There are not a few who believe that Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, never intended to found a new religion.
Essentially a man of God, he wanted the Hindus of his time to be good Hindus and the Muslims to be good Muslims, urging them to live in peace and harmony in the ambience of religious tolerance. Were a proof needed, it is provided in the fact that when he passed away, the Hindus wanted to cremate him and the Muslims insisted on giving him a burial. His incipient utterance—there is no Hindu; there is no Muslim (all are human beings)—immediately after his enlightenment confirms it.
What is termed as religious tolerance is fundamental to the creed Guru Nanak expostulated. It is reflected in his person most vividly. Born in a -Muslim majority region, Bedi by caste, devoted to Vedic studies, he came to be known as—
Baba Nanak Shah faqir
Hindu ka Guru
Musalman ka Peer.
[Guru Nanak, the Super Seer,
A Guru of the Hindu
And of Muslim, a Peer.]
After his own sister Bebe Nanki, the earliest follower who glimpsed the divine in Guru Nanak was the village chief, Rai Bular, a Muslim. For his constant companion, he had Mardana, a Muslim bard. While he went on pilgrimage to Hardwar, the distance and the travail of travelling in those times did not deter him from undertaking a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina to pay his homage in the manner of a devout Muslim. It is said during his pilgrimage to the Muslim shrines, he dressed himself in blue, like a Muslim pilgrim. He had no reservation in joining the Qazi and the Muslim Nawab when invited to offer Muslim prayers provided their heart was in it. At Mecca, when said to have been asked who, in his opinion, was better, a Hindu or a Muslim, Guru Nanak’s reply was—without enlightenment both are misled.
No wonder Sikhism, the faith Guru Nanak is said to espouse, is marked for tolerance in the comity of world religions.
The fundamental postulate of Sikhism enshrines the essence of all the living creeds:
There is but one God.
The Master Creator.
Realised through the grace of the Guru.
Times were out of joint when Guru Nanak appeared on the scene. India was repeatedly being invaded from the north-west ever since the 12th century. The periodic incursions had utterly demoralised the Indian people, more especially in the north. In Guru Nanak we have a visionary who realised this and helped put an end to this menace. Together with the practitioners of the Sufi-cult he brought home this fact to the Muslims of India that the invaders did not distinguish between the Hindus and Muslims when they attacked in hordes. He inculcated secularism and patriotism amongst the Muslims as much as in the Hindus. While talking about the foreign onslaughts, not once does he condemn the Muslims as such, it is the Turks, Mughals and Afghans he deplores. He made the Indian Muslims realise that they were Indian first and Muslim later. Said Guru Nanak:
Ander pooja padhi kitaban
Saiyam Turkan bhai
(Covert you do pooja and read Islamic holy books
And live the Turkish way of life!]
Guru Nanak satirised both the Hindus and Muslims alike.
No wonder that Babar’s attack in Guru Nanak’s times was the last incursion from the north-west. The Mughals made India their home and came to settle in the land of their dream.
It is said that during his pilgrimage to the holy shrine in Mecca, Guru Nanak, who had undergone an arduous journey, fell asleep no sooner than he arrived at his destination. Heedless, he was fast asleep with his feet towards the sacred Kaaba when the security guard while taking his round during the night was scandalised and shouted: “Who is it sleeping with his feet towards the House of God?” Guru Nanak, who was greatly exhausted and was still in his slumber, replied: “Brother, I am much too tired, pray turn my feet in the direction where God is not.” Hearing this the security guard who had already picked Guru Nanak’s feet to correct them found himself in a whirl—where God is not! Where God is not!! Where God is not!!! He was awakened as if. He had lifted Guru Nanak’s legs to turn them around; instead his head fell on his feet and it is said he washed them with his tears.