( Dis)continuity between Sikhism and Islam

( Dis)continuity between Sikhism and Islam

Material Information

( Dis)continuity between Sikhism and Islam the development of hukam across religions
Alternate Title:
Discontinuity between Sikhism and Islam
Horowitz, Mark
Place of Publication:
[Tampa, Fla.]
University of South Florida
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Dissertations, Academic -- Religious Studies -- Masters -- USF ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study is to analyze the development of the Sikh concept of hukam, which is usually translated as a divine command or order. The concept is prominently featured in the Sikh sacred scripture (Guru Granth) and is an important aspect of daily ritual life for the Sikhs. The goal of this study is to provide initial insight into how the concept developed in the Sikh scriptural tradition, as well as the implications that the concept had for the Sikh community. This paper traces the development of hukam from the concepts origin in the Islamic tradition, the writings of Kabir, and the Sikh Gurus, with primary interest in Nanak's compositions. Each of these helps to provide a comprehensive understanding of how the concept developed across cultures and religious traditions. The first section analyzes how hukam, originally an Arabic word and an Islamic concept, was employed in the Qur'an.This section includes an analysis of the derivative words that share the HKM verbal root with hukam. The second section analyzes hukam in its earliest South Asian context through the compositions of Kabir, a 15th century Indian Saint. The third and fourth sections of the paper deal with Guru Nanak and his successors, respectively. Starting with Nanak, who founded the Sikh religion, I analyze how he used hukam to emphasize a divine order that was familiar for South Asian traditions, while preserving much of the original themes discussed in the Qur'an. In the following section, I note how Nanak's successors build on his concept of hukam, utilizing it in a manner that reflects that growing Sikh identity and authority of the Guru. Through this analysis, I conclude that the continuity the Sikh concept of hukam displays with the Qur'an forces us to reexamine the connections between Sikhism and Islam, which have previously been overlooked or ignored amongst scholars of Sikhism. By analyzing the development of the concept across textual traditions, I provide a framework by which the uniqueness of the Sikh hukam can be extracted.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
System Details:
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
General Note:
Title from PDF of title page.
General Note:
Document formatted into pages; contains 73 pages.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Mark Horowitz.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
001925940 ( ALEPH )
191805027 ( OCLC )
E14-SFE0002130 ( USFLDC DOI )
e14.2130 ( USFLDC Handle )

Postcard Information



This item has the following downloads:

Full Text
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 standalone no
record xmlns http:www.loc.govMARC21slim xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.loc.govstandardsmarcxmlschemaMARC21slim.xsd
leader nam Ka
controlfield tag 001 001925940
003 fts
005 20080204152735.0
006 m||||e|||d||||||||
007 cr mnu|||uuuuu
008 080204s2007 flu sbm 000 0 eng d
datafield ind1 8 ind2 024
subfield code a E14-SFE0002130
1 100
Horowitz, Mark.
0 245
(Dis)continuity between Sikhism and Islam :
b the development of hukam across religions
h [electronic resource] /
by Mark Horowitz.
3 246
Discontinuity between Sikhism and Islam
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study is to analyze the development of the Sikh concept of hukam, which is usually translated as a divine command or order. The concept is prominently featured in the Sikh sacred scripture (Guru Granth) and is an important aspect of daily ritual life for the Sikhs. The goal of this study is to provide initial insight into how the concept developed in the Sikh scriptural tradition, as well as the implications that the concept had for the Sikh community. This paper traces the development of hukam from the concepts origin in the Islamic tradition, the writings of Kabir, and the Sikh Gurus, with primary interest in Nanak's compositions. Each of these helps to provide a comprehensive understanding of how the concept developed across cultures and religious traditions. The first section analyzes how hukam, originally an Arabic word and an Islamic concept, was employed in the Qur'an.This section includes an analysis of the derivative words that share the HKM verbal root with hukam. The second section analyzes hukam in its earliest South Asian context through the compositions of Kabir, a 15th century Indian Saint. The third and fourth sections of the paper deal with Guru Nanak and his successors, respectively. Starting with Nanak, who founded the Sikh religion, I analyze how he used hukam to emphasize a divine order that was familiar for South Asian traditions, while preserving much of the original themes discussed in the Qur'an. In the following section, I note how Nanak's successors build on his concept of hukam, utilizing it in a manner that reflects that growing Sikh identity and authority of the Guru. Through this analysis, I conclude that the continuity the Sikh concept of hukam displays with the Qur'an forces us to reexamine the connections between Sikhism and Islam, which have previously been overlooked or ignored amongst scholars of Sikhism. By analyzing the development of the concept across textual traditions, I provide a framework by which the uniqueness of the Sikh hukam can be extracted.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 73 pages.
Advisor: Carlos Lopez, Ph.D.
Dissertations, Academic
x Religious Studies
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856
u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?e14.2130


(Dis)Continuity Between Sikhism and Islam: The Development of Hukam Across Religions by Mark Horowitz A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of Religious Studies College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Carlos Lopez, Ph.D. Wei Zhang, Ph.D. Kathleen OConnor, Ph.D. Date of Approval: June 14, 2007 Keywords: (Sikhism, Granth, Guru, Order, Command) Copyright 2007, Mark Horowitz


Dedication I would like to thank those who have supported and encouraged me to complete this project. My friends were kind enough to let me drift into the world of research without taking any personal off ense to my lack of free time. I would also like to thank my family and Iris fo r supporting me throughout the process of writing, and rewriting my t hesis. It is with great excite ment that I dedicate this thesis to my parents for encouraging my interest in what must have seemed like a pretty far-out field of res earch to them. Throughout this process, they remained a source of love and support, without which, I simply would not have had the courage to complete this task. Finally, I would like to thank the Ultimate Power for guiding me through this. Mark Horowitz, (Summer 2007)


Acknowledgements I would first like to extend my heartfe lt thanks to the faculty of the Religious Studies Department at USF for tu rning me on to the study of religion. Through both my undergraduate and graduat e studies, I have been challenged and inspired to re-examine my own preconc eptions about what religion means, as well as how religions shape the ever-shr inking world in which we live. In particular, Dell deChant deserves a s pecial note for inspiring me and numerous other deChantians to ask critical ques tions that have allowed us to better understand the phenomena of religion. I would like to thank the Tampa Gurdwara Sahib, the family of Dr Mohan Singh Rattan, and local Sikh sangat for initially encouraging me to learn about their faith by demonstrating kindness, understanding, patience, and personal insi ght. While in India, I learned about Sikhism from a number of important sc holars, particularly Gurinder Singh Mann and Meeto Malik, both of who taught me much about the intricacies about Sikhism specifically, and Punjabi life in general. I would like to thank my thesis committee for allowing me to study Sikh ism, which was more my passion than their own expertise. Drs. Carlos L opez, Kathleen O Connor, and Wei Zhang all provided helpful insight throughout this process, and I would like to extend a special thanks to Dr. Lopez for taking the extra time to show me what true research entails.


Table of Contents Abstract ii Chapter One: Introduction 1 Chapter Two: The HKM derivatives in the Quran 4 H ak m 4 H ikmah 9 H akam 12 H akama and other verbs 14 Conclusion 20 Chapter Three: Hukam in the compositions of Kabir 23 Conclusion 30 Chapter Four: Guru Nanak and hukam 33 Historical and social context 33 Hukam in the compositions of Nanak 37 Conclusion 49 Chapter Five: The Sikh Gurus and hukam 52 The Sikh community as an historical entity 52 Hukam in the compositions of the Sikh Gurus 57 Conclusion 65 Chapter Six: The development of hukam 68 References 70 Bibliography 73 i


(Dis)Continuity Between Sikhism and Islam: The Development of Hukam Across Religions Mark Horowitz ABSTRACT The purpose of this study is to analyze the development of the Sikh concept of hukam, which is usually translated as a divine command or order. The concept is prominently featured in t he Sikh sacred scrip ture (Guru Granth) and is an important aspect of daily ritual life for the Sikhs. The goal of this study is to provide initial insight into how t he concept developed in the Sikh scriptural tradition, as well as the implications t hat the concept had for the Sikh community. This paper traces the development of hukam from the concepts origin in the Islamic tradition, the writings of Kabir, and the Sikh Gurus, with primary interest in Nanaks compositions. Each of these helps to provide a comprehensive understanding of how the concept developed across cultures and religious traditions. The first section analyzes how hukam, originally an Arabic word and an Islamic concept, was employed in the Quran. This section includes an analysis of the derivative words t hat share the HKM verbal root with hukam The second section analyzes hukam in its earliest South Asian context through the compositions of Kabir, a 15 th century Indian Saint. The third and fourth sections of the paper deal with Guru Nanak and his successors, respectively. Starting with Nanak, who founded the Si kh religion, I analyze how he used hukam to emphasize a divine order that was familiar for South Asian traditions, ii


while preserving much of the original themes discussed in the Quran. In the following section, I note how Nanak s successors build on his concept of hukam, utilizing it in a manner that reflects that growing Sikh identity and authority of the Guru. Through this analysis, I conclude that the continuity the Sikh concept of hukam displays with the Quran forces us to reexamine the connections between Sikhism and Islam, which have previous ly been overlooked or ignored amongst scholars of Sikhism. By analyzing the development of the concept across textual traditions, I provide a framewor k by which the uniqueness of the Sikh hukam can be extracted. iii


Chapter One Introduction Everyday in Gurdwaras (Sikh temples) across the world devout Sikhs carry out a ritual known as a hukam, which refers to the act of opening the sacred scripture, Guru Gr anth, at a random page and r eading the first stanza. The tradition was begun by the fifth Guru who gave a hukam when he installed the first copy of the Grant h in the sacred temple (harimandir ) in Amritsar. The selected verse serves as a daily lesson or reminder that Gods revelation, which is contained in the Granth, must guide their actions and beliefs. When Sikh babies are born, the same method is oft en used to select a name. The parents open the Granth randomly and use the first le tter of the first word on the page or, if applicable, the very word that appears on the page to name the baby. 1 In both cases, the idea emphasized in the act of taking a hukam is that Gods revelation plays an integral role in the lives of humans. This thesis traces the develop ment of the Sikh concept of hukam, which, as a theological concept, is best understood as Gods order for the universe and the divine command for humans to adhere to t hat order. This study is important for two main reasons. First, this st udy sheds light on the shared meanings between the Islamic and Sikh conceptions of Gods hukam As we trace the development of the c oncept, we will note how hukam in the compositions of Nanak and the Sikh Gurus display continui ty with the original meanings we will address in the Quranic analysis. This is particularly important given the 1 Hew Mcleod, Sikhism (London: Penguin Books, 1997), 143. 1


relatively light attention paid to the concept of hukam, as well as the overall connections between Sikhism and t he Granth with Islam and the Quran. 2 This paper is also significant because it allows us to see how Sikh identity was partly shaped through the reinterpretation of existing concepts. Nanak interprets hukam in light of a distinct worldview, which was used by his successors to reflect specifically Sikh beliefs and actions. This paper is divided into four similarly structured chapter s that will enable us to understand how hukam developed by locating its earliest roots in the Quran and its first appearance in a South Asian context in order to understand how it was given new meaning under N anak and the Sikh Gurus. The first chapter analyzes the meanings of the vari ous verbal and nominal derivatives of the Arabic root HKM, from which hukam is derived, in order to understand its original meaning. Each derivat ive will be examined independently, before concluding with the general meanings t hat are prominent throughout the HKM root. This will allow us to develop a clear understanding of how hukam employed in the Quran, as well as, to see how it fits into the Islamic worldview. The second chapter deals with hukam in the compositions of Kabir, a 15 th century Indian religious leader. Due to his interaction with Islam and Muslims, and because his compositions have been included in the Granth, he is an ideal figure to bridge the gap between hukam in Quran and hukam in the Granth. He is the first figure to use the hukam in a syncretistic manner, blending it with popular Hindu notions, such as karma and samsara, while preserving much of the original Islamic meaning. Together, the material from the Quran and Kabirs 2 W. H. Mcleod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion (Oxford: Clarendon, 1968), 158-61, 199 -203. 2


compositions provide a context by which we can understand Nanaks employment of the concept. In the Sikh tradition, hukam is part of a broad religious vision, which has to be taken in after a close study of the Bani or compositions of Guru Nanak and his spiritual successors. 3 In the third chapter, we will focus on how Guru Nanak employed hukam in his compositions, in light of his role as the founder of a community. As we will see, his concept of hukam is far more specific and detailed than Kabirs empl oyment of the concept. 4 Through our analysis, it will be evident how Nanaks reinterpretation of hukam still preserves much of the HKM root meanings found in the Quran. But, in chapter four, we will look at some examples of compositions by the successive Sikh Gurus whose employment of hukam is helpful for distinguishing Sikhs from other religions, traditions and teachings. Through these last two chapters combined, we can see a picture of how hukam developed as a distinctly Sikh concept and in the process continued to reflect the HKM meanings in varying degrees. As a result, we will see how the Sikh hukam reflects a conception of God that forces us to reexamine the nature of the influence of Islam, not just on Nanaks compositions, but on Sikh theology as a whole. 3 Gurbachan Singh Talib, Guru Nanak (New Delhi: Sahitya Academy, 1984), 30. 4 W. H. Mcleod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion 189-90. 3


Chapter Two The HKM derivatives in the Quran The goal of this chapter is to analyze the role of the concept hukam in the Quran. Hukam (Arabic: h ukm ), cannot be fully underst ood without expanding our analysis to include a variety of word s and concepts that are derived from the Arabic verbal root HKM. The HKM root plays an important role in understanding the nature and purpose of the revelation contained in the Quran. The derivative words we analyze in this section often appear together in a similar context. There are two root meanings that stand out as prominent for our overall analysis of these concepts: wisdom and judgment. As we will see in this chapter, these two dimensions are crucial to understanding Allahs revelation. H ak m H ak m is an adjective generally trans lated as wise or knowing. 5 It is the most common derivative of the HK M root in the Quran and appears most frequently as al-h ak m, one of the most beautiful names of God. 6 In this regard, the wisdom attributed to Allah is boundl ess, extending into realms known and unknown. Allah is referred to as the Wise in the Quran in a variety of contexts ranging from Allahs knowledge, to the transmission of his revelation, and the judgment of humans. 5 Kassis, H.E. A Concordance of the Quran (Berkeley: University of California:,1983), 523. 6 In the entry in The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam h ak m is translated as the Wise and explained as a name of God in the Quran. The most beautiful names of God are referenced in the Quran (7.180). Two of the ver bal forms that are based on the HKM, al-h ak m and al-h akam are considered among them. Their significance, along with all the names and attributes of Allah, comes from the fact that they provide the basis for describing and understanding Allah in human terms. 4


We can begin by analyzing how Allahs wisdom includes all things in creation, even that which is hidden and unseen. It is He who created the heav ens and the earth in true (proportions): the day He saith, "B e," behold! it is. His word is the truth. His will be the dominion the day the trumpet will be blown. He knoweth the unseen as well as that which is open. For He is the Wise (al-h ak m), well acquainted (with all things). (6:73) 7 According to the verse, the very act of creation occurs through the verbal command of Allah. 8 His power is such that the mere command BE is sufficient to bring into existence all which He, in His supreme wisdom and according to His overall plan for the universe, chooses to create. 9 The order of creation is according to his will, thus all that can be perceived in nature is a representation of his wisdom. 10 His creation is essentially perfe ct; everything created is exactly as it must be, that is, in true proporti ons. What is important to note for our discussion of Allah as al-h ak m is that Allah has knowledge of everything that takes places therein, even things which are unseen. 11 Verse 30:27 points out that for Allah, the process of creating is easy because he is the wise. Wisdom is fundamental to this primordial act and it is impossible to conceive of Allahs creation without divine wisdom. In addition to creating the cosmos, A llah sustains creation through his knowledge. 7 For English translations I used Yusuf Ali, av ailable at http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/. The website also contains translations by Marmad uke Mohammad Pickthall and M. H. Shakir. 8 Q 2:117 explicitly mentions this idea. 9 Jane Idleman Smith and Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, The Islamic Understanding of Death and Resurrection (Oxford: Oxford University, 2002), 2. 10 Lari, Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi, God and His Attributes Trans. By: Hamid Algar (New York: Alavi Foundation, 2000), 47. Lari claims that creati on is the most accessible evidence of Allahs wisdom, as it is the easiest for humans to appreciate, regardless of their own personal knowledge. 11 Knowledge of the unseen, al-ghayb is another divine attribute of Allah. 5


Whatever is in the heavens and on ear th,let it declare the Praises and Glory of Allah: for He is t he Exalted in Might, the Wise ( alh ak m ). To Him belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: It is He Who gives Life and Death; and He has Power over all things. He is the First and the Last, the Evident and the Immanent: and He has full knowledge of all things. (57:1-3) Everything in creation is an indication of Allahs wisdom, because all things ultimately derive from his knowledge. We have seen how creation is only possible due to Allahs knowledge, but here we can see how his knowledge is also immanent and pervading throughout the cosmos. It is Allah who gives life and death. He is responsible for the biolog ical condition of humanity according to Q3:6, which refers to Allah who shapes you in wombs as He pleases. The natural world, which we saw was created in true proportions earlier, operates according to his will. 12 There is nothing that All ah does not know, even that which exists in realms that cannot be perceived by humans. The verse indicates that Allah has power or dominion over a ll things and this is, in part, due to his knowledge of all things. As one who is al-h ak m only Allah has full knowledge of the laws by which the universe operates. The following verse allows us to understand how Allahs wisdom is made accessible for humans through the prophets and the revelation they bring. Our Lord! send amongst them a Me ssenger of their own, who shall rehearse Thy Signs to them and in struct them in scripture and wisdom ( h ikmah ), and sanctify them: For Thou art the Exalted in Might, the Wise ( al-h ak m). (2:129) Allah sends messengers ( rasuls ), in this case Muham mad, to teach people his revelation, which can be described as t he self communication of the knowledge 12 Ozdemir, Ibrahim. "Towards An Underst anding Of Environmental Ethic From A Qur'anic Perspective." In Islam and Ecology edited by Richard Foltz (Bost on: Harvard University Press, 2003), 5-13. 6


about God and by God Himself. 13 The revelation given to Muhammad is recorded in the Quran, whose verses are considered by Muslims to be ayat, or signs of Allah. As the mani festation of Allahs wisdom, the Quran refers to itself as full of Wisdom ( h ak m ) in Q36:2 and the Book of Wisdom ( h ak m ) in Q10:1. 14 For Muslims, the Quran provides humans with a way to live in accordance with Gods will. Allah ma kes his wisdom available through the Quran and prophets who, as we will see in the next section, are given a special wisdom ( h ikmah ) to interpret and instruct others about Allahs will. However, it must again be emphasized that, as al-h ak m, Allahs knowledge is infinite and can never be fully known. 15 The following verse allows us to understand how the dimension of judgment is an important f eature of Allahs wisdom because Allah determines the fate of humans souls according to their actions committed in the world. 16 Those who reject our Signs, We shall soon cast into the Fire: as often as their skins are roasted through, We shall change them for fresh skins, that they may taste t he penalty: for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise ( h ak m ). But those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, We shall soon admit to Gardens, with rivers flowing beneath,their eternal home: Therein shall t hey have companions pure and holy: We shall admit t hem to shades, cool and ever deepening. (4:56-57) Acceptance and obedience to the will of Allah, as revealed in the signs ( ayat ) in the Quran, is the basis for his judgment. It is a central belief in Islam that every individual will answer to Allah and be j udged based on how fully they followed his 13 Rajinder Kaur Rohi, Semitic and Sikh Monotheism: A Comparative Study ( Patiala: Punjabi University, 1999), 20. 14 Yusef Ali. The Noble Quran, http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran. 15 Farid Esack, The Quran: A Short Introduction (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2002), 77. 16 Smith and Haddad, 31. They note that several verses di rectly indicate that Allah has total knowledge of the hour of every persons death. 7


revelation. The verse indicates that Allah takes into account humans physical and mental activity in account when judgi ng. This includes social and familial endeavors, as well as, private thoughts and beliefs of individuals. Those who reject the revelation and act against the will of Allah are punished. They are sent to burn for eternity in cons tant suffering. Conversely, those who have faith in Allahs message and act according to his well receive his blessing. They are admitted to an eternity in paradise with a ll the comforts bestowed by Allah. The consequences of his judgment are binding and eternal. Only Allah, who is alh ak m, can have such intimate knowledge of the affairs of hum ans and as we will see later in the chapter, only he can be the judge (h akam ) of humans souls. As the most prevalent HKM derivative in the Quran, h ak m offers insight to the two dominant root meanings, wisdom and judgment, with wisdom clearly being the more prominent. As we sa w, it is impossible to understand the concept of wisdom in the Quran as s eparate from Allah, it can only be understood as one the divine attributes. As al-h ak m (the-wise), Allah knows everything that takes place within creat ion. His wisdom is made accessible to humans through revelation, so that humans can live according to his will. Because Allah judges humans (a notion that will be analyzed further in this chapter), he must have knowledge of all that takes place in creation. As we have seen, this included knowing the inner thoughts of humans along with their actions, as well as the hidden and unseen aspects of the cosmos. Only he can know who has truly lived according to the command given in the Quran because he is al-h ak m 8


H ikmah The noun h ikmah often translated as wisdom, has a special connection with the revelation of Allah, particularly his scripture. 17 The verses in which h ikmah appears are often in the context of the prophets or messengers, who have been directly chosen to transmit and interpret the revelation. Those who are given revelation are bestowed a certain type of practical wisdom, h ikmah by Allah who is al-h ak m (the Wise). Thus, it is also common to find in the h ikmah verses a reference to Allah as al-h ak m H ikmah is mentioned jointly with the scriptu re and refers to the practical wisdom directly given by Allah. Our Lord! Send amongst them a Messenger of their own, who shall rehearse your Signs to them and in struct them in scripture and Wisdom ( h ikmah ), and sanctify them: fo r You are the exalted in Might, the Wise ( al-h ak m ). (2.129) These two features distinguish someone as a Messenger ( rasul ): scripture from Allah and the wisdom ( h ikmah) to interpret it for others to follow. 18 As revelation bestowed by Allah, both are exte nsions of his divine wisdom ( h ak m ). The jurist Sh fi (b. 767 CE) suggested that h ikmah in this verse and others pertaining the Prophet Muhammad, refers to the wisdom contained in the traditions (sunnah) of the Prophet. 19 The wisdom of the Prophet is, in a very specific sense, a practical 17 Kassis, 525. In the text he notes that h ikmah appears in conjunction with the scripture as part of the definition. 18 Esack, 75-77. When it comes to interpreting the Quran, it is traditionally held that the verses fall under two broad categories: mukhamat and mutashabihat. Verses that fall under mukhamat are considered clear and thus possible to interpret, particularly in a historical context. Verses that are considered mutashabihat can only be explained through allegory and metaphor. Because Allah is al-h ak m, it is not possible, even for the Prophets, to comprehend all that Allah has told in the Quran, hence the importance of tasfir or interpretation in the Islamic tradition. 19 Majid Khadduri, Islamic Jurisprudence : Sh fi s Ris la (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1961), 110-11. The idea that h ikmah pertains to the traditions of the Prophet will be relevant for 9


example of how to live acco rding to the Quran. Sh fi s interpretation of h ikmah as the sunnah of Muhammad has been an accepted part of Sunni theology, and thus, followed by the majority of Muslims. For Muslims, Muhammads sunnah is understood as a pattern of actions and t he basis for understanding the revelation and obeying Allahs will. Practical wisdom ( h ikmah) to act according to the revelation is always a gift from Allah to humans, as Q 2:269 indicates: He granteth wisdom ( h ikmah ) to whom He pleaseth; and he to whom wisdom ( h ikmah ) is granted receiveth indeed a benefit overflowing. According to the Quran, prophets receive the gift of h ikmah from Allah. Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom ( h ikmah ) and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. (16:125) This passage comes after a reference to following the path of the prophet Abraham, who received h ikmah from Allah and was ordered to preach the truth and teach others to follow the will Allah. Such prophets who do not have a scripture must teach by example as a means of making the revelation of Allah known. Because they have knowledge of the teachings of Allah, their actions are always in accordance with his will. The dimension of judgment is implicitly referred to as the verse poi nts out that Allah knows wh o strays from his teachings and who follows the instruction of his prophets. We have seen earlier that obedience to the revelation is the basis by which Allah judges humans. This is why it is so essential for humans to hav e guidance in the form of the prophets h ikmah, to follow path of Allah. our discussion on the genre of h ikam There we will see the signif icance not just of the Prophet, but also of all religious teachers, most notably the Sufi shaykhs 10


In the case of Jesus, who was a messenger as well as a prophet, 20 h ikmah refers to the wisdom to carry out ac tions on behalf of Allah, as in sura 3:48-49: And Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom (h ikmah ), the Law and the Gospel, And (appoint him) a messenger to the Children of Israel, (with this message): "'I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah's leave: And I heal those born blind, and t he lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allah's leave; and I declare to you what ye eat, and what ye store in your houses. Surely ther ein is a Sign for you if ye did believe; According to the Qur'an, Allah not only gave Jesus a new revelation (the Gospel) but also the practical wisdom ( h ikmah ) to live according to the will of Allah. 21 Jesus, like all the prophets of Allah, was assigned to use the revelation to help others believe in Allahs message. The verse indicates that Allah gives the prophets h ikmah, which, for Jesus, included per forming miracles on behalf of Allah. As a practical expression of Allahs greatness, miracles were only performed so that others come to follow Allahs will. In addition, for Jesus, having h ikmah also meant instructing in daily matte rs such as dietary restrictions. Again, we see how h ikmah provided humans with a prac tical example by which they could live in accordance with Allahs will. H ikmah plays an important role in the transmission of divine revelation and is essential for making the scripture accessible. Without the h ikmah of the prophets to interpret the reve lation, much of the scrip ture would remain beyond 20 The distinction between prophets, those who receive revelation from Allah, and messengers, those who receive a scripture from Allah, needs to be made here. Jesus was a messenger because he was given a book, the Gospel ( injil ). All messengers are prophets but not all prophets are messengers, such as Abraham or Adam. 21 Geoffrey Parrinder, Jesus in the Quran (Oxford: One world Press, 1965), 90-91. 11


the average humans comprehension. 22 Allah is the source of h ikmah and the scripture have the same source, Allah. H ikmah is that practical wisdom given to prophets by Allah so that they could inst ruct others in the will of Allah. Their wisdom ( h ikmah ) enables them to know the reve lation and how to implement it. They provide a practical example through their actions and words for humans to follow. Through the prophets and their h ikmah, humans can come to know and live by the will of Allah and receive hi s reward in the afterlife. The sunnah of Muhammad is a clear example of this. In this regard, judgment is still important as a secondary feature. If A llah did not judge humans and impose consequences, there would be no need to follow his will. Because humans must act according to the revelation, which is beyond comprehension, they can look to examples set by those who were given h ikmah by Allah. H akam The noun h akam appears twice in the Quran and refers to a judge or arbiter. 23 One verse focuses on Allah as a judge and one of the Most Beautiful Names for Allah is al-h akam which refers to him as the Judge of humans. 24 In the other verse, which refers to a human judge, h akam necessarily implies the wisdom of Allah, because no human can judge without following Allahs teachings in the Quran. 22 Esack, 75-77. 23 Kassis, 523. 24 http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundament als/tawheed/namesofallaah.html The following information was adapted, with significant additions, from an excerpt in Shaikh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-Uthaimeen's book Al-Qawaa3id al-Muthlaa fi Sifaat Allaahi wa Asmaa'ihi While the listing of the names is from al-Uthaimeen, their translations have been taken from the tasfir of alQurtubi, Ibn Katheer, at-Tabari, and al-Jalaalayn. 12


In the passage that directly refers to Allah as a judge ( h akam ), we can see how his revelation is connected to his judgm ent as the basis by which he judges. Say: "Shall I seek for judge ( h akam ) other than Allah? when He it is Who hath sent unto you the Book, explained in detail. "They know full well, to whom We hav e given the Book, that it hath been sent down from thy Lord in tr uth. Never be then of those who doubt. (6.114) Humans are judged by the si ncerity of their belief in Allahs revelation and whether their deeds are according to his will. 25 Only one who has knowledge of all things, including private and personal matters, can properly judge humans. Although one may outwardly appear to be faithful, Allah knows who is sincere in their hearts. He alone knows if actions are performed for selfish motives or for sake of his will and he judges accordingly. 26 The consequences of rejecting or submitting to his will are given in vers e 4:56-57: Those who reject our Signs, We shall soon cast into the Fire But those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, We shall soon admit to Gard ens. Only Allah can be the true h akam because he gave the scripture, which provides outlines the basis by which his final judgment is carried out. Moreover, the scriptu re is the foundation for all human knowledge of Allahs will. The dimension of divine judgment is, therefore, inseparable from the knowledge of Allah. The other explicit mention of a h akam in the Quran is in reference to a human arbiter. If ye fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters ( h akam) one from his family, and the other from hers; if they wish 25 Smith and Haddad, 63-65. 26 Smith and Haddad, 31-33. According to their interpretation of Quranic verses, Allah is understood as judging humans upon their individual death, and all beings again on the final judgment. 13


for peace, Allah will cause their re conciliation: For Allah hath full knowledge, and is acquainted with all things. (4.35) In the context of the procedure for divo rce, there is need for more than one judge ( h akam ) in a situation. On one level, this procedure assures that both parties are equally represented in matter. Though the arbitration is done by human judges, Allah is understood to be a part of the pr ocess. In fact, there can be no human judging without looking to Allahs wisdom given in the Quran. The human capacity for judgment is a reflection of the divine attribute of judgment. The verse above notes that reconciliation will be caused by Allah, if the couple both agrees to make amends in their hearts. Only Allah can know who truly wishes for peace and reconciliation. Any divorce is predicated on the notion that Allah has deemed the two as irreconcilable. He must, in effect, judge a couple as unwilling to make peace prior to t he need for any human judge to enter the picture. The role of the human judge is al ways to ensure that justice is upheld by following the revelation of Allah, who is al-h akam. H akama and other verbs This section will analyze the verb h akama which is most often translated as to judge. 27 In order to understand the full sc ope of what it means to judge in the Quran, this section will also include the various forms of verb h akama: yahkumu uhkum h kim and h ukm. Often, several of these words will appear in together in a set of verses and help to ex plain the process and focus of judging. Though the primary meaning of h akama and its various forms is related to 27 Kassis, 521-22. It is also translat ed as to decide between or to decree. 14


judging, we will continue to see how wisdo m is an essential feature of the process. Allah doth command you to render ba ck your Trusts to those to whom they are due; And when ye judge ( h akama ) between man and man, that ye judge ( yahkumu ) with justice: Verily how excellent is the teaching which He giveth you! For Allah is He Who heareth and seeth all things. (4.58) 28 This verse sets out some of the guidelines for a human arbiter ( h akam ) for which the most important order is to j udge with justice. Judging with justice can only be assured if one follows Allahs wisdom in the revelation, for as we saw in the previous section, Allah is the true h akam Moreover, justice is another of Allahs divine attributes and always pr esent in his decrees. The passage appears in the context of the fate of souls. Allah judges all humans for their conformity to the Quran and we have already established the consequences for those who reject his command. The act of judging, as in the verse above, is also connected with h ikmah. Muhammad, who is always implicitly addressed in the Quran, is told to judge, and, following Sh fi s interpretation of h ikmah as the sunnah, any action performed by Muha mmad must necessarily be an amplification of the Quran. 29 Because he was given h ikmah, Muhammad understands how to judge by the revelation of Allah and is a practical example for other judges to follow. 30 28 Pickthall and Shakir translated the final line of this verse as: He is the best of judges. 29 Majid Khadduri, 110-113. 30 William A Graham, Divine Word and Prophetic Word in Early Islam. Germany: According to Hadith Qudsi, Muhummad is the only human ever to have the ability to intercede on behalf of humans during Allahs judgment. Thus, he too is given the ability to judge from Allah. Walter de Gruyter, 1977. 15


All judges, regardless of w hether or not they have h ikmah must follow the guidelines in scripture for carrying out judgment. Let the people of the Gospel judge (yahkumu ) by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge ( yah kumu ) by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. (5:50) People are supposed to judge ( yah kumu) using the specific revelation given to them by Allah. The revelation of Allah is the basis of judgment and is also a vital dimension of human judgment. In this ve rse, which refers to the Christian Gospels and the followers of Jesus, Allah commands that humans use the revelation as their basis for judging. The same demand to judge according to Allahs revelation is given to the Jews in verse Q 5:47. Whenever Allah bestows his revelation, it is to be used as a source of wisdom for humans to judge. Accordingly, those who judge by standards other than the revelation of Allah are essentially rejecting that re velation. According to the Quran, this can only result in rejection by Allah at the time of hi s judgment, which we have seen is inevitable for all humans. The penalties for those who are rejected by Allah indicated by Q 22:55-56, which also makes clear the pr omise of paradise for those who have obeyed the revelation. The final form of the verb h akama that we will analyze is h ukm, which is the key concept of this thesis that we will follow into a South Asian context. It is interesting to at least note the variety of translations that exis t for this specific word. In the Oxford Dictionary of Islam Esposito defines h ukm as arbitration, judgment, authority, and God s will, in addition to noting a later translation as 16


government. 31 Unlike the other forms of h akama, all of which are usually translated as judgment, h ukm particularly in Alis translation, is widely varied. 32 As we will see, the concept of h ukm is intimately connected to Allahs general command that all humans obey his revelati on and in a very specific sense it refers the prophets who are commanded to lead. It is not (possible) that a man, to whom is given the Book, and Wisdom ( h ukm ), and the prophetic office, should say to people: "Be ye my worshippers rather than All ah's": on the contrary (He would say) "Be ye worshippers of Him W ho is truly the Cherisher of all: For ye have taught the Book and ye have studied it earnestly. (3:79) 33 In this verse, h ukm although mentioned along wit h the scripture, refers primarily to the role of the prophets as leaders. Alis translation of h ukm as wisdom forces us to recall a previous verse in which h ikmah appeared in a similar context. "Send amongst them a Messenger who shall rehearse your Signs to them and instruct t hem in scripture and Wisdom ( h ikmah ), and sanctify them (2:129). Both are forms of revela tion given by Allah and have distinct roles in helping humans understand his will. Unlike h ikmah which referred to their practical wisdom to teach the revelation, h ukm refers to the specific command that Allah reveals through his prophets, who are ordered to lead others in obeying his will. In this sens e, it can be suggested that h ukm incorporates h ikmah within its fold because without the s pecific command from Allah, the practical wisdom and examples set by the prophets would not be relevant. It is only logical for the prophets to insist their followers wo rship Allah alone, for to 31 John Esposito, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam (Oxford: Oxford University, 2003), 118. 32 Kassis, 522-23 33 It must be noted here that Alis choice of wisdom as a translation for h ukm in this verse only conflates the matter. Elsewhere he uses the more apt translations of command and authority. 17


encourage the worship of anything in place of Allah contradicts the revelation and is not possible. 34 The prophets are the interpreters of Allahs revelation and their teachings cannot go against Allahs command that only he be worshipped. The following verse allows us to better understand how the prophets authority comes from the comma nd Allah bestows upon them. These were the men to whom We gave the Book, and authority ( h ukm ), and prophethood: if these (the ir descendants) reject them, Behold! We shall entrust their char ge to a new people who reject them not. (6:89) In this verse, h ukm is used to point out the authorit y that the prophets have as messengers of Allah. As the verse indi cates, those who Allah commands must lead humans to follow the will of Allah. If humans reject the prophet and the revelation he brings from Allah, then Allah will give a new revelation and new h ukm to another prophet who will lead. As an Abrahamic faith, Islam acknowledges Judaism and Christianity as predecessors in the covenant of Allahs revelation. The earlier prophets, w ho were chosen to transmit revelation, were also given h ikmah to instruct others in the revelation. 35 However, because the message of the prophets went unheeded, A llah bestowed further revelations, first through Jesus and finally through the Quran and Muhammad. Both of these verses emphasize that a prophet who has the command from Allah cannot act against the revelation. Their authority co mes directly from Allah who gave them revelation and the wisdom to interpret it for others as a means of carrying out Allahs command. 34 Smith and Haddad, 22-23. To worship any ot her being besides Allah is the one unpardonable sin by the Quran. 35 Q 16:125, 17:39 18


The concept of h ukm, though frequently bestowed upon the prophets, always points back to the authority of Allah, as he is the only one who can demand praise from humans. If not Him, ye worship nothing but names which ye have named,ye and your fathers,for which Allah hath sent dow n no authority: the command ( h ukm ) is for none but Allah: He hath commanded that ye worship none but Him: that is the right religion, but most men understand not... (12:40) As the verse indicates, Allah is the true source of h ukm, and no other being has the authority to lead unless bestowed by Al lah. It is because most humans do not understand the revelation that Allah co mmands his prophets to lead others in worshipping Allah. The aut hority of prophets generally co mes from the fact that they are also given revelation, as we can see with the ancient Jewish kings: And remember David and Solom on, when they gave judgment in the matter of the field into which the sheep of certain peop le had strayed by night: We did witness their judgment. (21:78) So lomon and David, for instance, were both given h ukm from Allah, which they used to judge thei r subjects. Under their rule, the will of Allah was to be upheld and because they were given h ukm their judgment reflected the will. Though h ukm is translated as judgment in this verse, the idea is implied that the kings, who presided over the daily affairs of the subjects, have divine authority bestowed by Allah. T hey are commanded to judge according to Allahs revelation, and, al though they are the kings on earth, the verse indicates that Allah knows their actions and how they judge, since it was Allah, who gave them the wisdom to judge by his will. The main idea regarding h ukm in all the 19


verses we have analyzed is consistent; that one who is given h ukm is commanded by Allah to exhort others to offer praises to Allah alone. Judgment is the dominant feature of h akama and its derivatives, and we have seen that it is connected to revelati on given by Allah. For human judges, the guidelines for carrying out judicial procedures are given in the scripture. By following the scripture when judging, one c an be assured that justice is being carried out. Moreover, by judging according to the revelation, one can be assured of gaining Allahs favor. Obeyi ng the revelation is basis for Allahs judgment, which we have seen requires th at ones thoughts and actions be in tune with Allahs will. Thus, we can s ee how wisdom is an essential part of judging, given that Allahs revelation is always a manifestation of his wisdom. In the context of Allahs judgment, h ukm refers to the command given to the prophets, who, in turn, lead others to under stand how Allahs judges. It is the duty of humans to follow the revelation of the prophets in order to know Allahs will and obey his command. Conclusion Having analyzed the HKM derivatives in a variety of passages, the two dimensions, wisdom and judgment, stand out as central to understanding the meaning contained in the HKM root. All of the words analyzed in this chapter are intimately connected to Allahs revelation, which is both the basis for his judgment and a manifestati on of his wisdom. Through them, Allah commands 20


humans to follow the way of life proscribed in the Quran and exemplified by the prophets. Allahs wisdom is immanent in creati on, because it existed before creation and was the guiding force in the act of creati on. Allah gives life to all things and the natural world exhibits an order that is according to the will of Allah, with everything in true proportions. 36 Specifically, in t he case of humans, Allah made his wisdom accessible so that humans mi ght come to know his will. It is Allahs command that all humans follow his re velation. The Quran refers to itself as full of wisdom ( h ak m ) in several verses and when referring to Allahs act of bestowing revelation through scripture, he is called al-h ak m (the Wise). 37 In addition to the wisdom contained in the scr ipture, Allah gave special practical wisdom (h ikmah ) to his prophets, so that they could instruct others in the revelation. In addition to Allahs wisdom, I have shown how judgment is an inseparable part of Allahs revelation. A llah is the true judge of humans souls, because he alone knows the inner thoughts and private actions of people. Thus, it is not possible to speak of Allah being the ultimate judge ( al-h akam ) without acknowledging his role as al-h ak m No human judge could have the total knowledge of creation as Allah does and their guidelines for carrying out justice are given through the revelation in the Qur an. In other words, the human judges know how to judge justly because they hav e the example given in the revelation of Allah. 36 Islam and Ecology, 9. The text explains that the perfe ct order of nature is proof of Gods existence. 37 Q 10:1, 11:1, 27:6, 31:2, 36:2, 40:8, 45:2, 46:2. 21


The concept of h ukm carries the divine command that Allah has bestowed upon the world, affecting everything therein. While al ways connected with revelation or scripture, h ukm refers more directly to the specific command given by Allah to the prophets as a sign of their authority to lead. However, it is clear that without the revelation that a prophet would not hav e the authority to lead. Those whom Allah bestows with h ukm are commanded to specifically instruct others to worship Allah alone, thus a ll humans must follow Allahs command. Whether or not humans accept the h ukm and follow the revelation will greatly affect how Allah judges t hem and to worship another being before Allah is an unpardonable sin. 38 Thus, we cannot speak of h ukm in the Quran without acknowledging Allahs role as the Judge ( al-h akam ). Those who have h ukm understand how Allah judges and are ordered to teach ot hers to follow the will and receive Allahs favor. The prophets have knowledge of Allahs will and offer their praises to Allah alone, as he is the s ource of creation and revelation. This is the message of his revelation, which Allah set as the basis for his judgment. He calls all humans to follow his comm and and judges with the full knowledge of who has obeyed his will. 38 Smith and Haddad, 22-23. 22


Chapter Three Hukam in the compositions of Kabir At this point, we must pause and reflect on our objective, which is to understand the development of hukam in the Sikh tradition. Making the leap to a Sikh worldview requires that we ex amine some instances where the term developed a new religious significance. One way to bridge the religious and cultural gap is to use Kabir, whose re ligious compositions were influenced by Islam and incorporated into the Sikh canon. Kabirs compositions contain the first Indian use of the concept hukam, which allows us to examine the concept in its earliest Indian transformation. This section will first pr ovide a background of Kabir, briefly explaining the relevant religious context for his life. Then, I will analyze how Kabir employed the concept of hukam in his religious compositions. This will allow us to understand hukam as a unique concept for Kabir, yet one which displays continuity with its Islamic roots. Kabir is widely regarded as one of I ndias great religious leaders and is often quoted by Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim alike. Dates for Kabirs life are speculative, although scholar s generally accept 1398-1448. 39 He was part of a diverse religious environment, growing up in Benares, a sacred city for Hindus, during a period of Muslim rule. 40 The name Kabir, meaning great, is taken from the list of the Most Beautiful Names of Allah. This strongly suggests that Kabir 39 W. H. Mcleod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion (Oxford: Clarendon, 1968), 155. 40 John Stratton Hawley and Mark Juergensmeyer. Songs of the Saints of India (Oxford University: Oxford, 1988), 36-37. Muslim rule in India began as early as the 11 th century C.E. and reached its apex under the Mughal rule from early 16 th century C.E. early 18 th century C.E. 23


was at least raised in a Muslim home. The caste to which his family belonged, julaha (weavers), had converted to Islam in Benares not long before Kabir was born, and his compositions also suggest that he worked as a weaver. 41 Living in Benares, Kabir would have been exposed to a wide variety of Hindu rituals and beliefs, and his awareness of such ideas is evident in his writings. Although he was clearly familiar with beliefs and rit uals of both Hinduism and Islam, there is little evidence in Kabirs compositions t hat suggests he affirmed or favored either of the two religions. Scholars generally place Kabir within the Sant tradition of northern India, which was comprised of various religious thinkers who lived between the 13 th and 17 th centuries. 42 Loosely tied together by beliefs such as monotheism, and rejection of external rit uals, caste restrictions, and sectarian division, these thinkers who were known as Sants (from the Sanskrit sat meaning truth) communicated their teachings using vernac ular languages rather than Sanskrit. The Sant characteristics noted above, monot heism, a rejection of caste, etc., are in harmony with the message of the Sikh Gurus, and many of their writings had begun to be collected for recitation by the Si khs as early as the third Guru, Amar Das (1479-1574). 43 The fifth Guru, Arjan, edi ted and included the corpus of works belonging to various Sants into t he Bhagat Bani, or compositions of the Devotees, when he compiled the first offici al manuscript of the Granth in 1605, which was finalized by the tenth Guru in 1706. 41 Linda Hess and Shukdeo Singh, The B jak of Kabir (Oxford: Oxford University, 2002), 5. 42 Mcleod Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion 151-158. In his discussion, Mcleod notes that the Sant tradition culled elements from three separa te traditions existing in the medieval period: Vais n ava bhakti, Nath Yoga, and Sufism. 43 Singh, The Bhagats of the Guru Granth Sahib (Oxford: Oxford University, 2003), 12, 86. 24


There are two aspects of Kabirs lif e and compositions that make him stand out from other Sants stylistically and contextually that are important for understanding why he is relevant to our analysis. First, among the Sants included in the Granth, Kabir is the mo st prominent, having more compositions included than any other Sant. Guru Arjan took great care in editing the original texts of the Granth, and the fact that he chose to include far more of Kabirs poems attests to Kabirs popularity in the early Sikh communities. 44 Secondly, Kabirs biographical sketch and compositions suggest a closer personal connection with Islam than the other Sants included in the Granth. 45 There is a tradition that Kabir was the disciple and succ essor of a famous Sufi saint of the Suhrawardi order. 46 Although no definitive ties have been established, the mere possibility of Kabir as a Sufi suggests a greater interaction with Islam. None of the other Sants have any historical ties to Islamic traditions. The influence of Islam on Kabir can also be noted through his style of composing, which occasionally resembled a popular genre of Sufi aphorisms known as hikam. 47 Hikam is the plural of h ikmah which we established as revelation in the form of practical wisdom bestowed by Allah upon a human representative. Similarly, the hikam literature composed by Sufis was perceived as divinely inspired wisdom 44 Singh, The Bhagats of the Guru Granth Sahib. 101-02. This does not suggest that Kabir and the Sikh Gurus always expressed parallel thinking. In fact, verses were occasionally included by Kabir so that the Sikh Gurus appear to be directly challenging his fundamental ideas. 45 Stratton and Hawley. The other Sants, such as Namdev, Ravidas, Jaidev, and Tusli Das, were all born into Hindu families and predominantly used Hindu language, albeit in universal terms. While Kabir appears to have had the greatest connection to Islam of the Sants, there are two other thinkers in the Granth who are definitively established as Su fis: Bhikkan and Shaikh Farid. However, the concept hukam does not appear in either of their compositions. 46 Singh, The Bhagats of the Guru Granth Sahib. 82. 47 Ibn ataIllah, The Book of Wisdom, trans. Victor Danner (New Yo rk: Paulist Press, 1978), 3536. 25


transmitted through a specific sheikh or teacher. 48 Kabir was also famous for his aphoristic style of composing, wh ich often utilized paradox and irony, to stress a particular theme. It is reasonable to sugges t that Kabir, who we can accept as having interacted with Sufis, would have been exposed to this style of teaching and familiar with the interconnected meanings shared by the HKM derivatives. In Kabirs 243 compositions incl uded in the Granth, the word hukam appears in only 7 verses, suggesting a minor role for the concept, especially when compared with the Sikh Gurus. 49 However, as we will see, Kabirs basic understanding of the cosmos and the role of humans has been largely shaped by a Hindu worldview. 50 The manner in which Kabir employed hukam offers insight into how he reinterpreted an Islamic concept into a synthesis, which fused the concept with the South Asian belief in life as a cycle of rebirths. We can begin analyzing Kabirs notion of hukam in the context of creation, which will allow us to see how he distingu ished it from the t hemes noted in the previous chapter. The One True Lord abides in all; by His making, everything is made. Whoever rea lizes the Command ( hukam ), knows the One Lord. He alone is said to be t he Lord's slave. ||3|| (1350) 48 John Renard, Historical Dictionary of Sufism (Scarecrow Press: 2005), 34-35. He has noted that the aphorisms would explain any numbers of ideas or concepts (usually pertaining to the divine-human relationship) in a way that c ould be easily understood and remembered by even a simple person. 49 AG 92, 330, 337, 793, 1103, 1104, 1350. Moreover it does not appear in the Bijak of Kabir at all, although this may be the result of the te xt being compiled by Brahmins who would have sought to downplay the influence of Islam in Kabirs compositions. 50 Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism all profess a belief in karma reincarnation and liberation, though each explains the concept in a distinct wa y. However, it cannot be ignored that Hindus were the largest audience that Kabir interacted with socially and religiously. 26


For Kabir and many of the Sants, God is immanent and all-pervasive. Kabir uses the concept of hukam to express the means by which God created the world. Whoever realizes the hukam will come to know God and see God in all things and also become a slave of God. For Kabir, to know the hukam one cannot act against the God, just as a slave cannot ac t against their master. Thus, hukam is a means to knowing God, which requires on e act according to Gods will. This shows continuity with the notion of kno wing Allah in the Qu ran. In the HKM derivatives, we also saw that one who has knowledge ( h ikmah) of Allah only acts to express his will. All of the prophets in the Quran that were given revelation were also commanded by Allah to bring others to worship the one God. Those who obeyed the command that Allah gave through his prophets came to serve Allah by following the revelation. Simi larly, Kabir understood that one who knows the hukam is a slave to God; they obey the divine command. With respect to the fate of human s souls, Kabirs understanding of the goal of life differed radi cally from the Quran. Why should I come into the world again? Coming and going is by His Command ( hukam ); realizing His Hukam, I shall merge in Him. ||1||Pause|| (1103) 51 The verse above indicates that hukam is a guiding principle in the cycle of death, rebirth and, eventually, liberation. The cycle, samsara (Punjabi sansar ) is a central belief for Hindus, whereby humans are continuously reborn, and each birth is determined by the balance of good versus bad actions ( karma ) committed 51 For the translation of Kabirs bani, I used Dr. Sant Singh Khalsa available on the www.srigranth.org Web site. It is important to note that in his translation, he includes the term hukam as a given concept relating to the specific comm and of God. This often appears in his text as the hukam of His command. 27


in previous lives. The only way to end to the cycle is through liberation ( moksha ) from the cycle of birth and death. Although Kabir affirms the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, his compositions indicate that he understood hukam as a determining factor in the regulation of the cycle. Knowing and following the hukam will lead humans to merge with God, thereby ending the cycle of samsara (Punjabi sansar ). In this sense, knowledge of hukam is connected to the human actions (karma ). For Kabir, life and death are subject to the hukam of God. Giving and taking life, as well as judging humans upon death, were themes present in the HKM cluster in the Quran. There, it was emphasized that Allah revealed himself within creation, so that humans could re ceive his blessings. We noted earlier that one who followed the hukam of Allah would be admitted to Paradise upon death. Kabirs emphasis that liberation is achieved through knowing the hukam of God finds affinity wit h the Islamic concept of hukam. When a person knows the hukam, than he/she will come to merge with the divine and be liberated from samsara. In the following verse, he explains how it is that one can come to know the hukam through the grace of the Guru. When it is pleasing to Him, then He inspires us to obey His Command ( Hukam ). He causes this boat to crossover. By Guru's Grace, such understandi ng is infused into me; my comings and goings in reincarnation have ended. (337) Using imagery that is well rooted in the South Asian tradition, Kabir explains that knowledge of the hukam is the result of the gurus grace ( prasad ). 52 The guru, or 52 Cole, Sikhism and its Indian Context: 1469 1708 (London: Dartman, Longman & Todd, 1984), 78-79. 28


teacher, was the figure who was traditionally responsible for the transmission of religious teachings in Hindu society. Although the term generally refers to a human teacher, Kabirs notion of a gur u, as Mcleod points out, refers unmistakably to the Satguru (True Guru) within, the voice of God within the human soul. 53 Thus, for Kabir, it is Gods grace, which causes people to understand the hukam and leads them to be liberated fr om the cycle of rebirth. It is not possible to achieve liberation, in Kabirs understanding, without receiving Gods grace ( prasad). Prasad is an important concept in devotional Hinduism ( bhakti ), which can be traced at least as fa r back as the Bhagavad Gita. Grace is a gift bestowed by God on one who displays proper devotion. 54 In that context, grace leads to overcoming karma and achieving liberation fr om reincarnation. Kabir places a great emphasis on the impor tance of grace in achieving liberation, because, as the above verse indicates, one who is given grace comes to know the hukam of God. In this manner, we can see how Kabir synthesized the Hindu concept of grace by indicating th at it leds humans to follow the hukam, an Islamic principle. Another way of understandi ng how Kabir incorporated hukam in his unique worldview is by analyzing its connection with the Hindu concept of shabad, or divine word When the Word of the Shabad abides deep within, thirst and desire are quenched. When one under stands the Lord's Command 53 Mcleod, 156. 54 Gavin Flood, An Introduction to Hinduism (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1996), 136-138. Flood gives one verse in particular, 18:66, as a passage commonly quoted by devotional poets as explaining the importance of Gods grace for over coming karma. Later the devotional poets, such as Ramanuja, stressed the importance of grace as an act of God that would save humans from the being reborn. 29


( hukam ), he plays the game of chess with the Lord; throwing the dice, he conquers his own mind. ||3|| (793) According to Linda Hess, the concept of shabad is the most prominent term Kabir used to describe the means of achieving enlightenment. 55 For Kabir, when the shabad or divine word, is heard, one comes to know God. In this sense, God is directly revealed in the form of shabad which would come to reside in the hearts of those who listened to t he divine word. As the shabad is heard, knowledge of God arises and humans come to know the hukam Following the hukam and hearing the shabad leads humans to act according to Gods will, rather than act following their egos. The use of games and gambling is a poetic device in the Hindu tradition, and Kabir is emphas izing that one who follows the hukam will, in effect, win the gamble and conquer his mind. What is important to note in this verse is that the hukam is revealed when one comes into contact with the divine revelation or shabad To follow the hukam and live according to Gods, one must be blessed with shabad. Such a person conquers their ego and achieves liberation. Kabir is clear that mind is to be overcome, if one is to know the nature of God. Conclusion From these verses, we can extract so me key features that explain how Kabir understood hukam For Kabir, everything in the world is created by God through hukam, and the hukam can be known when one comes to know Gods revelation or shabad. Knowing the hukam leads to more than just knowledge of 55 Linda Hess and Shukdeo Singh The B jak of Kabir 3. 30


the divine; it is an experience that occurs when one merges with the divine. Such an experience can only occur when God grants humans the gift of grace, which causes them to realize the shabad, the divine word within Through shabad, one knows God and lives according to God's will and, when the shabad is heard, enlightenment or li beration occurs. Thus, liberation occurs by following the hukam of God. We have seen that Kabir predominantly addresses a Hindu audience and uses Hindu themes in his compositions, but his use of hukam shows continuity with the cluster of meanings discussed in the previous chapter. First, there is the similarity in the creation of the world. In the Qur an, Allah created all things through his wisdom and has full knowledge of all that takes place in creation. For Kabir, God created all and actually is omnipresent and immanent in creation. One who has knowledge of the hukam will come to know of God. The same was also true in the Qur'an for one who is bestowed hukam has knowledge of Allah and his revelation. In the Qur'an, hukam referred to Allah's command to obey his revelation in preparation to receive his reward upon judgment. Although Kabir does not subscribe to Gods final judgm ent as in the Quran, his use of hukam does lead one to conclude that God is dire ctly responsible for the liberation of humans. In this sense, Kabir implicit ly acknowledges that God judges humans, taking into account whether they follow t he divine order. His compositions state that one who followed the hukam would achieve liberation. In both cases, hukam is a divine command which, when adhered to, will result in the ideal fate for humans, whether it be paradise in Islam or li beration for Kabir. In essence, Kabir 31


reinterpreted the divine command of God in Islam to incorporate the forms of revelation familiar to his environment. As we will see, this general understanding is very similar to how Nanak and the Sikh Gurus understand hukam, albeit with their own emphasis on the growing identity challenges they faced. 32


Chapter Four Guru Nanak and hukam It is our goal in this chapter to focus on how Nanaks employment of hukam displays continuity with the HKM derivat ives in the Quran, as well as to point out how Nanak established the conc ept as something that was noticeably distinct. Following a brief biography and setting for Nanak, I will analyze some compositions in which the term hukam is used to allow us to understand the various dimensions of this concept. Through his life and compositions, we will see how Nanak used hukam to express a range of ideas, all of which are tied into a distinct understanding of the cosmos. At the end of this chapter, we will have an understanding of hukam in the Sikh Granth and be able to analyze how the concept developed new meaning s while preserving much of the original context. This will directly set us up for the follo wing chapter that take s into account the compositions of Nanak's successors, Gu rus Angad, Amar Das, Ram Das, and Arjan. Analyzing some of their compositio ns contained in the Granth will allow us to see how the concept of hukam was developed over the formation of the text, and how it came to distinguish the Sikh tradition from others. Historical and social context The biography of Nanak is largely c onfined to legend; however, there are some key events that scholars readily accept as historically likely. 56 Nanak was born in Talwandi Rai Bhoe (in modern Pakistan) in 1469 to Hindu parents 56 In particular, Mcleods Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion offers an analysis of the janamsakhis or life narratives through the lens of intense hist orical criticism. His end product is a list of probably and likely events that can be affirmed for the life of Nanak. 33


belonging to the Khatri (merchants) caste. At some point in his early adolescent years, Nanak went to live with his sisters family in Sultanpur, where he was employed by the ruling Muslim court of Da ulat Khan Lodi, likely doing clerical work. During this period, Nanak married and raised two children, in accordance with his beliefs that humans must commit to worldly obligati ons and not renounce them. Tradition reports that following a religious exper ience while bathing in a river in 1499, Nanak embarked on a peri od of extended travels throughout the whole of India. One of his compositions describes the experience: The Lord summoned the Minstrel to his high court. On me he bestowed the role of honouring him and singing his praise. (150) Eventually, he established a town called Kart arpur, which is considered to be the first Sikh community, where his followe rs lived together sharing a common vision of life based around Nanak's new revelation. 57 At Kartarpur, Nanak was both the social and religious leader and many of his teachings were given practical shape during this period. Significantly, bef ore his death in 1539, Nanak chose a disciple, who he renamed (Guru) Angad, to carry on and expand the revelation given to Nanak. 58 Nanaks teachings, like we saw with Kabir, must be understood in the context of the contemporary religious tradi tions of his day. His central teaching that those who wished to transcend the constant cycle of birth and death should 57 J.S. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab (New Dehli: Cambridge University, 2005), 39-41. According to Grewal, this is, perhaps, the distin guishing feature of the Kartarpur community. The use of Nanaks compositions for liturgical verse in place of either Hindu or Muslim scriptures set the base for the scripture that would become the Guru Granth. 58 Gurinder Singh Mann, Sikhism (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2004), 29-30. Although in Nanaks compositions, like Kabirs, the term guru refers to God, he acknowledged his own status as guru of the Kartarpur community when he bequeathed the office to a successor. With the title of Guru, Nanaks successor, Angad, carried on Nanaks wo rks even composing poetry in the name Nanak. 34


live in accordance with the will of the Creat or, which meant spending life on earth immersed in nam simran or remembrance of the Divi ne Word, places him within a general South Asian context. 59 Moreover, his use of concepts like the guru, rebirth, and meditation all fit within a Hindu background and depart entirely from Islam. Guru Nanaks teachings and te rminology, however, have much in common with the Sant movement, which has led some scholars, including Mcleod, to conclude that Nanak was a Sant himself. 60 However, Nanaks significance as an independent religious leader is seen in the many ways in which he differed from Kabir and the larger Sant tradition. For one, his decision to found a new community whereby devotees would work pray, and eat together was unique to Nanaks vision, and none of the other Sants are credited with the founding of towns. In his analysis of early life at Kartarpur, Gurinder Si ngh Mann notes that work within a society was as im portant as spiritual discipline. 61 Nanak rejected asceticism and required those in his initia l community to earn a daily living, in addition to daily communal prayers. T hus, the social and religious realms worked hand in hand to bring human con sciousness closer to the divine. Moreover, Nanaks decision to implement his own compositions as authoritative for the community he started indicates hi s intention to create a movement that would emulate other estab lished traditions in form. 62 Although Nanaks religious 59 Harjot Oberoi, The Construction of Religious Boundaries: Culture, Identity, and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 48. 60 J.S. Grewal, Contesting Interpretations of Sikh Tradition ( New Dehli: Manohar, 1998), 136-138. Grewal notes that it is Mcleod who is responsibl e for the designation of Nanak as a Sant. He notes that Mcleods designation has been misinterpr eted as implying a lack of originality on the part of Nanak. 61 Mann, Sikhism 22-28. 62 Gurinder Singh Mann, The Making of Sikh Scripture (Oxford: Oxford University, 2001), 6-7.This decision, as part of Nanaks social vision, is enough to clearly distinguish Nanak from the other 35


terminology borrowed from previous Sants, his interpretation of the concepts such as nam (name of God) shabad (divine word), Guru (divine preceptor), and hukam (divine order) is more clearly devel oped into a consistent set of teachings. 63 His vision of establishing a last ing community was realized by his unique decision to appoint a successor who was given the task of continuing the scriptural tradition of Nanak, which event ually culminated in the compilation of the Granth by Guru Arjan. No other San t, including Kabir, atte mpted to preserve their lineage through both a scripture and a chosen representative. The differences between Nanak and the Sants poi nt to Nanaks attempt to redefine social and religious life acco rding to his vision of God. By analyzing hukam in the compositions of the Nanak, we are attempting to understand how the concept served as part of Nanaks distinct religious identity. Hukam is an important concept in Nanak s teachings, signifying the integral role of Gods pr esence and power over creati on. It is best understood as a sense of divine order or command bestowed by God that sustains all creation. 64 God, the creator, is conti nuously present in creation through hukam, which is mysterious concept for Nanak. As he muses in one of his verses regarding the hukam, Even if a hundred poets met to gether, they could not describe even a tiny bit of it (53). Hukam is also the means by which God acts in creation, shaping human destinies. By means of the hukam God guides Sants. As Gurinder Singh Mann points out, the designation of Nanak as a Sant only takes into account the religious dimension of Nanak, which, as we will see, do not fit perfectly into the Sant tradition. 63 Stratton and Hawley,66, 72. The autho rs note that it is the concept of hukam where Nanak and Kabir depart, with Nanaks hukam dictating a more coherent design to the universe, while Kabirs is left abstract. 64 Mcleod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion, 199-203, Stratton and Hawley, 72. 36


human beings towards knowing the divine revelation through the guru (divine preceptor), shabad (divine word), and nam (name of God). These forms of revelation are accessible to humans and will lead them to understand the hukam. As renowned Sikh scholar J.S. Grewal summarizes, hukam is an all-embracing principle, the sum total of all divinely instituted laws. 65 When humans live according to the divine revelation, then their actions are God-driven, rather than ego-driven. They will be ble ssed with Gods grace and be li berated from rebirth. In short, for Nanak, the hukam refers to the divine plan for humans and Gods specific command to follow to that will. Hukam in the compositions of Nanak As we turn to analyze Nanaks compos itions, we will confront a variety of English translations for the term hukam. 66 This should not be surprising given that hukam had the widest variety of translation in the Quran. In the case of Nanaks compositions, the variety of translation is due to the fact that hukam, as an all embracing principle covers a variety of dimensions that will be addressed throughout this chapter. As we did with K abir, it will be our goal to keep in mind how Nanaks understanding of hukam displays continuity with the HKM root meanings in the Quran. Hukam appears in the very first stanza of the first composition in the Granth, the japu Placed at the head of the or iginal Granth compiled by Guru 65 Grewal, Contesting Interpretations of Sikh Tradition 134. 66 Sant Singh Khalsa uses command and order as a translation for hukam and he frequently includes the Punjabi word in translating. Thus hukam is translated as hukam of his command or the Order of the hukam. 37


Arjan, the japu has been described as the culmination of Nanaks religious vision. 67 The opening verse poses the fundamental question for humans: So how can you become truthful? And how can the veil of illusion be torn away? O Nanak, it is written that you shall obey the Hukam of His Command, and walk in t he Way of His Will. ||1|| (1) 68 Being truthful or of attai ning Truth refers to a stat e of union with the ultimate reality and it is one of Nanak s terms for enlightenment. 69 According to Nanak, humans are caught in illusion, caused by their egos. 70 Few humans understand that God has designed a way of life for humans to follow if they are to achieve enlightenment, which results in liberation from rebirths. Instead, most people act according to selfish desires and remain una ware of the true nat ure of reality. Nanak says that if one is to ov ercome ego, they must follow the hukam of God, which means living in accordanc e with a divine order. Nanak goes on to explain the nature of the hukam in the following verse of the japu which allows us to extract four dimensions for understanding how it is manifest in the world. By His Command, bodies are created; His Command cannot be described. By His Command, souls come into being; by His Command, glory and greatness are obtained. By His Command, some are high and some are low; by His Written Command, pain and pleasure are obtained. Some, by His Command, are blessed and forgiven; others, by His Comm and, wander aimlessly forever. Everyone is subject to His Command; no one is beyond His Command. O Nanak, one who u nderstands His Command, does not speak in ego. ||2|| (1) 67 Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh, The Name of My Beloved: Verses of the Sikh Gurus (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1995), 45. 68 Sant Singh Khalsa. Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Available at www.srigranth.org 69 Mcleod, Encyclopedia of Sikhism 286. 70 Mcleod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion, 199-200 38


The first dimension of hukam is creation. The verse above explains that humans are created and take birth in the world according to Gods hukam. Hukam as an agent of God, is the means by whic h creation takes place. The second dimension is directly tied into the first, with an emphasis on the role of hukam in relation to the human condition. It deter mines our health and wealth, as well as our prosperity and misfortune in life; it sets up each indi viduals course of life. The third dimension, which is the br oadest and most important, explains how hukam is connected to the fate of human beings. As we will see, hukam is a determining factor in whether humans are reborn into t he world or liberated. The fourth dimension draws together the previous ones to show that hukam expresses Gods omnipotence. No one is beyond Gods hukam; it is the means by which God creates and sustains the universe. Everything is subject to the divine hukam because all things are dependent upon the hukam As we can see from this brief introduction to the categories, all are in terrelated to the degree that all pertain to the idea that God created t he world with a specific order that must be followed, if liberation is to be achieved. 71 Starting with the first dimension, we can see that, for Nanak, hukam precedes creation. For endless eons, there was only utter darkness. There was no earth or sky; there was only the infinite Command of His Hukam. There was no day or night, no moon or sun; God sat in primal, profound Samaadhi. ||1|| There were no sources of creation or powers of speech, no air or wate r. There was no creation or destruction, no coming or going. T here were no continents, nether regions, seven seas, rivers or flowing water. ||2|| (1035) 71 Nanak has a stanza in rag sorath that is a particularly good example of a long passage devoted to hukam that covers all the categories present in the second stanza of the japu 39


Before the universe was created, a ll that existed was God and the hukam. We noted in the japu that hukam is the means by which God created humans and to this we can add that the entire world was created according to Gods hukam Without the hukam, creation could not exist and thus, through the hukam we can understand that God pervades the universe. Gods order is expressed in the natural world through divisions like ni ght and day, land and sea, and life and death. The following verse allows us to see how Gods creation, like the hukam, can never be fully known by humans. He contemplates His creative potency, having established the Universe. He who created it, He alone knows. He Himself beholds it, and He Himself understands it. He Himself realizes the Hukam of His Command. He who created these things, He alone knows. His subtle form is infinite. Nanak: for whom should we mourn, O Baba? This world is merely a play. ||4||2|| (580) Only one who created the world can have the knowledge of everything that takes place on earth. No human can understand this because no human can understand the nat ure of Gods hukam, which is the means by which God creates. As the creator, God has total power over creation and all humans are subject to the hukam. Human bodies are formed by Gods hukam and given birth in a particular time and place that has been determined by God. Only God has the knowledge to set up and sustain the divine order and through that divine order; God pervades the universe. The dimension of creation in Nanaks co mpositions is very similar to the themes we analyzed in the HKM derivative s. In the Quran, we noted that everything was created in true proportions and an example of Allahs wisdom 40


as al-h ak m This included both the natural world and the specific lives of humans. Allahs knowledge was always beyond the comprehension of humans. He knows the hidden and unseen things in the world. What could be known by humans was made accessible through his revelation. For Nanak, God created the world in a similar manner, with natur e exhibiting the divine order. In both religions, God is the creator, whose k nowledge can never be fully known by humans. Nanak acknowledged that God cr eated humans with a divine order that must be followed; however, total underst anding of the natur e of God and the hukam is not possible. Only the creator can know the hukam though humans can understand that it exists and must be obeyed as part of Gods plan for creation. We also noted in the Quran that Allahs wisdom pervades creation and there is nothing that he does not have kno wledge of. This is similar to Nanaks belief that God pervades the worl d and knows everything through the hukam. The second dimension of hukam is the human condition, which refers to the role God plays in setting up ones status in life. In the following verse, we see how all humans are born into a certain condition that has been predetermined by God, who controls humans destiny through the hukam Destiny, pre-ordained by the Lord, looms over the heads of all beings; no one is without this pre-ordained destiny. Only He Himself is beyond destiny; creati ng the creation by His creative power, He beholds it, and causes His Command (hukam) to be followed. ||1|| (598) Whether one is born rich or poor, health y or sick, or high or low is only determined by God. No human can be bor n in the world without being placed here by Gods will. The condition fo r all things is determined by Gods hukam 41


and is directly related to the fact that God created the world through the hukam. In establishing the human condition through the hukam God causes humans to live according to certain natural, biologic al, and social laws as part of the divine order. As the following verse indicates, par t of the human condition is that humans are bound to act by their ego, which prevents them from knowing Gods nature. Whoever understands the Hukam of the Lord's Command, realizes the essence of reality. This is known by Guru's Grace. O Nanak, know this: egotism leads to bondage. Only those who have no ego and no self-conceit, are not consigned to reincarnation. ||2|| (1289) We noted in the opening stanza of the Granth that N anak sets up ego as the main obstacle to achieving liberation. Humans who are conceited act according to their own desires and for their own intere sts. For Nanak, this is false living and considered to be an illusion, which leads to being reborn into the world as part of Gods plan. Ego-driven people had no plac e in Nanaks society, where humans work honestly and share with neighbors, and they were certain to be oblivious to Gods order. The way to overcome the ego is to act according to the hukam Following the hukam leads humans to understand that God is immanent in all things. As the passage indicates, hukam can be known by the Gurus grace, which also affects the human condition. Nanaks employment of this concept is similar to what we encountered in Kabirs compositions. For Nanak, the guru is the voice of God found within all people, which will be examined in the third 42


dimension, below. 72 Grace is a gift that God bestows upon some humans, which causes them to know the essence of reality. 73 When humans understand, they come to follow the divine order that God has set for humans. Thus, we see how God, the ultimate guru for Nanak, a ffects the human condition by guiding humans actions through grace. In order to understand how hukam affects the human condition, we also need to analyze Nanaks understanding of the concept of karma. If people could gather it in by thei r own efforts, then everyone would be so lucky. According to the karma of past actions, one's destiny unfolds, even though everyone wants to be so lucky. ||3||O Nanak, the One who created the creat ion He alone takes care of it. The Hukam of our Lord and Ma ster's Command (hukam) cannot be known; He Himself blesses us with greatness. ||4||1||18|| (156157) Nanak affirms the importance of karma, which in Hindu thought is the determining factor for the c ondition of human life. However, in his understanding, he is clear that hukam dictates karma. Contrary to the Hindu idea of karma which is a self-operative prin ciple, Nanak teaches that karma operates according to Gods command. For Nanak, God has predetermined the conditions into which a human is born by weighing the good versus the bad actions committed in their previous life. All humans are born into a condition that is predetermined by God. This verse highlights the connec tion between the first two dimensions of 72 Mcleod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion, 196-199. Mann, The Making of Sikh Scripture 8-9. The concept of guru as a divine preceptor is an interesting one for Nanak and the Sikhs. While Nanak never referred to himself as a guru and his compositions unfailingly refer to the transcendent God as guru, he was conscious of his own authority within the Kartarpur community. This is demonstrated by the decis ion to nominate his successor as Guru Angad before his death. 73 Mcleod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion, 204-206. 43


hukam because God creates humans and at the same time establishes them in their present condition. The dimension of shaping the human condition displays continuity with the Quran, where Allah was explained as bei ng responsible for placing humans in the womb and determining the conditions into which they were born. In addition, Allah commanded humans act according to his revelation, which he revised throughout the course of history. Although Nanak differed from the Quran by placing a greater emphasis on human action, both put fo rth the idea that humans are commanded to follow Gods order and live according to the revelation. All humans were created by the hukam, and subject to follow it. The third dimension that hukam expresses is the fate of humans, which is the broadest and most important di mension for understanding the allencompassing nature of hukam. This dimension is directly built on the previous discussion of God shaping human destiny We noted that God determines how humans are born based on their weighted ac tions, and, to that end, we can add that God also must judge whether or not they are reborn into the world. By His Command, some accounts ar e accounted for, O Beloved; by His Command, some suffer in egotism and duality. By His Command, one wanders in reincarnat ion, O Beloved; deceived by sins and demerits, he cries out in his suffering. If he comes to realize the Command of the Lord's Will, O Beloved, then he is blessed with Truth and Honor. ||6|| (636) This verse allows us to see how hukam must be realized, if one is to achieve enlightenment, which is the ultimate goal fo r all Sikhs. This verse restates the obstacle that ego plays in clouding ones actions; it is what keeps humans caught in the cycle of rebirth. The verse indi cates that individuals can overcome the 44


effects of ego and karma through knowledge of the hukam. The hukam is revealed to humans through the divine re velation bestowed fr om God. When humans come to live by the revelation, they are liberated from the cycle of rebirth. The following verse indicates the forms of revelation that are tied into knowing and obeying the hukam Serving the Guru, the treasure is f ound. With the Naam in the heart, one always prospers. And in the C ourt of the True Lord, you shall not be called to account. One who obey the Hukam of the Lord's Command, is approved at the Lord's Door. ||6|| Meeting the True Guru, one knows the Lord. U nderstanding the Hukam of His Command, one acts according to His Will. Understanding the Hukam of His Command, he dwells in the Court of the True Lord. Through the Shabad, death and bi rth are ended. ||7|| (832) For Nanak, nam is the basic revelation of God, in the form of a divine name. One who meditates on the divine name will co me to know the nature of God. Revelation can be accessed through the vehicle of shabad or divine word, which is the totality of nam For all practical purposes, the two are synonymous, and if a distinction can be drawn, it is that shabad contains the nam and not the other way around. 74 Both shabad and nam are revealed to humans through a divine preceptor, or guru Nanak did not look to any human teacher as a guru reserving that term as another of his epithets for God. For Nanak, as we saw with Kabir, the guru referred to the voice of God heard within ones heart. The hymns that Nanak composed, were directly revealed to him by God, and were understood by Sikhs as containing both nam and shabad. In short, the divine guru bestowed the shabad and nam on Nanak, who was the first hum an Guru for the Sikhs and 74 Mcleod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion 191-196. 45


the mediator of the new revelation. If humans were to be liberated by God, then they must obey the hukam. According to Nanaks composition, the hukam can only be known through the revelation, which the guru has revealed through the divine word. All three of these conc epts were prominently used amongst the Sants to describe God or the revelation; however, Nanaks understanding is unique because he ties in the notion hukam as a principle that maintains the divine order by which revelation is known. Another way to understand how the di mension of fate is expressed through the hukam requires that we recall the notion of grace One, upon whom the Merciful Lor d bestows His Grace, performs His service. That servant, whom t he Lord causes to obey the Order of His Will (hukam), serves Him. Obeying the Order of His Will (hukam), he becomes acceptabl e, and then, he obtains the Mansion of the Lord's Presence. One who acts to please His Lord and Master, obtains the fruits of his mind's desires. Then, he goes to the Court of the Lord, wear ing robes of honor. ||15|| (471) Grace, when bestowed from God, will s park a process whereby humans actions are brought within the fold of Gods will. Through the hukam, God chooses who is blessed with the gift of liberation and lik ewise who is destined to wander in the cycle. 75 When God bestows grace upon humans, they come to act according to the divine will. One cannot serv e God without the knowledge of hukam, which can only be understood through the divine gift of grace; the two are inseparable. Moreover, they are further connected as both are necessary factors in being liberated achieve liberation Grace is intimately. Following the hukam is not 75 Mcleod, Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion 191-196. 46


enough without Gods grace, which a concept that humans have no power over. 76 This dimension displays a strong cont inuity with the notion of fate in the HKM meanings. In the Quran, we saw t hat all humans were subject to Allahs judgment, which based upon his revelati on. Depending on how closely humans obeyed the revelation, they were either awarded eternity in paradise or sent to burn in hell according to his command. Nanaks compositions also indicate that God is judging the actions of humans. For Nanak, God determines who is blessed with liberation and who is destined to be reborn in the cycle of sansar Although Nanak dismisses the Quranic not ion of eschatology, his compositions are clear that liberation can be ac hieved only when one follows the hukam. This is similar to the hukam in the Quran, whereby the hukam refers to the command for humans to obey Allahs revelation. The final dimension of hukam, Gods omnipotence, has already been hinted at throughout the chapter. As t he creator, God expresses control over humans by making everyone subject to the hukam. The following verse indicates Gods power through the hukam by tying together the three previous dimensions. By the Hukam of His Command, al l are created. By His Command, actions are performed. By His Command, all are subject to death; by His Command, they merge in Tr uth. O Nanak, whatever pleases His Will comes to pass. Nothing is in the hands of these beings. ||8||4||. (55) As the creator, God remains in control of the universe, as we have seen, by dictating the natural cycles and giving li fe to all things. No one can be born independent of the hukam and whatever happens to an individual in the world is 76 Grewal, Contesting Interpretations of Sikh Tradition, 134-35. 47


the result Gods will. This does not mean that humans are devoid of free will, just the contrary. Humans have the ability to act as they please, however, there can be no end to the illusion caused be ego, if one does not live by the hukam. Thus, the destinies of humans are controlled by the hukam, which humans must follow in order to be liberated. Otherwise, it is their desti ny to continuously be reborn according to Gods hukam. We can conclude by analyzing one of Nanaks autobiographical hymns, in which he demonstrates how God is omnipotent through the hukam. I came from the Celest ial Lord God; I go wherev er He orders me to go. I am Nanak, forever under the Command of His Will. I sit in the posture of the eternal, imperishable Lord. These are the Teachings I have received from the Guru. As Gurmukh, I have come to understand and realize myself; I mer ge in the Truest of the True. ||3|| (938) This verse indicates that all humans are subject to Gods will and that hukam is the means by which Gods will is carried out. For Nanak, following the hukam leads on to follow the teachings of the guru. The term gurmukh given in the verse is interchangeable with Sikh (meaning disciple) and refers to the disciples who are devoted to God. 77 As we see from the verse, Nanak understood himself to be a disciple of God, who came to know the nature of God by following the hukam. This dimension has an obvious connection with the Quran, which is the basis of Allahs wisdom, judgment, and thus, omnipotence over creation. In the Quran, we saw that Allah commands humans to obey his revelation and he alone has the power to judge. As we saw, this was due to his total knowledge of 77 Gurmukh is a common name given to those who follow the revelation of the Sikh Gurus, which is the revelation of God who is the satguru, or true guru. Hence, a gurmukh is one oriented to the teachings of the guru. 48


all things. Nanaks compositions also indicate that God knows everything that happens and judges humans actions according to the hukam. Conclusion As we have seen in this chapter, Nanak employed hukam to cover a broad range of divine activity. Through the four dimensions, we see how hukam is the means by which God creates, sustains and essentially controls the world through the divine order. For Nanak, it is the means by which the world was created and the order by which humans can know God. We saw that God created humans with a specific purpose, that is, to become enlightened and be liberated from rebirths. As part of the divine order for humans, liberation from the cycle of rebirth could be achieved by meditating of the nam and shabad and following the teachings of the Guru. 78 This order was given to humans and creation as a whole and the entire uni verse is subject to Gods command. Nanak's use of hukam displays continuity with the themes found in the HKM derivatives. Beginning with the fi rst dimension, the Quran placed an emphasis on Allah as al-h ak m, or one who has full knowledge of everything that took place in creation. Allah created humans with an or der that they obey his command, which was manifest in revela tion and the prophets. As a guide for humans, Allah bestowed practical wisdom on his prophets to be an example of how to act according to the revelation. In the Quran, the third dimension of fate is of the utmost importance. As the judge of creation, Allah determined who was destined for paradise or hell. He judged the actions of humans, which included 78 Mann, Sikhism 22-28. 49


knowing the hidden and unseen things in creation, such as the inner thoughts and beliefs. All of the general features are preserved in Nanaks understanding of hukam. Nanak gave the divine order practical shape for humans by establishing a new community where the hukam could be carried out as an example for the world. His decision to name a successo r to carry on the divine command given to him served to give further practi cal significance to the concept of hukam on the developing Sikh religion, as we will see in the coming chapter. At the moment, we can note that early on in the Sikh community, Nanaks mission was understood as a turning point in the history of the world, in which God bestowed a new order and revelation for humans to follow. In the Quran, hukam specifically referred to the divine co mmand, which Allah bestowed throughout history, for humans to fo llow his will. Though cont ents of the Quran, which retells the history of Allahs interacti ons with humans throughout history, differ from the poetic exp lications on the nature of God and human found in the Granth, the role of hukam is similar. For Nanak, Gods hukam is a command to both acknowledge the divine order that pervades creation, as well as obey a specific mode of living that was first revealed to Nanak. By following the hukam, for Nanak, one would necessarily meditate on nam, recite the shabad and follow the teachings of the Guru, which were essent ially Gods teachings. The concept of h ukm in the Qur'an was something was given by Allah to his chosen mediator. One who has h ukm has the command from God has the h ikmah necessary to lead others in the proper way of life. Certainly this understanding fits in with how 50


Nanak viewed himself. He appears conscious of the new revelation given to him even noting that he himself was commanded by God to preach. 79 Understanding his role as the leader and preceptor of revelation, Nanaks compositions indicated that his way of life would lead others to know God and achieve liberation. Nanaks vision is highlighted by the way he redefined hukam, as did Kabir, by incorporating elements from t he dominant social worldview, such as karma, and sansar. This is demonstrated by the way he used hukam to introduce a new system of revelation, through the guru, shabad, and nam. While the hukam preserves a pattern of divine command and order that is consistent with Islam, the content is unique to Nanaks religious experience 79 GG 150, 722. 51


Chapter Five The Sikh Gurus and hukam This chapter analyzes the compositions of Nanak's successors, Gurus Angad, Amar Das, Ram Das, and Arjan in order to understand how the concept of hukam was developed over the formation of the Sikh text. The poetry of Nanaks successors reflected the changing so cial and historical environment and the manner in which they employed hukam in their compositions reflected an increasing emphasis on the Sikh co mmunity and the role of the Guru. 80 While their understanding of hukam as the divine command/order is essentially the same concept as Nanaks, they offer s ubtle insight into the features that constitute a distinctly Sikh way of life. Moreover, through this analysis, we will be able to see how the Sikh Gurus developed hukam in a manner that preserves the earlier Quranic themes in a mo re explicit manner than Nanak. Before we can analyze the concept of hukam in their compositions, we must first be familiar with the historical context in which the co mmunity developed under the leadership of the Gurus. The Sikh community as an historical entity The Sikh Gurus, in just over fift y years after the death Nanak, established sacred sites, sacred scriptures, distinct rituals and prayers, and an overall new pattern of living for the community of Sikh s. They sought to distinguish their community from Hindu and Muslim communiti es, as well as from rival claimants 80 J.S. Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, 47-48 52


to the revelation of Nanak. 81 All of the Gurus analyzed in this chapter composed hymns that are included in the Granth and founded new communities ( sangats ) to spread the faith. In1539, Guru Angad became the second Sikh Guru shortly before Nanak died in Kartarpur. Born in 1504, Angad lived as a Hindu before he met Nanak and moved to Kartarpur to serve the Gu ru. Originally named Bhai Lehna, he was given the name Angad, meaning limb, by Nanak to indicate that his successor was a part of himself. N anaks decision to choose a devotee, rather than one of his children, is significant because it established a pattern of struggle for succession to Guruship. Mughal law, whic h came into effect during the life of Nanak, accorded that inheritances be di vided amongst male sons. Nanaks eldest son, Srichand, set himself up as a Guru in Kartarpur and heir to Nanaks legacy in accordance with the customary laws. 82 This pattern of protest continued throughout the history of the Sikh Gurus, even after the lineage was confined to the family of Guru Ram Das. Thus, early on the Gurus had a motivation to both distinguish the Sikh co mmunity from others as well as assert their legitimate authorit y over that community. Following Guru Nanaks example of establishing new communities, Angad moved with his followers to the town of Khadur, where the Sikhs likely maintained a similar pattern of religious and social life as in Kartarpur. 83 Angad composed his poetry under the name of Nanak, which was understood as a direct 81 Mann, Sikhism 30. 82 Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, 47-48. 83 Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs: 14691839 (Oxford: Oxford University, 1999), 49-52. 53


continuation of Nanaks message. 84 Although he had little new to offer by way of theological developments, Angad developed several practical innovations that strengthened the new communitys sense of identity. 85 For one, Angad institutionalized the Gurmukhi script (der ived an earlier script t hat existed in the Punab), effectively giving the Sikhs a sa cred script (as opposed to Arabic) to record their growing corpus of composit ions. Along with his wife Mata Khivi, he also expanded the tradition of langar or communal meal, where Sikhs could join in caste free/status free meals with their neighbors. Amar Das, the 3 rd Guru, was chosen by Angad in 1552, after which the sons of Angad claimed Khadur as their l egal inheritance. Following the tradition of his predecessors, Amar Das establishe d a new town called Goindwal. During his life, Sikhs from distant communities ( sangat ) began making pilgrimages to see the Guru at Goindwal, where he began to institute distinctly Sikh ceremonies for the growing community. 86 His poem titled anand, for instance, was composed to be sung at joyous occasions, such as the birth of a Sikh child. Moreover, to meets the demands of t he growing community and to maintain cohesiveness, Amar Das a ssigned regional preachers (manjis ) throughout the Punjab to spread the hymns of the Gurus ( gurbani), which had been compiled and recited in daily worship since the founding of original community at Kartarpur. In addition, preachers were to collect offerings on behalf of the Guru, whose growing economic resources were evidenced through his numerous 84 The Sikhs commonly quote a verse by Satta and Balvand, two bards contained in the Granth, as an explanation of the process by which the revela tory status of Guru is mystically transmitted. (GG 967) 85 Singh, A History of the Sikhs: 14691839, 49-52. 86 Singh, A History of the Sikhs: 14691839 53-54. 54


projects, such as the construction of a sizeable tank for devotees to bathe in before praying communally at Goindwal. 87 Compositions in the Granth also indicate that his communal kitchen ( langar ) was well stocked with fine ingredients. 88 One of Amar Dass more lasting decisions was to establish an organized text ( pothi ) of the previous Gurus compositio ns and of thinkers, such as Kabir and Namdev, whose ideas displayed harmony with the Sikh Gurus. 89 Deeply interested in the scriptural tradition, Amar Das composed numerous poems that expanded Nanaks ideas in lig ht of the growing Sikh id entity. As a means of further distinguishing the Sikhs, he com posed and instituted specific prayers to be recited at the birth and deat h of any Sikh, foregoing the traditional Hindu rites. Before he died in 1574, Amar Das sele cted his son-in-law, Bhai Jetha, as his successor and renamed him Guru Ram Das. Ram Das was unique as a Sikh Guru, for he was the first to be born in the tradition. While the previous Gurus had grown up as Hindus, Sikhism was the only way of life Ram Das had known. Upon becoming Guru, he moved the community to new town that became known as Ramdaspur, or the town of Guru Ram Da s. The name of the city is interesting because it is a reference to the Guru, whereas Nanak and Amar Das opted to use epithets for God as the names for their towns, such as Kartarpur (abode of the creator) and Goindwal (c ity of Gobind, a name for God). His decision to 87 Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, 50-51. 88 GG 967. 89 Singh, The Bhagats of the Guru Granth Sahib. 11-12. Guru Amar Das mentions, by name, Kabir and Namdev in a few of his hymns and even appears to have provided commentary on Kabirs work by inserting Kabirs shaloks into his own. Moreover, the pothis compiled at Goindwal were consulted by Guru Arjan when he compiled the Kartapur pothi, which is the original extant copy of the Granth to be installed in the Harimandir in 1604. 55


name his center after himself reflects t he growing importance and prominence of the Guru in the community. 90 At the center of the town, Ram Das constructed a large tank for bathing known as the lake of nectar ( amritsar ), which came to be the towns name. Though the Guru was t he central figure in the community, the town also hosted numerous artisans, traders, and farmers that led to the development of Ramdaspur (Amritsar) as a prosperous center of the Punjab. 91 Ram Das composed and arranged the hymns of the Gurus ( gurbani ) according to a musical system, producing a style of raga that was unique to the classical pattern at the time. He built on the innov ations of his father-in-law by composing a marriage hymn to be sung at the Sikh weddings. Ram Das only served as Guru for seven years and in 1581 chose his youngest son Arjan to succeed as Guru. By naming a biological son, Ram Das likely hoped to end the tradition of internal struggle for the office of Guru. 92 Though the Guru lineage remained within his family (Sodhi) through Guru Gobind Singh, the position was a lways claimed by others. Being a direct descendant, Guru Arjan legally inherited Ramdaspur which had begun to resemble a royal court, and the Guru came to be seen as the sacha patishah or true king. Keeping his residency at Ramdaspur did not stop Guru Arjan fr om spreading out and establishing new communities, such as Tarn Taran and Kartarpur (different 90 Mann, The Making of Sikh Scripture, 13-14. 91 Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab 51-53. 92 The decision was to no avail as his eldest son Prithi Chand contested the decision and eventually took legal control of Amritsar, forci ng the sixth Guru, Hargobind, to found the town of Kiratpur.. 56


from the original community founded by Nanak), which became important religious and economic cent ers in their own right. 93 The innovations under Guru Arjan were numerous and did much to give further identity to the Sikh community. He had a temple built in the center of the sacred pool dug by his father, which is the present day Golden Temple ( harimandir ). He also undertook the ta sk of organizing and editing first authoritative Sikh text, the Adi Granth (ori ginal book), which included the works of numerous Indian holy men and court poets, in addition to the hymns of the Gurus, including his own. 94 The text was kept at the Golden Temple, where it immediately assumed an important role in the uniting the co mmunity. With a thriving sacred center, a new sacred text, and constant offerings of the devotees pouring in, the Sikh court under Arjan eventua lly came to be seen as a threat to the Mughal emperor Jahangir, w ho had Arjan executed in 1606. 95 The martyrdom of Guru Arjan has been descr ibed as turning point for the Sikh movement, at which point the community took up overt military and political aspirations. 96 Hukam in the compositions of the Sikh Gurus As we turn to analyze some of the compositions of the Sikh Gurus, we will see how hukam takes on a practical dimension for the community. What was 93 Khushwant Singh, 57. 94 See Pashaura Singh, Life and Work of Guru Arjan (Oxford: Oxford University, 2006), 134-171. Guru Arjans contribution of hymns to the text is the largest with 2063 included.. 95 Pashaura Singh, Life and Work of Guru Arjan 205-244. 96 For a discussion of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan, see Pashaura Singhs Life and Work of Guru Arjan, as well as Louis Fenechs Martyrdom in the Sikh Tradition. 57


important for Angad (and the later Gurus) was the increasing emphasis on Sikh mode of living in relation to hukam as the following verse indicates The Ambrosial Word of Gurbani pr oclaims the essence of reality. Spiritual wisdom and meditation are contained within it. The Gurmukhs chant it, and the Gurmukhs r ealize it. Intuitively aware, they meditate on it. By the Huka m of His Command, He formed the Universe, and in His Hukam, He keeps it. By His Hukam, He keeps it under His Gaze. O Nanak, if the mortal shatters his ego before he departs, as it is pre-ordained, then he is approved. ||1|| (1243) Angad sets up the general worldview for the gurmukhs which along with the word Sikh (meaning disciple), is another name for a follower of the teachings of the Guru(s). He emphasizes that those who are gurmukhs meditate and chant the hymns of the Gurus, wh ich highlights the im portant role the Guru played as a socio-religious leader. Chanting the gurbani was a daily act to be carried out communally. For the gurmukh, this was the correct mode of worship and, according to Nanak and Angad, the only wa y to know the true nature of God. Nanaks compositions were understood as being divinely inspired and containing shabad which we noted in the previous c hapter was the word of God. By meditating upon the Gods revelation, an i ndividual could overcome their ego and be approved for liberation by God. As with Nanak, the world was created according to the hukam and God judges the actions of humans and determines who is worthy to be liberated from the cycle. In another verse by Angad, we can see how he uses hukam to demonstrate the means by which God r egulates creation, similar to Nanak. This world is the room of the True Lord; within it is the dwelling of the True Lord. By His Command (hukam), some are merged into Him, and some, by His Command (hukam), are destroyed. Some, by the Pleasure of His Will, are lifted up out of Maya, while others 58


are made to dwell within it. No one can say who will be rescued. O Nanak, he alone is known as Gurmukh, unto whom the Lord reveals Himself. ||3|| (463) Angad explains that God operates in the world through the hukam. We can see many of the dimensions t hat Nanaks expresses through hukam present in this verse. What Angad continuously adds to his verses regarding hukam is an emphasis on the gurmukhs, as the people who are blessed by God with the knowledge of hukam. Their actions are in harmony with Gods order and they meditate on the revelation through Gods will alone. Amar Das developed the role of the Guru with a greater emphasis on the actions of the community. For him, hukam affected the practica l affairs of the gurmukhs in the social realm by maintainin g the natural cycles of the world. All farming and trading is by Hukam of His Will; surrendering to the Lord's Will, glorious great ness is obtained. Under Guru's Instruction, one comes to underst and the Lord's Will, and by His Will, he is united in His Union. By His Will, one merges and easily blends with Him. The Shabads of the Guru are incomparable. Through the Guru, true greatne ss is obtained, and one is embellished with Truth. He finds the Destroyer of fear, and eradicates his self-conceit; as Gu rmukh, he is united in His Union. Says Nanak, the Name of the immaculate, inaccessible, unfathomable Commander is pe rmeating and pervading everywhere. ||4||2|| (569) Since the time of Nanak, daily living for the Sikhs consisted of a daily blend of working within societal and familial st ructures and maintaining a routine of devotional worship. Work in the community, which was almost entirely centered on trade and farming, was pr ofitable because of the hukam of God. The hukam, in Nanaks first dimension, is responsible for the division of nature into seasons, upon which the Punjabi agrarian societ y depended. These actions were in 59


accordance with Gods plan that humans must work in the world in order to be blessed by God. 97 Thus, to be a Sikh required social activity and devotional practices as part of Gods hukam As in Nanaks compositions, the hukam can only be known through the Gurus instruct ion. The Guru reveals the nature of Gods will by bringing the devotees the shabad which is contained within the Gurus compositions, which will lead to liber ation. God, in the last line, is given the epithet hukme meaning the commander who orders humans to follow the revelation bestowed through the Guru, if th ey are to receive the divine grace. This verse displays an interesting c ontinuity with the themes discussed in the HKM derivatives, particularly with h ikmah. We discussed in the first chapter that h ikmah was a specific type of wisdom bestowed by Allah upon his messengers. The messengers were given h ikmah, so that they could instruct and interpret the revelation for others to follow. The sunnah of Muhammad is the primary example for this, as noted earlier. In the Quran, in order to know the will of God, one must follow the practical example of his prophets. This sense of practical wisdom is exactly what we find in the verse by Amar Das in the Granth. The example that Sikhs follow was set by the Gurus, whose teachings, like the h ikmah of the prophets, were directly given from God and considered revelation. The will of God can only be known by follo wing the Gurus teachings. In addition to bringing the revelation of God, shabad and nam the Gurus provided a further practical example of social and religious action that was in accordance with the divine will. Following the divine will, fo r the Sikhs, meant earning an honest living through farming and trading and sharing the wealth with the community, 97 Mann, Sikhism 24. 60


chanting, and meditating upon the hymns of the Gurus, either in a group or alone, and partaking in a communal meal (langar). 98 All of these acts are given praise in the compositions of the Gurus. Amar Das is explicit on this issue stating that the shabads of the Gurus are incomparable. The following stanzas by Guru Ram Das offer insight to the actions of the gurmukhs by using hukam to reinterpret the rituals of traditions that were seen by the Gurus as other. In his composit ions, frequent distinction is made between the gurmukhs (those who follow the true des cendants of Nanak) and the manmukhs or bemukhs (who follow selfish desires and false Gurus). One who The Gurmukh obeys the Order of her Husband Lord God; through the Hukam of His Command, she finds peace. In His Will (hukam), she serves; in His Will (hukam), she worship and adores Him. In His Will (hukam), she merges in absorption. His Will is her fast, vow, purity and self-discipline; through it, she obtains the fruits of her mind's desires. She is always and forever the happy, pure soul-bride, who realizes His Will; she serves the True Guru, inspired by loving absorption. O Nanak, those upon whom the Lord showers His Mercy, are merged and immersed in His Will (hukam). ||18|| The wretched, se lf-willed manmukhs do not realize His Will (hukam); they continually act in ego. By ritualistic fasts, vows, purities, self-disciplines and wors hip ceremonies, they still cannot get rid of their hy pocrisy and doubt. (1423) His use of hukam maintains its function as the way for gurmukhs to overcome ego by leading them to know and serve God. He describes the community of gurmukhs as married to God who is a husband. In the same way as a dutifully good wife obeys the will of her husband, so the Sikh community likewise obeys the hukam of God. His critique of the manmukhs is indicative of the differences between the emerging Sikh tradition and other religious traditions In this verse, Ram Das is giving a practical example of actions not to be carried out by his 98 GG 286, 301, 305, 396, 443, 588, 966-67 61


devotees. The manmukhs are caught in the falseness of ritualistic fasts, vows, and ceremonies. These institutions do not have importance for the Sikhs, since Nanak critiqued such outward observances in numerous verses. 99 Manmukhs can never overcome their egos, because t hey do not follow the teachings of the Gurus. For the gurmukh, following the hukam of God is a mode of worship, not the Hindu and Muslim ideas of ritual fa sting, pilgrimage, or purity. The gurmukhs know the hukam by following the Gurus teachi ngs and worshipping God in the proscribed Sikh manner, t hat is, by chanting the gurbani and working to make the community prosper. The above verse reiter ates the practical role that Guru played in bringing others to follow Gods true will. The gurmukhs who adhere to the Gurus teachings are destined over come their ego and be liberated from the cycle of birth and death. One who does not obey the Hukam, the Command of the Perfect Guru that self-willed manmukh is plundered by his ignorance and poisoned by Maya. Within him is falsehood, and he sees everyone else as false; the Lord has tied these useless conflicts around his neck. (303) The life the manmukh leads is not the Sikh way of living and, thus, false. The only way to be true is to follow the hukam of the Guru, which we noted in Nanaks compositions always referred to Gods order for humans. However, in the compositions of the late r Gurus, we have seen that the Guru increasingly referred to the human Gurus who upheld Na naks revelation. By following the hukam or will of the Guru, one is necessarily a gurmukh as opposed to the manmukhs who reject the Gurus teac hings and do not abide by the hukam of God. This reasserts the emphasis on the practical example the Gurus play in 99 GG 2, 155, 471, 489, 634, 687, 789, 1012, 1240 62


demonstrating how to adhere to the hukam of God. The verse further indicates that God is responsible for the condition of the manmukhs, since it is God who decides to bless some human with knowledge of the hukam. In the following verse, composed by the fifth Guru, Arjan, the hukam of God is directly intertwined with the prosperit y of the Sikh communi ty. This verse makes it clear that God provides for the Sikh community because it is through the hukam that the community receives the future Guru. The True Guru has truly given a child. The long-lived one has been born to this destiny. He came to acquire a home in the womb, and his mother's heart is so very glad. ||1|| A son is bor n a devotee of the Lord of the Universe. Th is pre-ordained destiny has been revealed to all. ||Paus e|| In the tenth month, by the Lord's Order ( hukam ), the baby has been born. So rrow is dispelled, and great joy has ensued. The companions blissfully sing the songs of the Guru's Bani. This is pleasing to the Lord Master. ||2|| (396) This verse by Guru Arjan is understood as an autobiographical hymn explaining the context for the birth of his onl y son and future successor, Hargobind. 100 After a long, childless marriage, the Guru and his wife, Ganga, had a child who was brought into the world by Gods hukam. Nanak established the basic idea that all humans come into the world by the hukam, but Arjan notes t hat the specific event of the birth of Hargobi nd was the result of Gods hukam For Arjan, it was part of Gods pre-ordained des tiny for the Sikhs, who at that time were well aware of their status as a new religion. 101 The response of the community to the birth of their future Guru, as indicat ed in the passage, was to sing the Gurus hymns and rejoice in the occasion. The birth of the child and the response of the Sikhs is said to be pleasing to God and according to the hukam This verse, 100 Singh, Life and Work of Guru Arjan 78-79. 101 W. Owen Cole, The Guru in Sikhism (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1982), 27-28. 63


unlike any other we have analyzed, points out that God is deepl y involved in the worldly affairs of the Sikhs. We have seen earlier how the hukam was tied into the social activities of the Sikhs by affecting farming and trade, but here the hukam is sustaining the spiritual head of t he Sikhs through the specific birth of the Guru. Given the historical relevance of this passage, we can notice some similarities to the Quran, which is itse lf a sacred version of history. Throughout the Quran, Allah bestowed revelation to different prophets in successive periods of history. 102 The prophets who were given hukam had a special authority to lead humans on behalf of Allah. The verse by Guru Arjan implied that God was acting in history to preserve the Sikh s when faced with crisis. As the verse indicates, the Gurus role is upheld through Gods divine order for the Sikh community. Guru Arjan also gave hukam a practical application by making it part of daily ritual life for Sikhs. Sikh trad ition maintains that in 1604, when Arjan installed the first Granth in the Gol den Temple, he opened the text at random and began reading from the top of the page. The verse he read was to be meditated upon throughout the day, in addition to the ot her established daily ritual worship for the Sikhs. 103 The act and the particular verse chosen were known as a hukamnama, meaning a written hukam in the sense that it was Gods command that the Sikhs meditate upon the shabad of the Guru. This act indicated the authority of the new sacred scripture. Hukam, as a divine command can only be 102 Rajinder Kaur Rohi, 60-61. 103 This was comprised of japuji and jaap in the morning, kirtan sohila and rehiras in the evening. 64


given by God, is given a new dimension by Guru Arjan, who declared that the text that had the authority to issues co mmands on behalf of G od. Moreover, the Granth was comprised of the Gurus compos itions, which highlights the role that they played in giving practical shape to the divine command. 104 Hukam, for Nanak was a very general concept, wh ich was developed in Guru Arjans compositions to refer to the notion that God has a practical expression for living according to the hukam. The ritual act of hukam instituted by Arjan gave Sikhs a way to ensure that they would carry out Gods hukam in their daily lives by using the Granth. For the Sikhs, the Granth and the Guru became joint representatives of Gods revelation and the way to know the hukam Conclusion Through the way that Guru Nanaks successors employed hukam, we have seen how Gods order for humans came to be reflected by the actions of the Gurus and their community. Fundamentally, the concept of hukam remained the same as Nanaks. Hukam was still understood as the means for creation and the guiding force for humans. As Gods order for humans, obeying the hukam was still the only path by which one could know the revelation and achieve liberation. However, as we have seen, the later Gurus utilize hukam largely in the context of the Gurus teachings and t he actions of their distinct group of followers, the gurmukhs or Sikhs. 104 Following Arjans establishment of an authorit ative text, the later Gurus took up the Mughal practice of issuing hukamnams or (written hukam ) as socio-political edicts. The hukamnamas of the Gurus Hargobind and Tegh Bahadur, for in stance, frequently address distant congregation with specific instructions from the Guru. 65


As we have seen, for the Sikh Gurus, hukam affected both the social and religious affairs of the Sikhs. The domi nant professions of the Sikhs were given legitimization by the Sikh Gurus who indicate that their work was in accordance with the divine order. Tradi ng, which Nanak and the Sikh Gurus families were associated with, was considered to be prosperous according to Gods hukam. Farming, in particular, was intimately tied into the seasonal changes and other natural phenomena, all of which operated by hukam. In addition to the dictating the social realm, hukam was largely tied into a religious discipline. Since Nanak, we have seen that following the hukam meant obeying a new revelation given from God. In the later Gurus compositions, the hukam was reflected through the chanting of the Gurus hymns ( gurbani) and following the Gurus instruction. The true Guru (God) was revealed in the hymns of the human Guru, who was ordered to lead others in following Gods will. As the popularity and position of the Gurus increased, the way they understood hukam in relation to their mission displayed continuity with the concepts of h ikmah and hukam Like with the Prophet Muhammad, who brought a new revelation and interpreted through his h ikmah the Sikh Gurus both provided revelation through their hymns and instructed others in living according to the hukam This meant leading the Sikhs in chanting their hymns, as well as explaining the proper social actions in accordance with t he divine order. Both the prophets of Islam and the Sikh Gurus pr ovided practical examples for obeying Gods will. Additionally as the Sikh notion of hukam came to reflect a historical context, it became clear how the Si kh understanding of God demonstrated 66


similarities with the Islamic (or Semiti c, for that matter ) conception of God. 105 As we saw in the Quran, Allahs hukam was issued throughout history as he bestowed revelation to prophets. When Guru Arjan declared that the future Guru, the preceptor of revelation for t he Sikhs, was born according to Gods hukam, he indicated that God was watchi ng the Sikhs throughout history and guiding their destiny according to the hukam. 105 Rajinder Kaur Rohi, 60-61. 67


Chapter Six The development of hukam This paper has traced the develop ment of the Sikh concept of hukam from its earliest textual roots in the Quran through the Sikh Granth and examined how hukam was institutionalized as part of da ily life of the Sikh Gurus. Hukam began as a very specific concept in the Qur an, referring to the command that all people obey the will of Allah. This comm and was given to Allahs human messenger who provided people with a prac tical example for carryi ng out the divine order. Kabir adopted hukam to loosely describe a new order of life that directly fit into a South Asian context. His compositions indicate that he understood the divine order as dictating the cycle of rebirth and liberation. He applied the broad Islamic notion of a divine order to a Hindu worldv iew in his syncretisti c worldview. Nanak used the concept much in the same manner as Kabir and added to it an emphasis on the specific revelation, wh ich he received from God. Through Nanak and the Sikh Gurus, the divine order implied by hukam began to take a distinct form. In Nanaks compositions, we noted several dimensions, which explained how hukam is an all-encompassing concept that displayed continuity with the Quranic emphasis on Gods judgm ent, and the fate of humans souls. Through the innovations of the later Gurus, hukam came to signify the specifically Sikh mode of life, which was given practi cal shape as an example of Gods order. Sikhs have clear social and devotional examples set by the Gurus in the Granth, which provide an oppor tunity to live according to the hukam. The Gurus understanding of hukam elucidated a uniquely Sikh worldview. The way 68


hukam is employed in the Sikh Granth s uggests that the Gurus came to understand their mission as part of Gods divine order of their community. 106 According to the Gurus, Gods di vine command was that people follow the revelation, by chanting the shabad, meditating on the nam, and obeying the Gurus teachings, which were an example of the divine order in action. Only in this manner of following the worshi p could one hope to overcome the ego, destroy the karma of past lives, and merge with G od in a state of liberation. We can close by emphasizing that given the important continuity present in the Sikh and Muslim concepts of hukam, and due to the similarities in which both religions understand the divine order of the universe, it is necessary that scholars continue the trend of examining the Muslim influences on Sikh religion and history at all their intersections We can not speak of the Sikh hukam as a distinct concept without first analyzing what hukam meant for those who initially employed the concept. The same method has proven true in cases where Sikh concepts have been examined in light of Hindu and Sant influence, and clearly there is much to be learned about how Si khs understood the nature of God and revelation by examining how the hukam developed from an Islamic concept to a Sikh concept and ritual. 106 Grewal, The Sikhs of the Punjab, 50. GG 145, 229, 396, 797, 880. 69


References Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. The Noble Quran . English translation. Available online at http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/. Cole, W. Owen. The Guru in Sikhism London: Dartman, Longman & Todd, 1982. Cole, W. Owen. Sikhism in its Indian Context: 1469 1708. London: Dartman, Longman & Todd, 1984. Esack, Farid. The Quran: A Short Introduction Oxford: O ne World, 2002. Esposito, John L. ed. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam Oxford: Oxford University, 2003. Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1996. Grewal, J.S. Contesting Interpretations of the Sikh Tradition. New Delhi: Manohar, 1998. Grewal, J.S. The Sikhs of the Punjab Cambridge: Cambridge Universit, 1994 Graham, William A. Divine Word and Prophetic Word in Early Islam. Germany Walter de Gruyter, 1977 Hawley, John Stratton and Mark Juergensmeyer. Songs of the Saints of India. Oxford: Oxford University, 1988. Hess, Linda and SHukdeo Singh, trans. The Bijak of Kabir. Oxford: Oxford University, 2002. Ibn Ata Illah. The Book of Wisdom Translated by Victor Danner. New York: Paulist Press, 1978. Kassis, H.E. A Concordance of the Quran. Berkeley: University of California, 1983. Khadduri, Majid. Islamic Jurisprudence: Sh fi s Ris la. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1961. 70


Khalsa, Dr. Sant Singh. Sri Guru Granth Sahib English Translation. Available online at http://www.sikhnet.com/sggs/tr anslation/. With search engine at http://www.srigranth.org. Lari, Sayyid Mujtaba Musavi. God and His Attributes: Lessons on Islamic Doctrine Translated by Hamid Algar. Ne w York: Alavi Foundation, 2000. Mann, Gurinder Singh. The Making of Sikh Scripture Oxford: Oxford University, 2001. Mann, Gurinder Singh. Sikhism. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2004. Mcleod, Hew. Sikhism London: Penguin, 1997. Mcleod, W.H Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion. Oxford: Oxford University, 1968. Oberoi, Harjot. The Construction of Religious Boundaries: Culture, Identity, and Diversity in the Sikh Tradition Chicago: University of Chicago, 1994. Ozdemir, Ibrahim. "Towards An Under standing of Environmental Ethic From A Qur'anic Perspective." In Islam and Ecology edited by Richard Foltz 437. Boston: Harvard University Press, 2003. Parrinder, Geoffrey. Jesus in the Quran. Oxford: One world, 1995. Pickthall, Marmaduke Mohammad. The Noble Quran. English translation. Available online at http ://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/. Renard, John. Historical Dictionary of Sufism Scarecrow Press Inc., 2005. Rohi, Rajinder Kaur. Semitic and Sikh Monothei sm: A Comparative Study. Patiala: Punjabi University, 1999. Shakir, M. H. The Noble Quran. English translation. Available online at http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/. Singh, Khushwant. A History of the Sikhs, Volume 1: 1469 1839. Oxford: Oxford University, 1999. Singh, Nicky-Guninder Kaur, trans. The Name of My Beloved: Verses of the Sikh Gurus San Fancisco: HarperCollins, 1995. Singh, Pashaura. Life and Work of Guru Arjan Oxford: Oxford University, 2006. 71


Singh, Pashaura. The Bhagats of the Guru Granth Sahib Oxford: Oxford University, 2003. Smith, Jane Idleman and Yv onne Yazbeck Haddad. The Islamic Understanding of Death and Resurrection Oxford: Oxford University, 2002. Talib, Gurbachan Singh. Guru Nanak New Delhi: Sahitya Academy, 1984. Talib, Gurbachan Singh, trans. Sri Guru Granth Sahib Vol I-IV Patiala: Punjabi University, 1997. 72


Bibliography Chittick, William C. The Self-Disclosure of GOD: Principles of Ibn al-Arab Cosmology. Albany: State University of New York, 1998. Grewal, J.S. Historical Perspectives on Sikh identity. Patiala: Punjabi University, 1997. Grewal, J.S. and Irfan Habib, eds. Sikh History From Persian Sources. New Delhi: Tulika, 2001. Kohli, Surindar Singh. Dictionary of Guru Granth Sahib Amritsar: Singh Bros, 1996. Lorenzen, David N. ed. Bhakti Religion in North India. New Delhi: Manohar, 1996. Mcleod, W.H. The Sikhs: History, Religion, and Society. New York: Colombia University Press, 1989. Radtke, Bernd and John OKane. The Concept of Sainthood in Early Islamic Mysticism. Richmond: Curzon Press, 1996. Singh, Harbans, ed. The Encyclopedia of Sikhism. Patiala: Punjabi University, 1996. Singh, Patwant. The Sikhs. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 2000. Singh, Taran, ed. Sikh Gurus and the Indian Spiritual Thought. Patiala: Punjabi University, 1992. Titus, Murray T. Islam in India and Pakistan New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 2005. Uberoi, J.P.S. Religion, Civil Society and the State: A Study of Sikhism Oxford Oxford University, 1996. Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India New York: Oxford University, 2004. 73


Download Options

Choose Size
Choose file type
Cite this item close


Cras ut cursus ante, a fringilla nunc. Mauris lorem nunc, cursus sit amet enim ac, vehicula vestibulum mi. Mauris viverra nisl vel enim faucibus porta. Praesent sit amet ornare diam, non finibus nulla.


Cras efficitur magna et sapien varius, luctus ullamcorper dolor convallis. Orci varius natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Fusce sit amet justo ut erat laoreet congue sed a ante.


Phasellus ornare in augue eu imperdiet. Donec malesuada sapien ante, at vehicula orci tempor molestie. Proin vitae urna elit. Pellentesque vitae nisi et diam euismod malesuada aliquet non erat.


Nunc fringilla dolor ut dictum placerat. Proin ac neque rutrum, consectetur ligula id, laoreet ligula. Nulla lorem massa, consectetur vitae consequat in, lobortis at dolor. Nunc sed leo odio.