Sikhism is a religion that developed in an environment heavily influenced by conflict between the Hindu and Muslim religions. Sikhism comes from the word Sikh, which means a strong and able disciple. The core beliefs of Sikhism are belief in one God and the teachings of the Ten Gurus, enshrined in Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book. It departs from some of the social traditions and structure of Hinduism and Islam such as the caste system and purdah. Sikhism was influenced by reform movements in Hinduism (e.g. Bhakti, monism, Vedic metaphysics, guru ideal, and bhajans) as well as Sufi Islam.
The founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, was born in 1469 to a Hindu family in northeast India. After four epic journeys (north to Tibet, south to Sri Lanka, east to Bengal and west to Mecca and Baghdad) Guru Nanak preached to Hindus, Muslims and others, and in the process attracted a following of Sikhs or disciples. Religion, he taught, was a way to unite people, but in practice he found that it set men against one another. He particularly regretted the antagonism between Hindus and Muslims. He wanted to go beyond what was being practised by either religion and hence a well-known saying of Guru Nanak is, “There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim.” Guru Gobind Singh reinforced these words by saying “Regard the whole human race as equal”.
Guru Nanak was opposed to the caste system. His followers referred to him as the guru (teacher). Before his death he designated a new Guru to be his successor and to lead the Sikh community. This procedure was continued, and the tenth and last Guru, Guru Gobind (AD 1666–1708) initiated the Sikh ceremony in AD 1699 ; and thus gave a distinctive identity to the Sikhs. The five baptised Sikhs were named Panj Pyare (Five Beloved Ones), who in turn baptised the Guru at his request.
Shortly before passing away Guru Gobind ordered that Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy Scripture, would be the ultimate spiritual authority for the Sikhs and temporal authority would vest in the Khalsa Panth – The Sikh Nation. The first Sikh Holy Scripture was compiled and edited by the Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan in AD 1604.(Although some of the earlier gurus are also known to have documented their revelations.) This is one of the few scriptures in the world that has been compiled by the founders of a faith during their own life time. The Sikh Holy Scripture is particularly unique in that it is written in Gurmukhi script but contains many languages including Punjabi, Sanskrit, Bhojpuri and Persian.
Guru Nanak’s doctrinal position is clear, despite the appearance that it is a blend of insights originating from two very different faiths. Sikhism’s coherence is attributable to its single central concept – the sovereignty of the One God, the Creator. Guru Nanak called God the “True Name” because he wanted to avoid any limiting terms for God. He taught that the True Name, although manifest in many ways, many places and known by many names, is eternally One, the Sovereign and omnipotent God (the Truth of Love)