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Neglectful Guru Nanak

INTRODUCTION

An e-book titled: Rebuttal to Guru Nanak’s Expendable Wife and attributed to the defunct website www.SikhingTruth.com, was quietly published on the Sikh Sangat forum in response to our article: Nanak’s Expendable Wife, which originally sought to expose Guru Nanak’s flagrant neglect of his wife’s marital rights during his long proselytising missions to places afar.

Unfortunately, red herrings are used aplenty in an attempt to divert attention from the underlying issue at hand. In setting aside these diversionary arguments for a separate paper, we will, instead, dive straight into deconstructing Sikhing Truth’s “rebuttal”.

GURU NANAK – FATHER AND HUSBAND?

Sikhing Truth claims:

So for Muslims to infer that Guru Nanak’s message to humanity regarding the treatment of women is in some way uncompassionate is simply not true. However, it should be mentioned that in Islam, the number of quotes which highlight women as bad exceed the number of quotes which highlight women as good and noble. We will give just one example below as more are given in the second half of the essay. (p.5)

As to whether Guru Nanak’s message is uncompassionate or not is something we shall ascertain during the course of this response. For the moment, however, to infer that the treatment of women in Sikhism is better than Islam’s based on the crude assumption that the latter has a greater number of unfavourable hadiths towards women is nothing short of a hasty generalisation. There are close to 100,000 hadiths that have been recorded by Muslim chroniclers; the only way Sikhing Truth can prove their assertion is to disclose a statistical breakdown of all these allegedly unfavourable “quotes” in comparison to the favourable ones. Such an endeavour would be a mammoth task for even the greatest hadith scholars alive today; but, perhaps Sikhing Truth will surprise us yet.

Certainly from a historical perspective it was true that the husband was usually the bread winner and he would use his money to support his family whereas the wife of the family would help to rear the children. However in Sikhism this role can be reversed and also shared. i.e. both men and women could work and both share the responsibility of bringing up the children or if it is the case that the wife has a better and more stable job then it would equally be acceptable that the wife is the breadwinner and the husband brings up the children. Sikhism is not about “rules”, it is about living our lives with purity and honesty. Flexibility with regards to family lifestyle is a feature of that spiritual lifestyle. With regards to Guru Nanak’s family there was nothing that the family did not have in terms of food, clothing, housing etc. Everything was provided by God himself while Guru Nanak was educating the world on Dharma and while Mata Sulakhani was looking after the Dharmic comunity [sic] in India. (p.6)

Sikhing Truth misses the forest for the trees by bringing up issues that really have nothing to do with anything. Our contention is not whether there was enough food to feed Nanak’s family nor whether the wife could have been a genuine breadwinner, but whether Nanak could have fulfilled his marital rights in regards to physical and emotional intimacy. God may have provided the amenities for living, but only Nanak could have provided the intimacy and emotional support of a husband and father to his wife and children, respectively. What type of a beau ideal is one who showed more concern with travelling in search of converts to his cause than spending that precious time with his wife and children?

Eventually Sikhing Truth put forth the following apologetic in defence of their Guru:

The Guru lived with his wife up until his early 30’s so he remained with his family for the first 12 years and his sons would have been around 10 before he set of for his first Udasi. When Guru Nanak Dev Ji disappeared for 3 days, Sikh history records that Mata Sulakhani complained of his absence to her sister-in-law Bebe Nanaki. What this incident demonstrates is that Mata Sulakhani had enough self-esteem and courage that she was not afraid to speak to her sister-in-law regarding the actions of her husband. In the customs of those days, that was not easily done. However Mata Sulakhani took the initiative to tell Guru Nanak’s family as well as her own, that he was missing and that she was unhappy about this. So it is reasonable to assume that if she had complained regarding Guru Nanak’s 3 day absence then she would have also complained about Guru Nanak’s absence when he was absent on his long Udasis if she was unhappy in any way. However there is no such record in Sikh history. (p.7)

Firstly, Sikhing Truth’s claim that Nanak “lived with his wife up until his early 30’s” where his “sons would have been around 10 before he set of [sic] for his first Udasi” seems questionable.

Although Max Arthur MacAuliffe opined in his magnum opus that “[t]here is very little known regarding Nanak’s married life excepting that he begot two sons, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das,” [1] it is generally accepted that Nanak was born in 1469 CE. Similarly, it is usually proposed that Nanak’s enlightenment occurred in 1499 CE (although the date 1496 [2] and 1497 [3] CE have also been forwarded) when he was “thirty years old”, [4] which so far ties in with Sikhing Truth’s suggestion that he “lived with his wife up until his early 30’s”. We also know that Sri Chand, Nanak’s oldest son, is said to have been born in 1494 CE. [5] Teja Singh and Diwan Chand Sharma also agree with this birth date and go on to suggest that “Sri Chand was only three years old, when his father left home and went away to preach in distant countries”. [6] This means that Nanak would have been around 27 before he set off in 1497 – three years before his alleged revelatory experience. According to the generally accepted historical account, Nanak’s father, Mahita Kalu, allowed him to travel to Sultanpur – minus his family – where he was appointed as a storekeeper by the governor, Daulat Khan Lodhi. It was during this time, which could account for the remaining three years, when “Nanak used to go to the neighbouring Bein river and perform his ablutions” that “[o]ne day after bathing Nanak disappeared in the forest, and was taken in a vision to God’s presence” [7] to allegedly become enlightened. This account is far more accurate in reconciling the aforementioned chronology than Sikhing Truth’s vacuous claim that Sri Chand was “around 10” before Nanak set off for his travels.

In any case, let us remind Sikhing Truth of the various durational stints undertaken by Nanak to better put things into perspective. Nanak’s first adventure lasted for “twelve years”. [8] According to Prof Devinder Singh Chahal, he spent “11 years” [9] in the Middle East.  In all, “Nanak’s travels lasted twenty-eight years”, [10] with approximately five years accounting for the sum total that would include two other journeys: one “towards the South” [11] and a “third towards the North. Penetrating the Himalayas, he went up to Tibet. [12]

As we said in our refutation of Bijla Singh:

Sulakhani is usually taken to be around four years his junior. Hence, when Nanak’s so-called enlightenment occurred in 1499 C.E. at the age of “thirty years old”, [13] Sulakhani was around 26 years of age. With Nanak having practically abandoned his wife and children by spending an inordinate amount of time travelling the wilderness during his udhasis (proselytising mission) – accounting for a staggering 28 years of his remaining 38 years of life (1469-1538/9CE), poor Sulakhani was, from the age of 26, without the company of her good husband.

With this in mind, is Sikhing Truth inferring that Sulakhni’s apparent silence over the course of 28 years somehow proves that she was sexually and emotionally satiated, or that she never felt lonely and missed her husband?! All things being equal, that is to say if Sulakhni did indeed have normal propensities and tendencies as any other human, such an explanation should be an insult to one’s intelligence. It is far more reasonable to assume that a woman who has any feelings of love and compassion towards her husband would most certainly feel unhappy at some point during such a long wait.

As a matter of fact, Sulakhni was far from silent. Before Nanak’s father bid him bon voyage, his wife remonstrated against his decision to leave in an emotional exchange recorded by MacAuliffe below:

The other members of Nanak’s family also unanimously approved of his decision. Nanak’s wife alone, on seeing him make preparations for his journey, began to weep, and said, ‘My life, even here thou hast not loved me; when thou goest to a foreign country, how shalt thou return?’ He answered, ‘Simple woman, what have I been doing here?’ Upon this she again entreated him, ‘When thou satest down at home, I possessed in my estimation the sovereignty of the whole earth; now this world is of no avail to me.’ Upon this he grew compassionate, and said, ‘Be not anxious; thy sovereignty shall ever abide.’ She replied, ‘My life, I will not remain behind; take me with thee.’ Then Nanak said, ‘I am now going away. If I can earn my living, I will send for thee. Obey my order.’ She then remained silent. [14] (bold, underline ours)

Sulakhni wept and felt anxious even before her husband’s departure; what must have she been experiencing as he gallivanted across the wilderness for 12 years? Moreover, if a combination of weeping and anxiety over his absence is not a sign of her being “unhappy”, then pray tell what is? In fact, Sulakhni, according to this account, goes so far as to question his love for her on the basis of him going away to a “foreign country”. His response: “OBEY MY ORDER,” upon which she “remained silent”! The cold and callous nature of this exchange perfectly ties in with our overall contention that Nanak did not care enough for his family to remain behind and fulfil his marital and parental rights. And if the negative reaction of Nanak’s wife against his travels was not enough, what hope would his mother-in-law have? Even less it seems for according to Dr Kirpal Singh, the Bala Janamsakhi [15] reveals her reaction as follows:

Guru Nanak’s mother-in-law was greatly upset with Guru Nanak on account of his going on long tours. Only this version gives us the unique relationship of mutual love and affection between Nanak and his sister. The conversation of Bibi Nanaki with the mother-in-law of Guru Nanak is very natural and realistic and her complaint about Guru Nanak’s indifference for homely affairs was understandable.[16] (bold, underline ours)

Sikhing Truth then makes the bizarre claim:

An empty accusation to suggest that Guru Nanak’s wife was sexually unsatisfied serves no purpose without being backed by historical facts as we have done with the life of Muhammad in the second half of the essay. (p.7)

It is truly astonishing to witness the depths to which people will stoop to in blindly defending their faith. Sulakhni was 26 years old when Nanak undertook his first 12 year udhasi, and would have been, like any other normal woman, at the prime of her sexual life. Now, unless Sulakhni resorted to what in Islam is referred to as the “secret act” [17] to satisfy her sexual desires (there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that she was unfaithful), then it seems reasonable to abductively infer that she would have been “sexually unsatisfied”.

The obvious purpose in us bringing this crucial point to everyone’s attention is to highlight that Nanak’s neglect of his wife’s marital rights was in direct violation of the purpose and sacred nature of the institution of marriage.

As for the “second half of the essay”, which comprises of nothing save red herrings, then as we said we would deal with this in a separate paper, insha’Allaah (God-Willing).

Immediately after expressing such an out-of-touch and disconnected explanation in defence of Nanak, Sikhing Truth then has the audacity to question the humane time limit that Islam sets to protect Muslim women from being sexually neglected or their rights related to marital conjugation being curtailed:

The logic of some Islamic laws is very much out-of-date and in some cases just odd. With the above example what is the significance of 4 months? Why is it not 5 months or 3 months? Also sexual relations between couples are still a “sensitive” topic only with Muslim couples because they still live with rules which are 1400+ years out of date. Most couples don’t have problems talking about sexual matters. (p.8)

This coming from a religion whose founder laid down the dangerous precedence for Sikh males to emulate in the future. Our answer is very simple: better to have some limit than no limit at all; better to protect the rights of a married woman than not to at all. In the case of Islam and Sikhism: better to have a limit of four months than a potential limit of 12 years! After all, it is pretty difficult to communicate with a husband who is not present in one’s life for over a decade!

In regards to the precedence established by Nanak, Sikh husbands could potentially choose to proselytise for as long as Nanak’s longest stretch of 12 years. In the case of Islam, however, no husband can wilfully neglect his wife for longer than four months.

Hence, it seems to us that the 1400+ year old law, which stipulated a reasonable time limit, is much closer to protecting the institution of marriage and all that it stands for than the inhumane precedence set by Sikhism’s beau ideal, Guru Nanak.

Sikhing Truth asserts:

It is unfortunate that Islam does not provide as good an opportunity to women for spiritual development as it does to men. This is why Muslim women remain weaker in their spiritual practice and why the author has said “Today we find men holding back from their women for long periods of time thereby placing her at risk of committing adultery.”. It highlights the Islamic view that women should remain subservient to men and that women are indeed weaker than men, which is why the above opinion regarding women is very much “women will commit sin”. This form of weakness is not a characteristic of Gurmukh women. (pp.8-9)

This argument suggests that Muslim women are weaker than men in their spiritual practice because they are subservient to them and, therefore, more prone to committing sins.

Neglecting a wife’s right for long periods of time and thereby exposing her to the risk of committing adultery is certainly a very real and present threat. And in highlighting this in regards to women is in no way a denial of it being equally applicable to men, but rather to keep it contextually relevant to the overall argument, i.e. wives’ rights being neglected.

Although Sikhing Truth makes the naive claim that “this form of weakness is not a characteristic of Gurmukh women”, unfortunately for them, not all Sikh women nor the rest of the female population of the world are Gurmukh. Hence, our observation was in relation to the vast majority of normal women who have all the weakness and frailties of normal people, and not these exaggeratedly idealistic notions of superwomen who can guarantee never falling into adultery or fornication.

The laws of Islam came to facilitate and help maintain a balanced way of life by inculcating within people practices that would not force them towards extremes. It did not come to compel mankind towards the adoption of extreme, unnatural and incredulous ways in life. And it is certainly unnatural and extreme to expect wives to put a cap on their natural urges and desires by replacing their right to physical and emotional intimacy with 12 years of so-called “spirituality” under the guise of being a so-called Gurmukh. It would seem more beneficial to be a Manmukh in this regard if it means not going to such extremes in one’s socio-spiritual and religious practices.

Sikhing Truth then takes exception to two of the three basic purposes of sex as delineated by Ibnul Qayyim:

  1. Expulsion of the water (semen), which may cause harm to the body if it is retained.
  2. Fulfilling physical desires and enjoying physical pleasure. This alone is the feature that will be present in Paradise, because there will be no producing of offspring there, and no retention which needs to be relieved by ejaculation.

With regards to the first, Sikhing Truth produces a number of alleged evidences from Taoist and Hindu sources in defence of the suggestion that:

Sikhs do not support the idea that Semen is harmful if retained within the body and no scientific theory supports this. In fact the opposite is considered true. (p.9)

It seems that Sikhing Truth has misunderstood what Ibnul Qayyim meant by the need to expel the water. It is known a priori that the longer one waits the stronger the sexual urge becomes. This could, thus, lead to a person becoming more inclined towards fixedly staring at women with the intent of desire, or resorting to the “secret habit” of masturbation, which, in general, is prohibited in Islam.

The test is to fulfil these natural urges and desires through the correct channels made permissible by Allah. If one is unable to do this, then the challenge is to protect one’s chastity by keeping away from everything that may lead to immorality, such as, looking at women, or focusing on thoughts that may provoke and increase this desire.

As for the second, Sikhing Truth flippantly states:

No one denies that sex is pleasurable. Indeed Indians regard sex as an art and have created a manual for this art which as you know is called the Kama Sutra. Sex in heaven however is alien to Sikh thought. This may be why Muslims have such an emphasis on sex during their earthly lives. (p.11)

We know this very well. In fact, Guru Gobind Singh knew this too since he too made mention of a similar sex manual, the Koka Shastra, in his Dasam Granth.

But, getting back to the issue at hand, then Ibnul Qayyim never said that anyone denies it and neither did we; what we said is that Nanak was not a very good role model in this and all other interconnected areas mentioned above, and the reason for us citing Ibnul Qayyim was to highlight that Islam presented a far superior role model who, as Ibnul Qayyim is quoted as saying, “brought the most perfect guidance”. In this regard, therefore, what on earth has Kama Sutra, heavenly sex and Muslims alleged emphasis on sex got to do with anything? The answer is: nothing.

SRI CHAND – NANAK’S UNRULY SON

Pirthi Chand, who himself wanted to be the Guru, entered into collusive arrangement with the masands [Sikh Provinces], and pretended that he was the real Guru.

As for the question of how the children of Nanak would have felt seeing their role-model leave them for years on end, Sikhing Truth reasons:

The older son of Guru Nanak Dev Ji joined the mission to spread Sikhism and he helped to propagate the faith. Indeed Baba Siri Chand (the older son) accompanied Guru Nanak Dev Ji on his Udasis to Nepal and Baba Siri Chand inscribed the book of the Golden Letters which is still in Nepal in a Gurdwara which was setup by Rana Bahadur Shah the King of Nepal. The descendents of Guru Nanak Dev Ji are still very pious followers of Sikhism and there is nothing to suggest that the sons of Guru Nanak were unhappy with their father when he left to educate the world on Dharma. (pp.11-2)

What Sikhing Truth conveniently overlooks and fails to mention is that Sri Chand too was overlooked by his father for Guruship because of his unworthiness and for a creed that was antithetical to the Nanakian world view.

According to Teja Singh, “Sri Chand was the eldest son of Guru Nanak. … [who] was only three years old, when his father left home and went away to preach in distant countries”. [18] Given that Nanak spent 12 years away on this first trip, Sri Chand only got to see his father next when he was an adult of 15 years of age. In other words, for the most part of his youth and the start of his adult life, he did not have the important influence of a fatherly figure in his early years of development. Whether such an absence had an adverse affect on Sri Chand is debatable; what is not debatable is that Nanak certainly failed to bring Sri Chand up in the way that a father would be expected to.

The Sikh Encyclopedia reveals that, in fact, “Sri Chand from the very beginning loved solitude and, as he grew up, he developed indifference to worldly affairs” (bold ours), and that after Nanak completed his travels, Sri Chand “rejoined the family … [but] retained his preference for the life of an ascetic” (bold ours). [19] The Encyclopedia of Sikhism suggests the same thing:

Right from childhood he had a mystic bent of mind and as he grew up he became an ascetic, never married and ultimately founded the ascetic order of Udasis. [20]

Now, whether this reclusive attitude was there “from the very beginning” or a character blemish that slowly materialised as a reaction to his father’s extended absences is again difficult to say with certainty. However, Sri Chand was certainly not the ideal and obedient son Nanak would have desired.

According to Dr Sulakhan Singh:

Baba Sri Chand was the first to stake his claim to the gurgaddi [Guruship] of his father, Guru Nanak. He raised the voice of a protest by not accepting the principal of nomination to succession (criterion of selection for the Guru) set forth by Guru Nanak and subsequently followed by his successors without any break. Even, by not recognising Guru Angad as the first disciple successor of his father, Sri Chand, became successful in dividing the social constituency of the Sikh Gurus, to some extent. [21] (bold ours)

While Surjit Singh Gandhi records:

On Guru Nanak’s death in 1539 CE, Guru Angad left Kartarpur and established his seat at Khadur near the river Beas. Sri Chand, the elder son of Guru Nanak, was not happy at being overlooked in favour of Angad. Guru Angad, to avoid open clash with the son of Guru Nanak, retired to the house of an old Sikh, Bibi Bhirai, of village Sanghar. …

On ascendance of Guru Arjan to gurgaddi, Pirthi Chand, who himself wanted to be the Guru, entered into collusive arrangement with the masands [Sikh Provinces], and pretended that he was the real Guru. Baba Budha was one of those disciples who with resoluteness denounced Pirthi Chand, and foiled his cunning attempts to usurp the gurgaddi. It was primarily due to the lead provided by Baba Budha and Bhai Gurdas that Pirthi Chand did not succeed in bringing about schism among the Sikhs, although he had tried hard. Guru Arjan held Baba Budha in high esteem. [22] (bold ours)

Similarly, The Encyclopedia of Sikhism confirms:

Baba Sri Chand never reconciled to Guru Angad becoming the second Guru of Sikhs and a successor to his father. In fact, he kept on criticizing him. [23] (bold ours)

This insubordination and the schism that followed was of such magnitude that Sri Chand was even scolded in SGGS. According to Sikhiwiki:

Nanak’s sons did not obey His Word; they turned their backs on Him as Guru. [24]

In Guru Granth Sahib on page 967, Satta and Balwand state that the sons of Nanak did not follow the path of their father and that they “turned his ear” against the “ambrosial path” of Nanak i.e against Gurmat (Guru’s way) and wandered along other paths, so they were not chosen as his successor or as teachers of Gurmat, but Bhai Lehna was.

Guru Arjun inserted the composition containing the above tuk (line) by bards Satta and Balwand in Guru Granth Sahib under Ramkali Bani.

It important to note that Sri Chand did not marry or lead a life of a “Gristi” (householder) which are important consideration of Gurmat. Further the use of Occult and supernatural powers (“ridhia, sidhia”) is not supported by Gurbani. [25], [26], [27], [28] (bold, underline ours)

Prof Daljeet Singh candidly reveals:

Each Sikh was made to accept his social responsibility. So much so that Guru Angad and finally Guru Amar Das clearly ordered that Udasis, persons living a celibate and ascetic life without any productive vocation, should remain excluded from the Sikh fold. As against it, any worker or a householder without distinction of class or case could become a Sikh. This indicates how these two principles were deemed fundamental to the mystic system of Guru Nanak. [29] (bold ours)

Baba Sri Chand never reconciled to Guru Angad becoming the second Guru of Sikhs and a successor to his father. In fact, he kept on criticizing him.

The heterodox Udasi order was established by none other than Sri Chand, who, as stated above, “did not marry or lead a life of a ‘Gristi’ (householder)”. It would certainly be a plausibly strong argument to say that if Nanak was present in Sri Chand’s life early on – guiding and assisting his development – then perhaps he would not have gone off the rails. Of course, responsibility lies with one’s household first. Given that Nanak did not “lead a life of a ‘Gristi'” himself, can anyone be surprised to learn that his son did not give due importance to being a householder, but in stead preferred the life of a hermit?

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Love of his [Nanak’s] parents, his sister, his wife, or his children did not prevent him from undertaking long travels, at times lasting several years.

There also exists evidence from the janamsakhis supporting the case that Nanak’s insouciance towards leading a life of a gristi was something innate. These accounts reveal that Nanak’s parents “saw that he was not interested in any worldly vocation” and so “thought of his marriage” as a quick-fix solution. But not even marriage could cure his general aloofness towards being a responsible spouse:

Guru Nanak did not show much interest in business or worldly affairs even after his marriage. He remained restless, as ever before. He would meet saints and faqirs visiting Talwandi and had dialogue with them. On return home, he simply kept quiet and would lie down. It was a matter of deep anguish for the parents that Nanak who was now a married person did nothing to earn livelihood but instead went about with saints and faqirs. They apprehended that he might not turn to the life of an ascetic. They also felt scared of the taunts of the people: who say that Kalu’s son was good for nothing. Thus, the parents always impressed upon him the need to take up some useful vocation. (bold ours)

Kirpal Singh further records:

Vilayatvali Janamsakhi records: “he felt interested in nothing, cared not for home.” “Members of the family said that he goes about with the faqirs” (Puratan Janamsakhi, p. 8 of App., J.S.P.). The Miharban account (p. 70 of App.) says: “as he got married, he maintained silence, spoke nothing.” “Then he stopped talking and developed indifference towards household life. The mind of Guru Nanak did not show concern for worldly matters.”

The Vilayatvali Janamsakhi (p.12 of App., J.S.P.) says: “Then the entire family felt sad and said that ‘he had gone crazy.’ Then Guru Nanak’s mother came. She said, ‘Leave these foolish things, [sic] People laugh at us saying that Kalu’s son is good for nothing.'” [30] (bold ours)

In fact, so apathetical was he towards familial responsibilities that when his father encouraged him towards this vocation by giving him twenty rupees, instead of investing it in some business transaction as a responsible breadwinner would be expected to, Nanak lopsidedly reasoned that “what else could be a better deal than providing food to the hungry holy men. Thus spending the entire amount on feeding the hungry mendicants, he returned home” empty handed. Of course, the responsible and, as can be imagined, concerned father was none too pleased:

When Mahita Kalu learnt this, he was much annoyed because he had given him money to do some good business transaction and not to feed the ascetics. Nanak was also well aware of his father’s temper and instead of going straight to home, he hid himself under a huge tree in a dry pond beyond the woods a little away from the village. [31]

Moreover, so averse was Nanak to the life of a gristi that by the age of 20, six years before his first official udhasi, he is said to have shamelessly “asked his father’s permission to go on a pilgrimage. Mahita Kalu did not accede to this request. Instead he said: ‘We have just performed your marriage. There is lot of time to do pilgrimages.’ Hearing this, the Guru kept quiet”. Dr Kirpal cites:

Bhai Mani Singh’s Janamsakhi (p.110, App. J.S.P., 337) says: “Baba one day asked Kalu that his mind is on going for a pilgrimage. Kalu replied: “Son, you have just got married.” This shows that the idea to travel through the country had come to Nanak during his stay at Talwandi, but it could be translated into reality only after the Bein episode at Sultanpur. [32]

Eventually Nanak decided to travel to Sultanpur for employment opportunities and join his brother-in-law, Jai Ram, an employee of Daulat Khan:

When Jai Ram learnt that Nanak did not feel interested in any worldly vocation, he wrote a letter to Mahita Kalu suggesting that Nanak be sent to Sultanpur. Maybe, he felt at home there. He even hinted at trying for a job for him. Before the receipt of this letter Mahita Kalu had already tried to put him in varied vocations but had failed.

However, given Nanak’s failure as a breadwinner, his wife’s reaction towards his decision was far from supportive:

When Guru Nanak was about to leave Talwandi, his wife was sad and began weeping. She said, “What will become of me? Though you were despondent in Talwandi but I had the satisfaction that you were at home. Now you set out for a far off place. God knows when you would return home or may not return AT ALL. [33] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

Sulakhni’s apprehensive outburst is nothing short of extraordinary. Her suspicion over whether her husband is intending to return at all indicates that she had very little, if any, confidence and trust in him. Given Nanak’s itchy feet in wanting to leave home with Mardana for pilgrimage, his preference in keeping company with the faqirs and engaging with them while remaining silent at home, and his failure as a breadwinner, Sulakhni’s reservations seem completely justified especially seeing her husband’s responsibilities being fulfilled by another man, viz. Bhai Budha. H.R. Gupta reveals:

Whenever Guru Nanak went on a preaching tour in the neighbouring villages, Bhai Budha took care of the Guru’s household, and served Mata Sulakhani, Sri Chand and Lakhmi Das like a true devotee. [34] (bold ours)

When Guru Nanak was about to leave Talwandi, his wife was sad and began weeping. She said, “What will become of me? … God knows when you would return home or may not return AT ALL.

And since Bhai Budha did his best in fulfilling Nanak’s personal duties during his visits to neighbouring villages, it stands to reason, thus, that this would be more applicable when Nanak went for his longer and more distant tours outside the country.

What is worse is Nanak’s hypocrisy. Having neglected fulfilling the role of a gristi, Daljeet divulges that “[w]hen Guru Nanak sent Guru Angad from Kartarpur to Khadur Sahib to start his mission there, he advised him to send for the members of his family and live a normal life. According to Bhallah, when Guru Nanak went to visit Guru Angad at Khadur Sahib, he found him living a life of withdrawal and meditation. Guru Nanak directed him to be active as he had to fulfill his mission and organise a community inspired by his religious principles”. [35] Such instructions would have been rich coming from a man who for 28 years was absent from his family’s life let alone present, but living a life of seclusion and withdrawal. In addition, given that this was not a “normal life”, ergo, Nanak must have been living an atypical/ abnormal life.

In this context, we posed the following question in our original article:

What is worse, the one engaged for years in carrying out a task at only the expense of his own well being, or the one engaged for years in a task at the expense of not only his own well being, but others who have a greater right over his time than the said task?

To which Sikhing Truth answered:

The above argument only holds true if the Gurus family were in some way caused undue suffering due to the absence of Guru Nanak. However, all their needs were met by their extended family and their disciples as well as his wife who was the head of Sikhism in India. (p.13)

Although the key word “suffering” has been left undefined, it would be reasonable to assume, if Nanak’s wife and children loved him dearly, that his family must have missed him immensely. Given that there is no substitute for the love of a father and husband, they must have “suffered” somewhat in this regard. We know this to be true vis-á-vis the aforecited story of his wife Sulakhni anxiously weeping when coming to learn of his departure to Sultanpur.

However, it is fallacious to mix the categories over the family’s reaction to Nanak’s absence and Nanak’s responsibility towards them. No amount of apologetics vis-á-vis the family’s reaction to his extended absences, or the suggestion that “everyone understood the importance of Guru Nanak’s mission”, (p.13) can vindicate Nanak’s irresponsible behaviour and the violation of his family’s inviolable rights. That is the inescapable bottom line; and to, therefore, insist that “Sikhism is truly the middle path and is regarded as the ‘religion of the householder'” is certainly a case of compounded ignorance at least in relation to Guru Nanak.

It is simply an exaggeration to say that “all their needs were met by their extended family”; could an extended family tend to the emotional, physical and/ or sexual needs in a way only a husband and father could? Of course not.

We again repeated the questions of “[w]ho would have tended to her sexual needs during those 12 years, let alone 28- years of combined travel … [and] [h]ow was she satisfying her personal needs?”

Sikhing Truth’s facetious response is that such questions are merely “a desperate attempt to find a flaw with the Truth revealed by the Sikh Gurus or the lifestyle of the Gurus”. Our equally tongue-in-cheek response would be that the word “desperate” is, indeed, a fitting term that sums up the importance of this question!

As for our claim that Nanak’s failure as a husband was a type of “oppression” that would “place the woman at risk of committing illegal sexual actions”, Sikhing Truth counters:

Something can only be considered oppression if it done [sic] against the will of another person. However, this is not the case with Guru Nanak. (p.14)

On the basis of this ridiculous argument, Sikhing Truth would be forced to concede that any sexual behaviour against a child who does not have the full faculties of reason and comprehensibility, and therefore is incapable of exercising the will to resist, is not oppression.

Take the deplorable example of Sati, where for centuries Hindu widows customarily carried out the practice of being burnt to death by throwing themselves on their dead husband’s pyre. Did the Gurus consider this oppression? Yes. Were these women being forced against their will to commit Sati? No. Hence, going by Sikhing Truth’s logic, this was not oppression and the Gurus were, essentially, wasting their time for attempting to phase out a non-oppressive act.

It is, simply put, a ludicrous argument which opens the doors for the justification of all sorts of evil actions, including a husband and father neglecting his family’s rights.

Sikhing Truth ends their rebuttal by saying:

The idea that a woman is at risk of committing illegal sexual actions if she is not satisfied sexually is very much the Islamic view of women which looks at them as feeble, weak and dependent on males. (p.14)

And to repeat, this observation of a wife, and for that matter a husband, being at greater risk of committing illegal sexual acts if neglected by their partner is well known. In the West, this problem is so widespread and well documented that only someone living in cloud-cuckoo land could suggest that only Islam sees such a clear connection between sexual satisfaction and neglect, and the associated benefits and harms.

However, in the larger context, Sikhing Truth again fails to see the forest for the trees by isolating this from the over all point of discussion, which is that this could potentially place any wife at risk if her husband fails to fulfil her marital rights.

This is not the case with Gurmukh women who are independent and strong and who have conquered their passions. (p.14)

“Conquered their passions” – unfortunately, it is these types of radical make-believe views that place whole communities at risk.

Also to assume that one needs to have sex in a relationship to satisfy personal needs again shows the lack of spiritual depth and spiritual experience in Islam. (p.14)

Again, we never suggested that sex is the only thing needed to satisfy personal needs.

The experience of Oneness with God can be experienced while living the life of a householder and also while living as an ascetic. However, doing it within a family environment is more difficult but the recommended lifestyle for a Sikh. (p.14)

And this point is neither here nor there.

In their conclusion, Sikhing Truth make the following appeal to the Muslims:

No one has ever and never will achieve salvation without becoming the disciple of Guru Nanak Sahib. Therefore, we appeal to the Muslims to give up backward old aged teaching of Islam and adopt true way of life set forth by Guru Nanak Sahib, which brings peace and salvation.

Let no one wander in doubt in the world. Without the Guru, no one can cross over. (Ang 864) (p.26)

It is strange how Sikhing Truth can expect anyone to follow a man who was such a poor role model in respect to his family. This appeal is based on an apologetic stance that carries no weight whatsoever. Claims similar to the following that “the Sikh Gurus were compassionate and loving towards their wives too” (p.5) cannot hide the indisputable fact that Nanak neglected his marital rights.

CONCLUSION

Go and ask the deserted bride, how she passes her night.
– Guru Granth Sahib 1379:9

We end this rebuttal with what K. S. Duggal said, that “[a]s a man, he [Nanak] was sensitive, kind-hearted, but never sentimental. He was fair and correct. Love of his parents, his sister, his wife, or his children did not prevent him from undertaking long travels, at times lasting several years.” (bold, underline ours). [36]

The reality is that Guru Nanak did not love them enough to be there for them as a truly responsible, conscientious and caring father would be expected to.

In their response, Sikhing Truth also raked up the usual accusations against Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). However, these have been ignored in this counter precisely because they have nothing to do with the subject matter at hand and thus serve as red herrings.

Subhanakallaahuma wa bi hamdika, ash-Shahaadu al-Laa ilaaha illa Ant, astaghfiruka wa atoobu ilayka.

[1] M.A. MacAuliffe (2008), The Sikh Religion, Volume 1, (Forgotten Books), p. 90.
[2] Prof Daljeet Singh believes the year of Nanak’s enlightenment to be 1496 CE:

He was married in 1487 and was blessed with two sons, one in 1491 and the second in 1496. …
By all accounts, 1496 was the year of his enlightenment when he started on his mission.

– (Eds.) D. Singh, K Singh (1997), Sikhism – Its Philosophy and History, (Institute of Sikh Studies, New Delhi), p. 356. 

This means that Sri Chand would have been around five years of age before Nanak departed for his Udhasi.
[3] Both Harbans Singh and Mohinder Singh state:

According to the Sikh sources it was in 1497 that Nanak, then just 28 years of age, received “the Divine call,” his “Revelation” or his “Enlightenment.

– H. Singh, (Ed.) M. Singh (1988), Prof. Harbans Singh Commemoration Volume, (Prof. Harbans Singh Commemoration Committee), p. 54.

Surinder Singh Johar agrees to this:

He left Sultanpur in 1497 after his enlightenment. “The Janamsakhis state that Guru Nanak revisited Talwandi twelve years after he had left Sultanpur. Having regard to the fact that there is a custom among Sanyasis of revisiting their birth-place twelve years after their initiation, this statement may be accepted as true.”

– S.S. Johar (1969), Guru Nanak, A Biography, (New Book Co.), p. 140.

[4] S.S. Brar (2009), The First Master Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1539), (sikhs.org).
[5] SikhiWiki, Baba Sri Chand, (sikhiwiki.org, Encyclomedia of the Sikhs).
The Sikh Encyclopedia, Sri Chand, Baba, (thesikhencyclopedia.com).
[6] T. Singh, D.C. Sharma, Highroads of Sikh history, Volumes 1-3, (S. Singh), p. 8.
[7] M.A. MacAuliffe (2008), op. cit., pp. 93-4.
[8] K.S. Duggal (1987), Sikh Gurus: Their Lives and Teachings, (Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the U.S.A), p. 21.
[9] D.S. Chahal (20087), ‘HOW LONG WAS GURU NANAK’S TRAVEL TOWARDS MIDDLE EAST?‘, (PhD, Institute for Understanding Sikhism), p. 36.
[10] P. Singh, The Sikhs, pp. 22-3.
[11] K.S. Duggal, op. cit., p. 23.
[12] Ibid., p. 24.
[13] S.S. Brar (2009), op. cit.
[14] M.A. MacAuliffe (2008), op. cit., p. 93.
[15] A Janamsakhi is a writing collating anthologies of the stories told of Guru Nanak.
[16] K. Singh (2004), Janamsakhi Tradition: An Analytical Study, (Singh Brothers, Amritsar), p. 44.
[17] Masturbation.
[18] T. Singh, D. C. Sharma, op. cit.
[19] The Sikh Encyclopedia, op. cit.
[20] H.S Singha (2005), The Encyclopedia of Sikhism (over 1000 entries), (Hemkunt Press, New Delhi), p. 188.
[21] S. Singh (2000), Heterodoxy in Sikhism: An Exposition Of Some Sectarian Developments, (Department of History, Guru Nanak Dev University, Presented in International Sikh conferences 2000), p. 3.
[22] S.S. Gandhi (2007), History of Sikh Gurus Retold: 1606-1708 C.E. Vol.2, (Atlantic Publishers & Distributors), p. 1075.
[23] H.S Singha (2005), The Encyclopedia of Sikhism (over 1000 entries), (Hemkunt Press, New Delhi), p. 188.
[24] S.S. Khalsa, SGGS, (srigranth.org, Gurbani CD), p. 967.
[25] Ibid., p. 593:

Riches and the supernatural spiritual powers of the Siddhas are all emotional attachments; through them, the Naam, the Name of the Lord, does not come to dwell in the mind.

[26] Ibid., p. 17:

You may adopt a lofty name, and be known to have supernatural spiritual powers.

[27] Ibid., p. 225:

He may be called a Siddha, a man of spiritual perfection, and he may summon riches and supernatural powers.

[28] SikhiWiki, Baba Sri Chand, op. cit.
[29] (Eds.) D. Singh, K Singh (1997), op. cit., p. 363.
[30] K. Singh (2004), op. cit., p. 62.
[31] Ibid., p. 63.
[32] Ibid., p. 64.
[33] Ibid., p. 66.
[34] H.R. Gupta (2008), History of the Sikhs – The Sikh Gurus 1469-1708, (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi), p. 361.
[35] (Eds.) D. Singh, K Singh (1997), op. cit.
[36] K.S. Duggal (1987), op. cit., p. 34.

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