Sikhism is the youngest of the world’s four great monotheistic religions. It was founded in the 15th Century by Guru Nanak.
There are 18-20 million Sikhs in the world, and 80% of them live in the Punjab state in Northwest India, where the faith began. There are 500,000 Sikhs in Britain, 80% of whom are active in their faith. 39% of UK Sikhs attend a religious service at a Gurdwara (meaning house, or residence of God) once a week. Other countries with large Sikh communities are Canada (225,000) and the USA (100,000).
The word “Sikh” is Punjabi for “disciple” and Sikhs are disciples of the Gurus.
Sikh men are particularly easy to identify because they all have a full beard, and wear their hair uncut and contained in a turban.
The Sikh place of worship is called a Gurdwara or temple.
Sikhism does not have priests, but most gurdwaras will have a Granthi. A Granthi is a learned Sikh who is skilled in reading the scriptures, however, a Granthi has no special religious status.
The principal Sikh scripture is the Adi Granth, often called the Guru Granth Sahib.
Sikhs believe that the words of these scriptures are the present day embodiment of the Sikh Guru and they treat the book with the respect and devotion that they would have given to a human Guru.
Sikhism does not actively look for converts, but it is thoroughly welcoming to those who do want to convert.
Basic Sikh Teachings
The essence of being a Sikh is that one lives one’s life according to the teachings of the Sikh Gurus, devotes time to meditating on God and the scriptures, and does things to benefit other people.
Sikhs believe that there is a single, all-powerful God, who created the universe and everything in it.
Sikhism emphasises social and gender equality, and stresses the importance of behaving altruistically.
|Equality: Everyone is equal in God’s eyes; whatever their caste, creed, or gender.|
|God is accessible without priests: Everyone can be directly in touch with God. There are no clergy in Sikhism.|
|Accept other faiths: Sikhs do not believe that any religion has a monopoly on the truth. They do not regard Sikhism as the only way to God.|
|Live in the world: One should live a responsible life as part of the community. Withdrawing from the world or becoming an ascetic are not as worthwhile.|
|No ritual for its own sake: Empty ritual is meaningless and should be avoided.|
|Devotion can take the form of action as well as prayer: Personal devotion includes Nam simran (meditation on and awareness of God) and Sewa (community service).|
|A good world is just and fair to all: Social justice is to be supported. The use of force as a last resort is justified to uphold it.|
|Death is not the end: Death is seen as the transition to a life where the joy of being in the presence of God can be fully realised.|
Sikhs and God
Sikhs believe that there is only one God.
|God created the universe, and the universe depends on God’s will for its continued existence|
|God has always existed and always will exist|
|God needs nothing else in order to continue to exist|
|God has no shape|
|God has no gender|
|God has never taken and will never take human form on earth.|
|The essence of God is truth.|
|God is without hatred or fear.|
God reaches out to humanity through the word, which is conveyed by the Gurus, or teachers, and which is laid down in the form of shabads, or hymns, which form the backbone of Sikh worship.
Who is a Sikh?
The Sikh code of conduct defines a Sikh like this:
“Any human being who faithfully believes in
|One Immortal Being,|
|Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh,|
|The Guru Granth Sahib,|
|The utterances and teachings of the ten Gurus|
|The baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru,|
and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a Sikh.”