Sikhism: The Love-Child of Islam and Hinduism?

From the outside, it sure looks like this is the case: That Sikhi is a synchronization–an amalgam–between Hinduism and Islam. At first, that’s exactly what I thought, that the whole faith was like a rebellious child born from two warring parents. It’s my observation so far this year that no faith arises from a vacuum, however I do not believe that Sikhi is a religion/philosophy cobbled together by Guru Nanak in some reactionary way.

Guru Nanak

Guru Nanak himself said, “There is no Hindu, no Muslim.” Right from the start, Guru Nanak separates his teachings from the status quo. Before he made this statement, the story goes that he met the Divine after plunging into a river, having disappeared for three days. The experience was so awesome, that Guru Nanak became enlightened. His praise of the moment is enshrined as the mool mantar, the opening lines of the Sikh Scripture:

There is but One God, His name is Truth, He is the Creator, He fears none, he is without hate, He never dies, He is beyond the cycle of births and death, He is self illuminated, He is realized by the kindness of the True Guru. He was True in the beginning, He was True when the ages commenced and has ever been True, He is also True now.”

So what makes the Sikhi way different from Hinduism and Islam? Because I’ve experienced both of these faiths, I can now say with confidence that my initial reaction to Sikhi as a combination of the two is wrong. Let’s go over a few of the differing points based on each faith.

Hinduism and Sikhi

–Unlike Hinduism, there is no caste system in Sikhi. All of creation is an equal emanation of The One (God)

–In Hinduism, Sanskrit is considered a sacred language compared to all others. In Sikhi, while Gurmukhi is a specialized script, it was instituted for ease of access by common folk to the scripture, and therefore is not viewed as superior to other languages.

–In Hinduism, there is belief in many gods/goddesses and these are occasionally seen as emanations from One. Sikhi has no such concept. There is only One God, present in all reality.

–Sikhi does not support the superiority of the Vedas or Gita (Hindu scriptures).

–Sikhi does not believe in the four stages of life, including the ascetic. Instead, Sikhi insists on the householder’s life. In this way, a normal life is embraced, not cast off as an illusion getting in the way of union with God (unless one attaches themselves to it).

 –Sikhi rejects the notion of divine incarnation. As is stated in the mool mantar, “He is beyond the cycles of births and death.” Therefore no avatars or incarnations of the True God exists. God is present within all.

Islam and Sikhi

–Again, there are many Muslims who believe in the superiority of Arabic above other languages. Sikhi does not share this belief.

–While Guru Granth Sahib (living, eternal Guru of the Sikhs and holy Scripture) contains writings from Muslim saints, Sikhs do not regard the Qur’an or any religion’s prophet as superior to others. All religions are equal.

–Sikhi does not advocate conversion or believe one religion/system is better than another.

–The motivation in Sikhi is the love of God and adoration of His presence within creation. In contrast, much of the language of God within the Qur’an is based on harsh warnings and tough love.

–Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike are welcome in all Sikh holy places, whereas non-Muslims are restricted from some masjids and the Kaaba in Mecca.

–Women are permitted and encouraged to lead congregations in prayer, kirtan (singing hymns), and all other manner of religious/social function.

–Sikhs reject ritual actions, such as fasting, pilgrimages, and the ritual slaughter of animals in the name of God.

These are just some of the ways we understand Sikhi as different from Hinduism and Islam, which were the two native faiths at the time of the Gurus. Now, I can already see the comments pouring in. “Andrew’s trying to make our religion (Islam, Hinduism) look bad. He thinks Sikhi is better! (insert whine)”

No, that’s not it, people. Fact is, Sikhs catch a lot of flak from folks insisting they are a “cafeteria-style” faith, taking what they like from each religion and leaving the rest behind. This simply isn’t true. The Sikhs have a unique and dynamic religion full of color, scope, and depth. I believe Guru Nanak and the other Gurus were truly inspired. I also believe that the Hindu rishis (holy men who contemplated on the divine) and Muhammad were also inspired. The Sikh scriptures say,

Say not that the Vedas and Muslim books are false. False is he, who reflects not on them.” –Bhagat Kabir, Parbhati, pg. 1350

Indeed, there is wisdom we can glean from all faiths. My Islam Mentor once told me that “Conversion is not that important to me. Actually, it’s in my best interest that Christians become better Christians, Muslims become better Muslims, and the same for everybody else.

Man, I pick out some good Mentors, huh? Just as the Gurus and my Islam Mentor said, we must become better versions of ourselves and reflect more deeply on the wisdom we have. After all, some believe it all came from the same place anyway.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Beth Irwin

    Seems God sends the Messengers needed by a people in that time and place.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment _JSH_

    True that, @Beth Irwin

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Marco

    “He is self illuminated”
    I wonder from Sikh POV, how God existed? then how He became “illuminated”.

    • abowen


      Great question! I’ll take a jab at it from my limited exposure to the faith, but I hope Sikhs will join in as well.

      Further into the Japji Sahib, it is written (sung, really) “Nanak, this is what brings in the clear vision the, God is present everywhere.” The Sikh idea, as I understand it, is that our reality is an emination of God–that Waheguru is the essence of all that is. Looking at God this way is analogous to observing the Law of Conservation of Energy. It isn’t right to ask “How was all of this created”, because God is the essence of everything and God always existed.

      As for “self-illuminated,” I believe this comes to mean that God is independent of anything or anyone to illumine Him (there is no gender, by the way. Just easier to communicate). Here’s another way to look at it, thought limited. In our solar system we have the sun in the middle and the orbiting planets. The planets generate some warmth from their cores, but not enough to ignite them or even keep liquid water flowing. They also remain in darkness and so are in need of another source to simply be seen. The sun on the other hand, requires no outside help to shine. It is its own source and in the process, illumines everything around it, even the face of the planets. The sun and it’s radiation is also the ignition for life. This is how I view the God relationship with the Sikhs and some other faiths.

      I hope that helped!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment gupt

    truly enlightening article :) thanks for posting!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment gupt
  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment gupt

    sorry for posting 3 different posts : the link above is a great source to understand gurbani in english

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment _JSH_

    This is what i have learnt from listening to translation of Japji Sahib by “Panth Ratan Giani Maskeen Ji”:
    God is the creator, and such a creator, who pervades in his own creation and knows its bounds.

    Gurus were illuminated, so were other Dev/Rishis/Muni/avatars/ who came before the Gurus, and some that would be there in the future. Sikh Gurus didn’t call themselves to be God, but a medium and bridge to reach God. So, we can answer that different Gurus and avatars got illuminated in this or earlier ages (or will be in future), but God (the ONE) has been there.

    Aad Sach – God has been there from the beginning
    Jugaad Sach – Even before earliest of ages
    Hai Bhi Sach – God is present today
    Nanak Hosi Bhi Sach – And be there for ever

    Time is not what defines God. Its the other way round and hard to contemplate. So asking “when” does not form a valid question at-least for us at this level. Sikhs believe that the God, the ONE, cannot be reduced to any form of writing, thought, time or space.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment

    Hi Andrew,

    I happened to find out about this site it was being discussed on

    I think what you are doing is absolutely fantastic and really appreciate the fact that you have taken the time out to completely immersing yourself in Sikhi, along with other as well ofcourse, and discuss your experiences, almost all of which have been positive.

    It really good to hear a genuinely fresh take on Sikh concepts.
    It makes one re-examine the Teachings from a different angle which helps to further solidify understanding on certain aspects of the faith, and that is almost always a good thing.

    With respect to the post in hand, the Guru Granth Sahib states:

    “I am not a Hindu, nor am I a Muslim.”

    Sri Guru Granth Sahib P1136

    Which i think helps set the very foundations in correctly resolving this issue.

    Wishing you every success with this project and the future!


    • abowen


      Thank you for your warm welcome and encouragement!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment jo

    gud work in simple way….

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kearns

    Just 2 corrections to your assertions on Islam:

    “The motivation in Sikhi is the love of God and adoration of His presence within creation. In contrast, much of the language of God within the Qur’an is based on harsh warnings.”

    Whomever you had selected as your guide for Islam clearly did you a disservice if he neglected to introduce you to Ihsan or “spiritual excellence” which most Muslims believe the path to involves reflection, remembrance and possibly delving into tassawuf or sufism. This science emphasizes that: Love for Allah and love for his Messenger (sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam) are essential to be Muslim; the constant reminder that Allah’s mercy comes before and rules over His wrath; and the reminder that Muhammad (sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was sent as a mercy to all of creation. While there are some new Muslims sects that ignore these teachings and focus more on the “harsh warnings” they are a minority (though overly vocal).

    Also “Sikhs reject ritual actions, such as fasting, pilgrimages, and the slow, ritual slaughter of animals in the name of God.” is incorrect in the usage of the word “slow”, in fact proper zabihah ritual slaughter in Islam must be as quick and painless as possible. It is not just a way to remember the immenseness and importance of God over all else, but it’s also intended to be a mercy to to animal who is giving his life so that we may eat. The animal must be raised humanely and slaughtered humanely including a quick and painless cut to the carotid artery with as sharp a knife as possible.

    • abowen


      Thanks for offering your perspective. Of course you are right. We do find this love more expressed in the ideals and teachings from the Sufi tradition (one I did not have time to jump into much, unfortunately). This being said, it is a mistake to assume that my Mentor did not offer this “face” of Islam. The post was not a compare/contrast on the grounds of one faith being superior to the other (I mentioned this in the post), but simply a listing that displayed the differences between them. My Mentor did not give me my impression of Islam; Islam itself gave me my impression. I read the Qu’ran (a translation by Yusuf Ali) cover to cover and the language (not the execution in Arabic, but the meaning) is decidedly harsh compared to at least much of the Sikhi scripture and many others. Again, this isn’t a negative, but an observation of style. Within context, the Qur’an came at a time when spiritual, political, and social revolution was badly needed in a place run amok with social/spiritual depravity. Only something bold and revolutionary–much like a forest fire to clear the undergrowth choking the trees–would do the job. In this way, I see the Qur’an in its language as a needed part of the remedy. No doubt love exists, but it read and felt like a tough love.

      As for the ritual slaughter, “slow” does give a bad representation. I’ll amend the post accordingly.

      Thanks again!

  • Editor B

    I found this absolutely fascinating. One of my pet peeves is when people try to characterize all religions as being essentially the same. No, they aren’t. Their may be some common truths recognized from one tradition to the next, but each has its own distinct character. These differences are very interesting and sometimes beautiful.

    • abowen


      Right on. It’s like saying all of your kids are the same because they came from the same parents. Anyone with children knows better…

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment harman


    Major difference bw Sikhi and Islam as already mentioned by Andrew is Pantheism .

    As per Sikhi Creator is not separate from Creation

    ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥
    Fifth Mehl:

    ਫਰੀਦਾ ਖਾਲਕੁ ਖਲਕ ਮਹਿ ਖਲਕ ਵਸੈ ਰਬ ਮਾਹਿ ॥
    Fareed, the Creator is in the Creation, and the Creation abides in God.

    ਮੰਦਾ ਕਿਸ ਨੋ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਾਂ ਤਿਸੁ ਬਿਨੁ ਕੋਈ ਨਾਹਿ ॥੭੫॥
    Whom can we call bad? There is none without Him. ||75|| ( Guru Granth Sahib)

    Sikhi and Hindu

    As per very first line of Guru Granth sahib ,Creator is Unborn contrary to Hindu faith .

    • abowen


      We appreciate the scripture ref!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment _JSH_
    • abowen


      Horrible. Mankind seldom learns from its mistakes, it seems.