Sikhism at a glance

  • What: Sikhism is a monotheistic religion. It is the fifth largest organized religion in the world. Number of followers estimated between 20-30 million.
  • Founded: In the 16th century in the Indian region of Punjab. Some sources says Sikhism was founded in the 15th century, but they use the date of the founder’s birth.
  • Who: Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak (1469-1539). It is based on his teachings, and those of the 9 Sikh gurus who followed him. Sikhs believe that all subsequent Gurus possessed Guru Nanak’s divinity and religious authority. These Gurus each contributed to the Sikh holy scripture, which is called ‘Guru Granth Sahib.’
  • Scripture: Guru Granth Sahib. Gobind Singh (1666-1708, the 10th Guru, decreed that after his death the spiritual guide of the Sikhs would be the teachings contained in Guru Granth Sahib. Ever since, the book has been regarded by Sikhs as a living Guru and Sikhs show it the same respect they would give to a human Guru. Guru Granth Sahib is compiled from the writings of Sikh Gurus, Hindus, and Muslims. Guru Gobind Singh said that where Sikhs could not find answers in the Guru Granth Sahib, they should decide issues as a community, based on the principles of their scripture.
  • Beliefs: Sikhism stresses the importance of doing good actions rather than merely carrying out rituals. Sikhs believe that the way to lead a good life is to keep God in heart and mind at all times, live honestly and work hard, treat everyone equally, be generous to the less fortunate, and serve others.
  • Community: The community of men and women who have been initiated into the Sikh faith is the Khalsa. The Khalsa is said to be the 11th Guru of the Sikhs with Guru Granth Sahib as its soul. Members of the Khalsa are indentified by five symbols, the 5 K’s: Kesh (uncut hair), Kanga (a wooden comb), Kara (a metal bracelet), Kaccha – also spelled, Kachh, Kachera (cotton underwear), and Kirpan (ceremonial sword or dagger)
  • Location: Principal center is The Golden Temple of Amritsar in India, but it is not necessary for Sikhs to make a pilgrimage to the temple. The vast majorite of the world’s Sikhs live in the Indian region of Punjab.
  • Note: • The word ‘Sikh’ in the Punjabi language means ‘disciple.’ Sikhs are the disciples of God who follow the writings and teachings of the Sikh Gurus. • Many Hindus believe Sikhism to be a sect of Hinduism, but Sikhs see Sikhism as an independent religion. • The Sikh place of worship is called a Gurdwara, which means ‘the residence of the Guru’, or ‘the door that leads to the Guru.’ • After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sikhs have — especially in the USA — often been targets of hate crimes and discrimination, usually by people who mistake them for Muslims.

Sikh Philosophy and Beliefs

Sikhism preaches a message of devotion and remembrance of God at all times, truthful living, equality of mankind, social justice and denounces superstitions and blind rituals. Sikhism is open to all through the teachings of its 10 Gurus enshrined in the Sikh Holy Book and Living Guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib. […]

  • There is only One God. He is the same God for all people of all religions.
  • The soul goes through cycles of births and deaths before it reaches the human form. The goal of our life is to lead an exemplary existence so that one may merge with God. Sikhs should remember God at all times and practice living a virtuous and truthful life while maintaining a balance between their spiritual obligations and temporal obligations.
  • The true path to achieving salvation and merging with God does not require renunciation of the world or celibacy, but living the life of a householder, earning a honest living and avoiding worldly temptations and sins.
  • Sikhism condemns blind rituals such as fasting, visiting places of pilgrimage, superstitions, worship of the dead, idol worship etc.
  • Sikhism preaches that people of different races, religions, or sex are all equal in the eyes of God. It teaches the full equality of men and women. Women can participate in any religious function or perform any Sikh ceremony or lead the congregation in prayer.
  • […]

    Before his death in 1708 Guru Gobind Singh declared that the Sikhs no longer needed a living and appointed his spiritual successor as Sri Guru Granth Sahib, his physical successor as the Khalsa. Guru Gobind Singh felt that all the wisdom needed by Sikhs for spiritual guidance in their daily lives could be found in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the Eternal Guru of the Sikhs. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is unique in the world of religious scriptures because not only is it accorded the status of being the spiritual head of the Sikh religion, but besides the poetry of the Gurus, it also contains the writings of saints of other faiths whose thoughts were consistent with those of the Sikh Gurus.

    Sikhism does not have priests, which were abolished by Guru Gobind Singh. The Guru felt that they had become corrupt and full of ego. Sikhs only have custodians of the Guru Granth Sahib (granthi), and any Sikh is free to read the Guru Granth Sahib in the Gurdwara (a Sikh temple) or in their home. All people of all religions are welcome to the Gurdwara. A free community kitchen can be found at every Gurdwara which serves meals to all people of all faiths. Guru Nanak first started this institution which outline the basic Sikh principles of service, humility and equality.

– Source: Introduction to Sikhismoffsite,

Sikhism rejects idolatry, the caste system, ritualism, and asceticism. It recognizes the equality between both genders and all religions, prohibits the intake of any intoxicants, and encourages an honest, truthful living. Sikhs have their own holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. Written, composed, and compiled by the Sikh Gurus themselves, the Guru Granth Sahib serves as the ultimate source of spiritual guidance for Sikhs. While the Sikhs hold their Gurus in high reverence, they are not to be worshipped; Sikhs may only worship God.
– Source: Gateway to Sikhismoffsite


Nanak (1469-1538 A.D.) was the son of a Hindu from the Kshatriya (ruler, warrior) caste in northern India. As a boy, he was greatly influenced by itinerant holy men, some of whom represented the Bhakti school of Hinduism and others the Sufi form of Islam.

Nanak believed in a supreme being, but concluded that all religions were using different names for the one true God whom he called “Sat Nam” (True Name).

As he grew into adulthood, Nanak attempted to harmonize Hinduism together with Islam, thus producing a new religion known as Sikhism. The word Sikh is Hindu for “disciple.”

Nanak wanted to rid religion of rituals, ceremonies and pilgrimages. He denounced the Hindu practices of idol worship, caste, sacrifices and infanticide yet adhered to the Hindu ideas of karma and transmigration.

Nanak taught that the means to salvation was acquired both by grace of Sat Nam, and by works (righteous living is required).

After attaining salvation, an individual is believed to be absorbed into God. The Sikh concept of God is monotheistic in form, but it is so mystical and abstract that it is ultimately pantheistic.
– Source: Sikhismoffsite, Watchman Fellowship


  • Jesus through Sikh eyesoffsite Nikki Singh writes about her experience of Jesus as a Sikh
  • Neither Hindu nor Muslimoffsite by C. Wayne Mayhall. A good overview, including how Christians should approach Sikhism
  • What is Sikhism?offsite By

    Sikhism arose, historically, as an attempt to harmonize Islam and Hinduism. But such harmonization, while historically accurate, does not capture the theological and cultural uniqueness of Sikhism. To call Sikhism a compromise between the two would be taken as an insult akin to calling a Christian a heretical Jew. Sikhism is not a cult or a hybrid but a distinct religious entity. […]

    Sikhism has historical and theological traces of both Hinduism and Islam but cannot be properly understood as a mere hybrid of these two. It has evolved into a distinct religious entity. The Christian can find common ground at some points with the Sikh, but ultimately the two faiths of Christianity and Sikhism cannot be reconciled.

  • Sikhismoffsite A chapter from Handbook of Today’s Religions [online version], by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart. It is a basic overview, that includes useful comparisons of Sikhism with Hinduism, as well as Sikhism and Islam. Both comparisons come from Robert E. Hume’s The World’s Living Religions ( New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, rev. ed., 1959).


  • Neighboring Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religionsoffsite by Winfried Corduan.

    For all who want to understand the religious faiths of their neighbors and coworkers, Winfried Corduan offers this helpful introduction to the religions of the world. His survey covers major and minor religions including Judaism, Islam, Zoroastrianism, African and Native American traditional religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Baha’i, Chinese popular religion, Shinto and the Japanese synthesis. Unlike many similar books, Neighboring Faiths emphasizes not just formal religious teachings but also how each religion is practiced in daily life.
    – Source: Book description at



See Also

  • Christianity vs. Sikhismoffsite a comparison of beliefs and practices, at comparison site Diffen. User-edited. Does not include links to sources of information.
  • Differences between Sikhism and Christianityoffsite PDF file See also: Points of contactoffsite PDF file
  • Search Gurbanioffsite The sacred verses of Sri Guru Granth Sahib are called Gurbani, which means the Guru’s word or the song messages enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. This search engine provides results from the Sikh holy scripture and other Sikh writings.
  • Sikh Calendaroffsite maintained by the BBC
  • Sikhs at a Crossroadoffsite Provided by Religion Link, a resource of the Religion Newswriters Association. Includes links to resources on Sikhism for reporters.
  • Timeline: Hate Crimes Against Sikhs in the U.S.offsite After a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, the Wall Street Journal posted this timeline on its blog (Aug. 6, 2012)

    Since the attacks on the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2011, Sikhs living in the U.S. have reported a rise in attacks, verbal as well physical. Many Sikhs say that one of the reason they’ve been targeted is that attackers mistake them for Muslims, a community that saw a spike in hate crimes in the wake of 9/11.

    Around 700 cases of violence and discrimination against Sikhs have been reported since 9/11, according to the Sikh Coalition, which promotes the rights of Sikhs in the U.S.


  • All About Sikhs — Your Gateway to Sikhismoffsite A comprehensive web site on sikhism, sikh history and philosophy, customs and rituals,sikh way of life, social and religious movements, art and architecture, sikh scriptures,sikh gurudwaras.
  • Sikh Foundation Internationaloffsite ”The Sikh Foundation was founded in 1967 to promote the heritage and future of Sikhism”
  • Sikhismoffsite Billed as the largest online resource on Sikhism
  • Sikhs.orgoffsite “The Worlds First Sikh Website”
  • SikhNetoffsite Provides a global virtual community for Sikhs and all those interested in the Sikh way of life
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This post was last updated: Aug. 6, 2012