(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)
In the ‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’, a definition of a Sikh has been given. The ‘Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee’ has published its English Translation also.
According to the translation, this is the definition of Sikh: –
“Any human being, who faithfully believes in: –
(1) One immortal Being,
(2) Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh,
(3) The Guru Granth Sahib,
(4) The utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus and
(5) The baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru,
And who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a Sikh.”
Habitually, we pay no attention to the deep meanings of a simple definition. In the definition of Sikh, ‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’ has made every point clearer. Even then, sometime we see people in confusion about the definition of Sikh.
The points given in the ‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’ published by Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee have been discussed in this article.
In original Punjabi script of ‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’, words ‘istree jaan purash’ (woman or man) have been used. So, it is clear, according to ‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’ that the word ‘Sikh’ is used for both (male and female). In old Sikh texts, the word ‘Sikhni’ has been used for a Sikh woman, same as the word ‘Singhni’ is often used for an Amritdhari woman now-a-days.
The ‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’ too has used the word ‘Sikhni’ for a Sikh woman (see the second point of the portion describing ‘Sadharan Path’ and the first point of the portion ‘Anand sanskar’). Although grammatically the word ‘Sikh’ is a masculine form and ‘Sikhni’ is a feminine, in practical this word ‘Sikh’ is used for both of genders.
The first characteristic of a Sikh is that he/she believes in the God. An atheist can never be a Sikh. The word ‘Sikh’ has also been used in ancient Buddhist scriptures for Buddhists. The Buddhists are believed to be atheists. But according to ‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’, a Sikh in ‘Gurmat’ (Guruism) believes in the God. This is his/her first characteristic. It is impossible to think of a nonbeliever Sikh. If we go deep into this point, we can reach the conclusion that a Sikh cannot join such a political/social/cultural organization, which promotes atheism. A Sikh has been ordered to preach theism: –
“Aap japo avrah Naam japaavoh.” (Chant the Naam yourself, and inspire others to chant it as well).
(Sri Sukhmani Sahib, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, page 289).
Grammatically, the word ‘Sikh’ stands for disciple. It is often translated into ’student’ as well. Actually the word ‘Sikh’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Shishya’ (disciple). This word has been used in this meaning in Guru Granth Sahib as well. For example, “Kabeer Sikh saakha bahutey keeye, Kesho keeyo naa meet.” (Kabeer! you have made many students and disciples, but you have not made God your friend). (Guru Granth Sahib, page 1369). So, we see that the word ‘Sikh’ has in general been used for any disciple of any Guru in old scriptures, including Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
To differentiate from others, another characteristic of a ‘Sikh’ has been given in the ‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’.
A Sikh is a person who believes in ten Gurus, (from Guru Nanak Dev Ji to Guru Gobind Singh) and Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Now the word ‘Sikh’ becomes a proper noun. For us, the word ‘Sikh’ means ‘a Sikh of Guru Nanak-Guru Gobind Singh-Guru Granth Sahib’. Now for the entire world, the word ‘Sikh’ means ‘a Sikh of Guru Nanak-Guru Gobind Singh-Guru Granth Sahib’. ‘A Sikh of Gautam Buddha’ is a ‘Buddhist’. ‘A Sikh of Kabeer’ is ‘Kabeer Panthee’. But ‘a Sikh of Guru Nanak-Gobind Singh-Guru Granth Sahib’ is ‘the Sikh’. No need to know what old dictionaries say about the word ‘Sikh’.
Many people tried to preach their own ideas under the name of Gurmat (Guruism). They tried to use word ‘Sikh’ for their followers, but in vain. Some of them are now known as ‘Nirankaris’. Some of them are now known as ‘Naamdharis’. They can call themselves ‘Nirankaris’ (even ‘Nirankari-sikh’) and ‘Namdharis’ (even ‘Naamdhari-sikh’), but not just ‘Sikh’; because a ‘Sikh’ means a ‘Sikh of Guru Nanak-Gobind Singh-Guru Granth’. This is the point one must understand.
‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’ makes another point. A Sikh is a person, who believes in ‘Sri Guru Granth Sahib’. The word ‘Guru’ is very important. It is ‘Sri Guru Granth Sahib’, not just ‘Granth Sahib’. It means that a Sikh is a person who accepts this ‘Granth’ (book) his ‘Guru’.
There is not any other Guru for him/her. He/she does not accept any other living human being his/her Guru. If someone does so, he/she has the right to, but one thing is certain that he/she is not a ‘Sikh’ as maintained by the definition given by ‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’. Thus, ‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’ points out that a ‘Sikh’ does not accept any living human being his/her Guru. Only Sri Guru Granth Sahib is Guru of a Sikh.
A Sikh obeys the sacred hymns of Guru Granth Sahib Ji. However there are holy hymns of Guru Gobind Singh Ji, which are not included in Guru Granth Sahib Ji. So, ‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’ makes a point that a Sikh obeys the sacred hymns of ten Gurus. Thus, a Sikh is a person who believes in Gurbani (holy hymns of ten Gurus), whether it is written in Guru Granth Sahib, or not. (The 6th, 7th and 8th Gurus did not write Gurbani. The sacred hymns of Guru Gobind Singh Ji are not included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib).
A Sikh also believes in the ‘Amrit by the tenth Guru’. (’Sikh Rahat Maryada’ also describes how this ‘Amrit’ is prepared). Only ‘the five beloved ones’ have the right to baptize (to distribute Amrit to) anyone.
Other characteristic of a Sikh is that he/she does not owe allegiance to any other religion.
When we say that a Sikh does not owe allegiance to any other religion, it does not mean that he/she does not respect other religions. In fact, a Sikh respects all religions. A Sikh always remembers that there are sacred hymns of Muslims, Brahmans and others in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, and Sri Guru Granth Sahib is his/her Guru. Thus, it is absolutely natural that a Sikh respects all religions.
Thus, according to ‘Sikh Rahat Maryada’ published by Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, “any male or female, who believes in One Immortal Being, ten Gurus (from Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji to Sri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib), Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the sacred hymns and teaching of the ten Gurus, and tenth Guru’s Amrit; and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a Sikh”.