, and others. And in Sikhism, the priestly class was abolished by Guru Gobind Singh (the 10th Guru of Sikhism.) Each Gurdwara has a Granthi who’s not a priest but a reader or custodian of the Adi Granth and is responsible for organizing the daily services (Seva) in the holy premises.
However, unlike Sikhism, there is some exception in Islam regarding women that they aren’t allowed to perform azan, and also Muslim women don’t visit the mosque.

Slander:
Worthless talk such as slander, backbiting, suspicion, etc, are not permitted in Sikhism and as well as in Islam. Muslims believe that slander is a major sin and is a cause of evil and misery. It’s also the most popular corruption of the tongue and is one of the dangerous weapons of cowards in general.

The Holy Quran says:
“And do not find fault with each other, nor call one another by nicknames.” (HQ 49:11-12)
There are also some references from Guru Granth Sahib:

“The slanderers will be treated as liars in God’s court and punished appropriately.” (SGGS pg 323).
“A slanderer wastes this valuable life.” (SGGS pg 380)

Afterlife Reward or Punishment:
Both religions operate on an ideology that states – as you sow, so shall you reap. Islam has given so much importance to the life after death, as they strongly believe that God will resurrect and judge every individual and entitle them to rewards or punishment purely based on their good or bad deeds.

And unlike Muslims, Sikhs don’t believe in the afterlife or hell and heaven, but they also have a firm belief that good or bad actions are what determines reward or punishment.
Despite being two different religions with distinct originations, Islam and Sikhism have a few similarities on the surface level that reflects there is some element that shares a common concept.

Editor’s Note:

We are grateful to Mr. Mukeshwar Singh for this contribution. Mr. Singh also contributed the article on dreams about snakes: SEE THE LINK ON DREAMS:

Categories: Asia, India

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