Who qualifies as a Sikh?

Roopinder Singh

A Sikh is supposed to follow the path laid down by the Gurus, believe in the teachings of Guru Granth Sahib, keep the five k’s…all this is widely known. However, when it comes to defining who a Sikh is, there is a degree of ambiguity that crops up from time to time, often fuelled by vested political interests.

In defining a Sikh, we go back to the Rehat-namas issued after Guru Gobind Singh in which the teachings of the Gurus were or given as Code of Conduct by prominent Sikhs. In modern times, the need of defining who a Sikh is was largely legalistic, in response to a perceived need of having a Sikh body manage the affairs of historical gurdwaras which were then in the hands of the mahants. In 1915, Sikhs got together to define a Sikh and their definition had a bearing on the Sikh Gurdwaras Act which was adopted in 1925, It says:

“If any question arises as to whether any living person is or is not a Sikh, he shall be deemed respectively to be or not to be a Sikh according as he makes or refuses to make in such manner as the (State) Government may prescribe the following declaration:

“I solemnly affirm that I am a Sikh, that I believe in the Guru Granth Sahib, that I believe in the Ten Gurus, and that I have no other religion.”

In the 1930s, prominent scholars, leaders and organisations participated in the proceedings of the SGPC’s Code of Conduct and Conventions Sub-Committee. They included such luminaries as Giani Thakar Singh, Amritsar, Giani Sher Singh, Bhai Budh Singh, Akali Kaur Singh, Sant Sangat Singh of Kamaliya, Bhai Kahn Singh of Nabha, Pandit Basant Singh of Patiala, Bhai Vir Singh of Amritsar, Bawa Harkishan Singh, Principal, Guru Nanak Khalsa College, Gujranwala, Pandit Kartar Singh of Dakha, Ludhiana, the Jathedars of Sri Akal Takht, Takht Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Takht Sri Patna Sahib, Prof Ganga Singh, Prof Jodh Singh, Justice Teja Singh, Bhai Randhir Singh and Prof Teja Singh ( who was conveneor of the sub-committee).

Rehat Maryada

The Sikh Rehat Maryada, issued by the SGPC in 1945 after deliberations, terms Sikh as: “Any human being who faithfully believes in: (i) one immortal being. (ii) Ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Guru Gobind Singh. (iii) Guru Granth Sahib. (iv) the utterance and teachings of the Ten Gurus and (v) the baptism bequeathed by the Tenth Guru and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion, is a Sikh.”

Amritdhari Sikh

The Sikh Gurdwaras Act says that Amritdhari Sikh means and includes every person who has taken khande-ka-amrit or Khanda Pahul prepared and administered according to the tenets of Sikh religion and rites at the hands of five pyare or the ‘beloved ones’

Sehajdhari Sikh

A Sehajdhari Sikh means a person: (i) who performs ceremonies according to Sikh rites; (ii) who does not use tobacco or kutha (halal meat) in any form; (iii) who is not a patit; and (iv) who can recite Mul Mantar .

Meaning of Patit

“Patit” means a person who being a Keshdhari Sikh trims or shaves his beard or keshas or who, after taking amrit commits any one or more of the four kurahits(breach of code) (a) trimming or shaving hair, (2) eating halal meat; (3) sexual contact with a person other than one’s spouse; and (4) using tobacco.

This article was printed in The Tribune on September 3, 2011

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