When comparing one religion to another, sometimes we tend to group them into similarities because we have not taken the time to study each one individually. What may outwardly look similar due to dress or customs, may, in fact, be a world of difference? In this short article, we will briefly discuss the main traits of Sikhs and Muslims. As it is important to know how to think and not what to think, we will simply leave the conclusions of the differences up to the reader.
Sikhs is a word in the Punjabi language that means “disciple”. A disciple is a follower and in this case, it means following only One God and the teaching of the Ten Sikh Gurus.[i] Sikh was originally founded by the first Guru Nanak who was born in 1469. Guru Nanak reacted against ritualistic religion; in his case at the time were Hindus and Muslims.
Contrary to what is taught in western culture that there are basically only three monotheistic religions in the world, Sikhs also believe that there is only one God for all people of all religions. Regarding the soul, it is eternal and goes through different cycles of births and deaths until it finally reaches the human form. Once in this human form, the purpose is to lead a life that is of such a quality to eventually merge with God. They practice remembering God constantly while living a life of virtue and truthfulness. It requires creating a balance between the spiritual and physical or temporal obligations.
Renunciation of the world or celibacy and observing rituals that include fasting, visiting holy places, worship of the dead or idols or any other similar superstition is not part or partial of the Sikh faith. In fact, these activities are condemned as meaningless and hold no value in one’s pursuit to be one with God.
Sikh is open to people of all races, religion or gender as they are all equal under God. Women and men can equally participate in any function or Sikh ceremony. Sikh technically does not have a “Sacred Temple” or holy site with the exception of The Golden Temple at Amritsar in northern India. It is there more for historical reasons and is never a mandatory visit in the Sikh faith.
The last Guru Gobind Singh died in 1708. It was declared that there was no more need for successive Gurus as all the wisdom needed to follow these teachings could be observed in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, known as the eternal Guru of the Sikhs. For more in-depth study of the Sikh religion, we encourage you to explore Sikhism, the religion of the Sikh people.[ii]
To be clear a Muslim is the term used for those who follow the teachings of Islam. So technically, there is no Muslim faith, but there are the religious teachings of Islam. So what are the basic teachings of Islam and when did it become a religion?
It had its beginning in the 7th century in Arabia by the self-proclaimed Prophet known as Muhammad.[iii] Islam is an Arabic term that means “to surrender”. In this case, it means to surrender to the will of Allah who is considered the one true God. Of course, how one knows the will of Allah so they can surrender to it is the next issue that needs to be addressed.
That answer is made known through their own sacred scriptures known as the Quran (Koran), which Allah revealed to his messenger, which was Muhammad. The Islamic faith considered Muhammad as the last of a series of previous prophets that trace their origins to the Jewish and Christian faiths. These earlier prophets would include such predecessors such as Adam, the first man, Noah in the flood, Abraham the founder of the Jewish faith, Moses the deliverer of the Ten Commandments, Solomon a king of Ancient Israel and Jesus who is called the Christ.
It should be noted that Christianity claims the deity of Jesus who is called the Christ, Islam does not recognize Jesus as God, but rather a prophet. The teachings of Islam are a very strict monotheism and deep adherence to what is known as essential religious practices.
Islam was solidified in 622 CE when Muhammad went to Medina. It was during this time that Islam had both a spiritual and physical or temporal aspects to it. This resulted in Islam not being just a religion, but a law state as well. This is part of what is known as “sharia law” based on the Quran. In addition, the “jihad” or “holy struggle or war” brought about a widespread conversion of the Islamic faith to Central Asia by the end of the following century after the death of Muhammad in 632 CE.
The tenants of the Islamic faith are deep and complex and cover such areas as their understanding of God, humanity, the way the universe works, Satan’s role in the world, sin and forms of repentance. It includes Prophecy and Eschatology.
There are five pillars of the Islamic faith with a sixth one added. These pillars are aprofession of faith, prayer, obligatory tax, fasting, theannual pilgrimage to Mecca, and Sacred places and days.
This brief explanation of Sikh and Muslim should show the differences of these religions and one can come to their own conclusions about each. How these two faiths interact with the current world in which we live is an important part of coming to an understanding of this or any religion.