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Ragmala Controversy

INTRODUCTION

Imagine!

Imagine for a moment what the consequences would be if, early in the 20th century, a dispute erupted within the scholastic ranks of Sunni Islam over the canonicity of the last 12 chapters (surahs) totalling exactly 60 verses of the Qur’an, from Surah an-Naas (Mankind – chapter 114) to Surah al-Asr (Time – chapter 103). That is to say, the leading scholars of Islam were at loggerheads over the actual divine origin of said chapters.

Imagine further the publicity such a dispute would generate. United by a common cause, Orientalists and non-Muslim academics the world over would be driven by a concerted effort to further undermine Islam by hurling accusations of internal scriptural corruption while demanding answers to the inevitable question over the Qur’an’s divine origin. The controversy would be propagandised in such a way as to maximise the spread of doubts and create as much confusion within the Muslim Ummah (nation) as possible.

Of course, such a scenario is beyond the realms of possibility given that the Qur’an is the only religious scripture to have remained completely uncorrupted and preserved in toto since the time of its standardisation under the auspices of the third Caliph, ‘Uthmaan bin ‘Affaan.

The author of the Qur’an, Allah Almighty, pledges the following in regards to His Scripture:

We have indeed sent down adh-Dhikr (meaning: the Qur’an), and most assuredly shall We guard it (from corruption and change). (Qur’an 15:9)

The classical commentator, Ibn Jareer at-Tabari, said of this verse:

Allah is saying that it is We Who have sent down the Dhikr, i.e. the Qur’an, and We will guard the Qur’an against anything false being added to it that is not part of it, or anything that is part of it being taken away, whether that has to do with rulings, capital punishments or matters to do with inheritance. [1] (bold ours)

This guarantee of preservation is another example of an internal textual evidence proving the divine origin of the Qur’an since it serves as a falsification test against those who deny its claim to Truth.

And truly, it (the Qur’an) is an honourable, well‑fortified, respected Book. Falsehood cannot approach it from in front of or from behind it; (it is) sent down by the all‑Wise, worthy of all praise (Allah). (Qur’an 41:41-2)

Have they (the disbelievers) not considered the Qur’an with deep deliberation? Had it been from anyone other than Allah, then indeed they would have found in it many inconsistencies/ contradictions. (Qur’an 4:82)

But, what has this got to do with Sikhism, you might ask? The answer is that a direct equivalent to the above hypothetical scenario actually exists as an ongoing dispute raging within Sikhism over the divine origin of a compositional prayer of twelve verses, running into sixty lines, called the Ragmala.

This can be found on the final two pages of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. Over the past century this prayer has become the issue of a major dispute between fractions of the Sikh community. [2]

Our aim in this paper is to detail the key players at the forefront of the Ragmala controversy along with some of their respective arguments, both for and against its inclusion in the canon of Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS).

THE RAGMALA CONTROVERSY RAGES ON

kehadhae kachae sunadhae kachae kacha(n)aee aakh vakhaanee ||
The speakers are false, and the listeners are false;
those who speak and recite are false.
–   Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Ang 917

The Ragmala debate is an ancient one that “has been the subject of controversy for more than the last three centuries” and “caused great damage to the Sikh Panth [nation] which is divided on the issue”. [3]

The dispute only really gained widespread exposure when Sikh scholars began to take textual criticism and the study of their ancient manuscripts more seriously. According to Prof J.S. Grewal “[t]he early twentieth century witnessed some new developments in relation to Guru Granth Sahib” [4] which included “scriptural manuscripts [that] had come into sharp focus by the mid-twentieth century”, [5] and which culminated in the publication of “a new edition of the Granth Sahib without the Ragmala … printed by the Panch Khalsa Diwan for limited circulation …. A significant feature of the controversy about the Ragmala was the evidence of old manuscripts used, both for and against the inclusion of the Ragmala in Guru Granth Sahib”. [6]

Despite the scholastic establishment’s best efforts in keeping the dispute from spilling over into the public domain, and thus minimising the risk of confusing the lay masses, it has, from time to time, reared its ugly head and kicked up a storm of controversy.

What is perhaps arguably the most damaging and paradoxical aspect of this controversy for Sikhdom is that the Ragmala opponents have maintained their position in the face of two major hurdles:

  • The inclusion of the Ragmala in the officially authorised canon of SGGS published by the Akal Takhat in Amritsar, the highest political institution of Sikhdom.
  • And the incorporation of concessions in the Sikh’s Rehat Maryada (Code of Conduct), as ratified by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), for its recitation during bhog – the ceremonial completion of the continuous reading of SGGS known as Akhand Paath.

The Rehat Maryada downplays the real impact of this dispute by euphemistically calling it a mere “difference of opinion within the Panth”:

Akhand Path (Uninterrupted Non-stop Completion of the Reading of the Guru Granth Sahib)
… Concluding the Reading
Article XI 

(a) The reading of the whole Guru Granth Sahib (intermittent or non-stop) may be concluded with the reading of the Mundawani or the Rag Mala according to the convention traditionally observed at the concerned place. (Since there is a difference of opinion within the Panth on this issue, nobody should dare to write or print a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib EXCLUDING the Rag Mala). Thereafter, after reciting the Anand Sahib, the Ardas of the conclusion of the reading should be offered and the sacred pudding (Karhah Prashad) distributed. [7] (bold, underline, capitals ours)

Similarly, Surinder Singh Bakhshi repeats:

Raag Mala is sometimes omitted according to local convention since there is a difference of opinion on its authenticity within the Panth. [8]

However, it would simply be disingenuous to understate the true import of this controversy by using language that succeeds in creating the false impression that this issue is somehow equivalent to, say: the difference of opinion over whether the prohibition of cutting hair in Sikhism is restricted to the hair on one’s head or extends to include all body hair (covered in our rebuttal of Project Naad’s Paramdeep Bhatia: Project Naad Faces a Hairy Problem).

Since the Ragmala controversy has to do with the very authenticity of SGGS, its alleged divine origin and Sikhism’s claim to truth, Sikh academics should, for the sake of upholding intellectual integrity, call a spade a spade no matter how much it may rock the boat. They should take a leaf out of the page of Prof Pritam Singh’s book who, rather than mincing words, was starkly honest in his appraisal of the Ragmala “composition around the authenticity of which has been raging a bitter controversy among the Sikh intelligentsia”. [9] (bold ours) Sweeping this under the carpet as, say, Dr Kashmir Singh [10] has attempted will not make the problem disappear.

It is of significant importance to note that in regards to the Ragmala’s inclusion in SGGS, Sikh scholars of great repute are to be found on either side of the divide. This has invariably resulted in a major impasse for which a reasonable compromise, let alone a definitive solution, seems to be a far distant reality.

As Kartar Singh Duggal observes, “its inclusion has been a subject of controversy for a long time”, [11] while Gopal Singh recognises that “its authorship … is still in dispute”. [12]

And in view of the fact that this affair has spanned over a period of a few centuries, the scholarly altercation over this issue has, unsurprisingly, been a convoluted and drawn out affair. Having said that, however, what stands out as perhaps the single most important dividing line in this dispute is that the Ragmala is found in a number of early extant manuscripts at the head of which is the Kartarpuri Bir (recension), considered by many as the earliest and arguably the most important of all extant manuscripts.

But, two bones of contention also surround the Kartarpuri Bir:

  • The first is whether this manuscript was indeed prepared under the supervision of the fifth Guru, Arjan – a subject we have examined in the paper titled: The Inauthenticity of the Kartarpuri Bir.
  • And the second, of course, is whether the Ragmala is part of it.

Prof Gurinder Singh Mann mentions that although “the traditional view accepts the Kartarpur Pothi as the manuscripts prepared under the supervision of Guru Arjan” the twentieth century saw “a group of influential scholars-G. B. Singh, Gurdit Singh, Inder Singh Chakarvarti, Piar Singh, Piara Singh Padam, Pritam Singh, and Randhir Singh-reject this position”. [13] (bold ours) For Mann, however, its authenticity is beyond doubt:

The fact that the Kartarpur Pothi contains the complete corpus of sacred Sikh literature with the exception of the hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur positions it as the most significant landmark before the compilation of the Adi Granth itself. [14]

Though Mann has been criticised by some for his associations with the controversial Hew McLeod, Prof Daljeet Singh concurs with Mann’s conclusions regarding the Kartarpuri Bir:

So far as the Kartarpuri Bir is concerned, it has since been examined by G.S. Mann of the Columbia University, USA, [15] and Pashaura Singh of the Toronto University, Canada, [16] and both of them have testified to its authenticity.

In sum, our analysis and examination of the Bir, the available material on the subject, and the statements of various authors lead us to the conclusion that the Kartarpuri Bir is incontrovertibly the authentic Aad Granth prepared by the Fifth Guru. [17] (bold ours)

Mann’s research further shows that all the manuscript copies made from the “final form” of the Kartarpuri Bir (see Table 1.1, below), which he categorises as branch 2, include the Ragmala. [18]

Table 1.1 - Manuscript (MS) copies from Kartarpuri Bir all of which include the Ragmala

Table 1.1 - Manuscript (MS) copies from Kartarpuri Bir all of which include the Ragmala

MS Date (CE)
2 1653
6 1666
10 1674
11 1674
12 1676
13 1679
15 1686
16 1687
18 1691
20 1692

The Ragmala, however, was also to be found in other manuscripts, such as, MS 1192 as revealed by Mann. [19]

In addition, Daljeet further accepts the inclusion of the Ragmala not only in the Kartarpuri Bir, but also the equally important Banno Bir:

According to the consistent tradition accepted by all concerned, there are certain writings and hymns present in the Banno Bir which are not present in the Kartarpuri Bir. These additional writings being unauthorised by the Guru, throughout the history and the tradition, the Banno Bir has been called the Khari or bitter Bir, meaning thereby that it is unauthenticated and not fit to be used for scriptural purposes. On this factual position there are no two opinions.

We shall now indicate the additional writing in the Banno Bir The [sic] total leaves of the Banno Bir are 467. Between folios 464 and 46 the following writings appear.

(1) Salok: Jit Dar Lakh Mohamda, (2) Ratan Mala, and (3) Haqiqat Raja Shivnabh Ki.

These appear towards the end of this Bir on 4 to 5 pages, starting from 465-A and extending to 467-A with Ragmala on page 467-B. The Ragmala is the last composition both in the Banno Bir and the Kartarpuri Bir. [20] The last pages of the Kartarpuri Bir do not suggest, either because of the presence of blank spaces, or scoring out, or obliteration by hortal, or otherwise, that there was or could have been the least intention to write these hymns, or co, [sic] positions in the Granth. [21] The Mundavani is on page 973/1, pages 973/2 and 974/1 are blank, and on page 974/2 is the ragmala. As such, there could never have been the possibility, nor could it ever have been contemplated, that these three writings requiring a space of over four pages could have been accomodated [sic] on the two blank pages 973/2 and 974/1. Both the tradition and the Banno family accept that these writings are unapproved and were not present in the Granth compiled by the Guru. [22] (bold ours)

While Kamalpreet Singh Pardeshi makes known a further 11 manuscripts, [36] bringing the total number of manuscripts that include the Ragmala to 14 (see table 2.1, below).

Table 2.1 - Number of manuscripts (MS) that include the Ragmala

Table 2.1 - Number of manuscripts (MS) that include the Ragmala

No. MS
1 Kartarpuri Bir [23]
2 Banno Bir [24]
3 1192
4 Booray Sandhu Bir [25]
5 Bir in Dehuradun [26]
6 Dehuradun Bir [27]
7 Bohut Bir [28]
8 Pindu Lalaa Bir [29]
9 Vasoo Bir [30]
10 Akhnoor Bir [31]
11 Kaangar Bir [32]
12 Aghan Sadi Bir [33]
13 Sarankay Bir [34]
14 Damdama Bir [35]

In spite of this, the following prominent Sikh academics consider it to be an interpolation, thus extracanonical, and, thus, intransigently continue to call for its complete removal from SGGS:

Kavi Bhai Santokh Singh; Pandit Tara Singh Nirotam; Giani Dit Singh and Prof. Gurmukh Singh of the Singh Sabha Movement; well known historian Gyani Gian Singh; Sadhu Gobind Singh Nirmala; Prof. Hazara Singh; J. C. Cunningham – the author of History of Sikhs; well-known historian Macauliff; Bhai Sahib Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha, the author of Mahan Kosh; Master Mota Singh; Master Mehtab Singh, Master Tara Singh, Gyani Sher Singh, Babu Teja Singh, Giani Nahar Singh, Principal Dharmanant Singh, Prof. Teja Singh, Principal Ganga Singh, Dr. Ganda Singh, Prof. Sahib Singh, S. Shamsher Singh Ashok Research Scholar of S.G.P.C., Pandit Kartar Singh Daakhaa, Principal Bawa Harkishan Singh, Principal Narinjan Singh, Prof. Gurbachan Singh Talib; Principal Gurmukhnihal Singh etc. [37]

Many of these academics consider the Ragmala to be the work of a Sufi – contemporaneous to Guru Arjan – by the name of Alim.

For example, over a century ago, celebrated scholar, Max Arthur Macauliffe, believed that “[a] Muhammadan poet called Alim in A.H. 991 (A.D. 1583) wrote a work in 353 stanzas generally from four to six lines each, called ‘Madhava Nal Sangit’ which purports to be an account of the loves of Madhava Nal and a lady called Kam Kandala. The Rag Mala, which forms the conclusion of the Granth Sahib and contains a list of the rags and raginis and their subdivisions, is a portion of Alim’s work extending from the sixty-third to the seventy-second stanza”. But, despite the brilliant work contained in his magnum opus: “It was not understood how it was included in the sacred volume.” [38]

Dalbir Singh Dhillon repeats Macauliffe’s reasoning:

It was borrowed from the work of Alam, a contemporary poet of Guru Arjan. Some scholars find it difficult to understand how the Rag Mala almost a literal copy of “the sixty-third to seventy-second stanza of Alam’s work came to be included in the sacred volume. The rags mentioned in the Rag Mala correspond with the twenty-two rags of the Granth Sahib. [39] [40]

While the controversial Prof Teja Singh went even further. According to Joginder Singh:

Babu Teja Singh, Overseer [sic] by profession, stormed the normal process of defining the gurmaryada, and collations and exegesis of the Adi Granth. He made the Singh Sabha Bhasaur (1893), and Pant Khalsa Diwan (1907) the centres of theological militancy. He published Rehat Parkash and edited Guru Granth Sahib removing the Ragmala. For which he was declared ‘tankhayia’ and excommunicated [41] from the Panth. [42]

Notwithstanding such an array of dissenting voices, supporters of the Ragmala have been pushed by the sheer weight of scriptural evidence, as evidenced above, in continuing to vigorously defend their position. These include:

Bhai Vir Singh; [43] Dr. Jodh Singh; Akali Kaur Singh; Giani Baba Gurbachan Singh (Jatha Bhindran); Damdami Taksaal, which unequivocally declares its position in its Gurmat Rehat Maryada; [44] Sant Samaaj “Society of Saints”, which was set up in the early 20th century; [45] Prof Daljeet Singh; Prof Gurinder Singh Mann; Prof Pashaura Singh; Takht Patna Sahib Jathedar Iqbal Singh; et alia.

INIMITABILITY AND MODE OF PRESERVATION

Then woe to those who write the Book (religious scripture) with their own hands,
and then say: “This is from Allah,” to traffic with it a miserable price!
Woe to them for what their hands do write,
and for what they gain thereby.
–   Quran 2:75, 79

It is incontrovertibly true that not only does a dispute over the canonical inclusion of the Ragmala currently pervade the academic ranks of Sikhdom, but that this damaging controversy is widespread and shows no signs of being resolved in the near future.

Only last year in 2010, Takht Patna Sahib Jathedar, Iqbal Singh, poured more fuel on the fire by “making Ramgala [sic] obligatory” while issuing an edict that “labeled those who do not recite it as “maha-paapi” (great sinners) and manmukhs”. [46]

In light of this ongoing dispute, it is extremely difficult to understand Gajinder Singh’s vacuous claim that “[t]he authenticity of Guru Granth as the perpetual and perennial Guru of the Sikhs has been questioned, debated and resolved in the four hundred years of its existence”? [47] (bold ours)

Similarly, after making mention of the fact that the Ragmala’s inclusion in SGGS “has been a subject of controversy for a long time”, Duggal paradoxically claims that “[t]he text in the Holy Granth had the utmost sanctity accorded to it since its compilation. Not even the change of a single syllable has been permitted. For a long time, the Sikhs would not permit the words in the text to be written or printed separately; they continued to be copied as a continuous text following the original [Kartarpuri Bir] done by Bhai Gurdas”, [48] who is said to have worked under the supervision of Guru Arjan as his amanuensis.

While Madan Singh wishfully maintains that “[i]t is now clear to the modern scholars as well as the general readers that Ragmala does not fall in line with the system adopted by Guru Arjan Dev in compiling and editing the holy Adi Granth Sahib in 1604 AD”. [49] This is simply untrue given the position of contemporaries that included Daljeet, Mann, Iqbal Singh, et al.

Furthermore, if it all really is “now clear”, then it begs the question over why the SGPC’s Rehat Maryada was, according to S.S. Kapoor, “changed by Jasbir Singh Rode, when he became the Jathedar of Akal Takht in 1984”, which effectively gave the green light for the Ragmala to be “read at the Akal Takhat Sahib”? [50] The only plausible answer is that there must have existed a significant contingent of pro-Ragmala supporters to warrant such a change; otherwise why the necessary proviso?

The problem is that those who declare the Ragmala to be an apocryphal composition undermine the seemingly delusional claims made by Duggal, Gajinder, Madan, and many other Sikhs that “[n]ot even the change of a single syllable has been permitted” or that the problems have been “resolved”. [51]

Duggal states that “[m]any fingers were raised about Guru Arjun Dev’s modus of selection, and sorting of hymns of Gurus and bhakts, about the originality of Mul Mantra itself and the concluding Raag Mala“. (bold, underline ours)

We, however, assert that these fingers should continue to be raised against both Guru Arjan and Gobind Singh. This is premised on the fact that a controversy of this magnitude, which continues to plague Sikhdom to this day, would not have occurred had the compilational process, overseen and coordinated by said Gurus just over 400 years ago, not been so damningly flawed as to allow for interpolations. The blame, thus, goes back to none other than Guru Arjan and Gobind Singh.

And yet Duggal continues to intransigently defend his Gurus:

Guru Arjun Dev’s original manuscript of the Adi Granth is preserved at Kartarpur, and many people, including scholars worldwide have seen it repeatedly and critically, counted the hymns and pages, many experts have checked the quality of paper used, and handwriting experts have compared the insertions, deletions, additions and style. It has been discussed thread bare, and today, it is a happy position that most of the possible queries have already been settled, although the researchers have, in their fashion of the so-called scientific study of the issue, overlooked the point that Guru Arjun Dev was vested with the authority to compile the Granth. He had inherited the mantle of Guru Nanak’s seat and mission and the sacred writings of the Gurus, and was within his absolute rights to not only compile, but to correct, examine, verify and edit the available material including its arrangement and assignment of ragas, ghars, and meters of the poetical standards and to catalogue its numbering, when and where necessary. He was, himself, a major contributor of its contents, finally incorporated into the Pothi Sahib, and he was quite aware of any possibility at interpolation by detractors. The authenticity of the Granth was, therefore, ensured by the authorship of the fifth Nanak and not due to the certification of the so-called scientific researchers.

Pothi Sahib or the Granth was further checked and edited by Guru Gobind Singh, who decided to add the sacred hymns of Guru Tegh Bahadur and put the seal of finality on the completed volume. [52] (bold ours)

But again, how aware really were Gurus Arjan, Gobind Singh, and the rest of the Sikh community? Evidently not nearly enough to prevent such a controversy from arising. Moreover, rather than undermining the efforts of these “scientific researchers”, Duggal should, on the basis of honest intellectual and academic rigour and advancement, be applauding them for their hard work in bringing all this to light.

Allah says concerning those who hope for the truth never to be disclosed:

And do not mix up the truth with the falsehood, NOR ATTEMPT TO HIDE THE TRUTH WHILE YOU KNOW (IT).  (Qur’an 2:42)

There is also the vitally important question of the relative ease with which both interpolations were surreptitiously incorporated into and rival texts established in competition against SGGS. In this regard, Madan states:

A bird’s eye view of Sikh history shows that from the very beginning of the Sikh movement there have been some who worked to interpolate into the holy verses of the Sikh Gurus. Quite a number of versifiers had cropped up even during the lifetime of the Gurus who would write verses in the style of the Gurus and would mislead the Sikhs. [53]

This raises the following two problematic questions:

  1. The pursuit to interpolate extraneous material into SGGS “from the very beginning of the Sikh movement” brings into question the mode of preservation and compilation of the textus receptus of Sikhism, i.e. how foolproof was it?
  2. The writing of apocryphal material “in the style of the Gurus”, which culminated in Sikhs being misled, brings into question the inimitability of SGGS, i.e. were the so-called words of God imitable?

Not only does Madan answer question two by acknowledging the existence of competing Granths, but Santokh Singh in his 19th century mangum opus on Sikh history and philosophy, Gur Pratap Suraj Granth, specifically makes mention of Priti Chand’s Granth, which was of such a high linguistic calibre that it apparently succeeded in confusing many a Sikh folk:

One day Guru Arjan was giving a religious discourse, whilst sitting in a congregation. A Sikh prayerfully submitted to the Guru that Prithia (Prithi Chand, the elder brother of the Guru) and others were making poetry under the authorship of Guru Nanak. This created great confusion in Sikhs, as for an average person it was difficult to discriminate between the genuine Gurus’ Word and apocryphal literature. He prayed to the Guru to do something so that Sikhs might have access to the pure and genuine Gurus’ Word. On hearing this, another Sikh also stated that according to Guru Amar Das, all others save the Gurus’ Word was false, but how were the Sikhs to overcome this delusion. [54] (bold ours)

The rhetorical nature of the first question on the other hand is proven by the inclusion of the Ragmala. In fact, Madan openly acknowledges:

These attempts to subvert the Sikh doctrine are not confined to some distant past either. To our shock in the 21st century, it was discovered that within Gur-Bilas Patshahi Chhevin, there contained many utterances that were considered by many a Sikh scholars to be contrary to the Sikh theology. The book has since been banned. It takes centuries to sift truth from myths. [55] (bold ours)

As a side note, one could add to the Gur Bilas Patshahi Chevin 6 and 10 the bitter controversy that also surrounds the Dasam Granth allegedly authored by Gobind Singh, which we have covered in our article: Erotic Tales of the Dasam Granth.

Returning to the point at hand, Madan continues to affirm:

The few instances given above will help the reader to understand that some unscrupulous persons had been at work in the past, as some are indulging even today in the same dirty game of subverting the Sikh theology as well as the Sikh history. Inclusion of Ragmala in the hand-written versions of the holy Adi Guru Granth Sahib may also be seen from that angle. [56]

The critical question is this: should it really take “centuries to sift truth from myths”? The answer hinges on how foolproof and robust the preservational and compilational process of a scripture was.

In regards to the preservation of the Qur’an, we find that a falsification test over its inimitability was presented as a challenge to the disbelievers by none other than God Himself. Muhammad  ‘Abdullah Draz eloquently explains both the challenge, the failure in meeting it, and the overall implications:

Indeed, history records that the Arabs themselves failed to produce anything like the Qur’an even in the same period of its revelation, which is universally recognised as the time of their highest linguistic abilities and their finest literary achievements. …

But when the Qur’an was revealed … None of them could challenge or compete with it, or even suggest that a single word be changed, moved, added or omitted from the sentence where it occurs. Yet the Qur’an did not close the door to competition. Indeed, it left it wide open, calling on them, individually and collectively, to take up its challenge and produce anything similar to it. It repeated the challenge in different forms, berating their inability to do so, and reducing the task for them time after time. It required them first to come up with a similar book, then asked them to produce ten surahs [chapters] like it, then one surah only, then it asked them to produce a surah comparable to it; i.e. a surah which resembled the Qur’an in one way or another, as if to say: ‘You are only asked to produce something that bears some similarities, vague as they may be, to the Qur’an.’ This is indeed the lowest level to which such a challenge can be reduced. Hence, chronologically, this was the last challenge to be made, as it occurs in Surah 2, which was revealed in Madinah. The previous challenges all occur in the Makkan revelations. This is a subtle, but important difference.

The challenge, however, goes further than this. Each time, they are expressly allowed to seek the help of anyone they care to call in for support. It then tells them in the most emphatic way that they will still be totally incapable of meeting the challenge: “If all mankind, and all the jinn, would come together with a view to producing the like of this Qur’an, they would not produce its like even though they were to exert all their strength in aiding one another.” (17: 88.) “If you are in doubt regarding what We have bestowed from on high upon Our servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah comparable to it, and call upon anyone other than God to bear witness for you, if what you say is true. And if you cannot do it – and most certainly you cannot do it – then be conscious of the Fire whose fuel is human beings and stones which awaits those who reject the truth.” (2: 23-24.)

Consider this challenge carefully and look at how provocatively it is expressed. It states a final verdict of total failure at all times: “And most certainly you cannot do it.” …

The revelation of the Qur’an was then completed, with the challenge still standing for anyone who wanted to try. …

Generations followed generations, and the Arabic language passed on to new folk. However, the latter have been even more powerless to meet this lasting challenge. They have recognised that they are no match for it. Their own admission is added to the testimony history gives of their predecessors. The proof of their inability is two-fold: a conscious realisation and a rational argument proving that no one can ever produce anything similar to the Qur’an. This will remain true to the end of time. [57] (bold, underline ours)

Such was the language employed by the Almighty and such was the strength of the challenge that even the suggestion of a contemporaneous scripture on a linguistic par with the Qur’an was, and still is, unthinkable.

As for the mode of preservation and compilation, then Druz explicates:

In fact, it is called ‘The Qur’an’ because it is actually read by mouth, and it is called ‘The Book’ because it is written down with pens. Both names are derived from what actually takes place with regard to it. The fact that these two descriptions have come to be treated as names of the Divine Book refers to its rightful treatment which requires that it be kept and preserved in two places instead of one: people’s memories and the pages of a book. Thus, should an error find its way into one, the other will correct it. We do not trust what a reciter learns by heart unless it is confirmed by the written text which has been unanimously approved by the Prophet’s Companions and which has come down to us, through the generations, in its original form. Nor do we trust the writings of any scribe unless it is confirmed by what scholars who memorise the Qur’an have shown to be its correct version through uninterrupted chains of reporters.

This double care, which God has ensured, imparts to the Muslim community a keen desire to keep the Qur’an intact, in conscious following of the Prophet Muhammad’s guidance. This exceptional care has ensured that the Qur’an remains in an unassailable position with regard to its accuracy and purity from all distortion. This is a practical aspect of the fulfilment of God’s promise to preserve the Qur’an in its original form, as is clear in His statement: “It is We Ourselves who have bestowed from on high this reminder, and it is We who shall truly preserve it [from all corruption]’.” (15: 9.) Hence, it has remained free from all manner of distortion, corruption and interruption of reporting …. [58]

Efforts in passing this dual falsification test, i.e. the Qur’an’s inimitability and its foolproof mode of preservation and compilation, have, in fact, been attempted by a few deludingly ambitious characters. However, all have met with utter failure and, on occasions, humiliation.

CONCLUSION

The SGGS fails this dual falsification test because, firstly, material in imitation of SGGS was so convincing that it succeeded in duping other Sikhs into believing it was Gurbani; and secondly, the Ragmala was, according to “G.B. Singh in his book ‘Pracheen Biran Bare’ … included later on when the Sikh Panth was fighting a battle for its own existence and there was nobody to stop these unknown subverts from playing this mischief”. [59] Such an explanation seems irrelevant, however, since it does nothing to address the all important question of why it took until the advent of the twentieth century for these glaring interpolations to suddenly dawn upon Sikhdom?

Madan alludes to this point by conceding that although “the Nirmalas and the Udasi-Sadhus looked after the Sikh shrines as well as Sikh theology during their struggle for existence in the eighteenth century. It took another century to realise that a mischief had been played. In the early 20th century modern Sikh theologians and the conventional Sikh saints were vertically divided on the issue of Ragmala. Modern Sikh scholars considered it anathema, while others looked upon Ragmala as something sacred without giving any reasonable argument”. [60] (bold ours)

The answer to the question of why it took so long to discover this interpolation is because the mode of preservation and compilation of SGGS was completely and utterly flawed and useless. It would, therefore, be self-defeating to attribute anything flawed to God while recognising Him to be absolutely perfect and flawless. Hence, this inherently flawed process must be ascribed to none other than the Gurus. Given that God’s divine scripture is flawless and perfect while SGGS is flawed, thus, both the divine origin of SGGS and claims that the Gurus received revelation are proven to be false.

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

[1] Tafseer At-Tabari, 14/8.
[2] K.S. Pardeshi (2009), Raagmala A Spiritual Composition, (DTF Publishers and Distributors, Birmingham), p.7.
[3] M. Singh (2002), Ragmala: a re-appraisal in context of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, (Perry Bar, Birmingham), p.8.
[4] D. Singh (2004), Guru Granth Sahib among the scriptures of the world, (Guru Gobind Singh Department of Religious Studies, Publication Bureau, Patiala), p.28.
[5] Ibid., p.30.
[6] Ibid., p.28.
[7] SGPC (2006), The Code of Sikh Conduct and Conventions, (sgpc.net, 5 Oct).
[8] S.S. Bakhshi (2009), Sikhs in the Diaspora, (Sikh Publishing House, Birmingham), p.130.
[9] S.S. Bhatia; A. Spencer (1999), The Sikh Tradition: A Continuing Reality (Essays in History and Religion), (Publication Bureau Punjabi University, Patiala, India), p.75.
[10] K. Singh (1997), Sikhs and Personal Law, (Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, Seminar Nov.):

The community already does not have the unanimous view on certain important points like Ragmala, Nitnem, Mulmantra; so we should avoid adding any new controversy, and rather try to unify the community as far as possible.

[11] K.S. Duggal (1988), Philosophy and Faith of Sikhism, (Himalayan Institute Press), p.43.
[12] G. Singh (1960), Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Vol.1, (Allied Publishers), p.xix.
[13] G.S. Mann (2001), The Making of Sikh Scripture, (Oxford University Press, New Delhi), p.67.
[14] Ibid., p.68.
[15] Fn.12: Wawley, J. S. and G. S. Mann: Studying the Sikhs, State University of New York Press, 1993.
[16] Fn.13: Pashaura Singh: Ph.D. Thesis, Tronto [sic] University, 1991, p.232.
[17] D. Singh (1987), Essays on Authenticity of Kartarpuri Bir and the Integrated Logic and Unity of Sikhism, (Publication Bureau Punjabi University, Patiala), p.695.
[18] G.S. Mann (2001), op. cit., p.81.
[19] Ibid., p.84.
[20] Fn.46: Pritam Singh’s Paper. Journal of Sikh Studies, op. cit. pp. 109-112.
[21] Fn.47: Jodh Singh: Kartarpuri Bir De Darshan. pp. 121-122.
[22] D. Singh (1987), op. cit., pp.38-9.
[23] K.S. Pardeshi (2009), op. cit., p.34: This is regarded as the first or initial compilation of the Granth written under the guidance of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji and scribed by Bhai Gurdas Ji at Ramsar. This is now in the hands of the Sodhi descendants in Kartarpur. This contains the text of the Raagmala in the same pen as the rest of the scriptures.
[24] Ibid.: Bhai Bhanno was a great Sikh who was given the task to get the original Aad Granth bound and have a copy made. The copy is now known as Bhai Bhanno Walae bir and contains the Raagmala along with the signature of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji.
[25] Ibid.: This is a Granth which Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji gained a Hukumnama from prior to a battle. Booray Sandhu was a disciple of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji. This Granth was written by Bhai Milkee under the guidance of Bhai Booray Sandhu. Within the Granth is written that whoever is be blessed with a glimpse of this Granth will gain a glimpse of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji. This Granth contains the signature of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji and also contains the Raagmala.
[26] Ibid.: This Granth can be found in the hermitage of Baba Ram Rai. This is the Granth that was sent to Delhi along with Ram Rai when he went into the presence of Aurangzeb. This Granth belonged to Sri Guru Har Rai Ji and contains his signature along with the Raagmala.
[27] Ibid., pp.34-5: This Granth belonged to Punjab Kaur who was the wife of Baba Ram Rai. This Granth contains the Raagmala.
[28] Ibid., p.35: This Granth contains the signature of Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji along with the Raagmala.
[29] Ibid.: This Granth was compiled a month after the martyrdom of Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji. This Granth also contains the Raagmala.
[30] Ibid.: This Granth was created during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh Ji and contains the Raagmala.
[31] Ibid.: This Granth is still under the protection of the Udasis and contains the Raagmala.
[32] Ibid.: This was created in Kiratpur in the 17th century and has the Raagmala within it. This also contains the signature of Sri Guru Har Krishan Ji.
[33] Ibid.: This was created 21 years after the disappearance of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. This also contains the Raagmala.
[34] Ibid.: This Granth is also in the safekeeping of the Udasis and contains the Raagmala.
[35] Ibid.: This Granth contains the Salok Mahalla 9 including one of the Salok’s under the title of Mahalla 10. This also contains the Sri Raagmala.
[36] K.S. Pardeshi (2009), op. cit., pp.34-5.
[37] Sikh Answers (2010), What do you know of Raagmala?, (accessed: Feb 17, 2016).
Despite the page having been removed, it can be accessed here at Internet Archive.
[38] M.A. Macauliffe (1909), The Sikh Religion Vol.3, (Clarendon Press, Oxford), pp.64-5.
[39] Fn. 52: M.A. Macauliffe, op. cit., Vol. Ill, p. 65. Macauliffe writes that a Muhammadan poet named Alim (1583) wrote a work in 353 stanzas called ‘Madhava Nal Sangit’ (p.65). A small portion from this work is included in the Granth Sahib, called Rag Mala. Some other authorities on Sikh history and religion do not feel that sure. They arc of the opinion that due to lack of material it is not possible to ascertain the authorship of Rag Mala.
[40] D.S. Dhillon (1988), Sikhism Origin and Development, (Atlantic Publishers and Distributers, New Delhi), p.315.
[41] D. Singh (2004), op. cit., p.28:
According to Darshan Singh:

Under the leadership of Babu Teja Singh, the Panch Khalsa Diwan of Bhasaur raised the issue which gave rise to a serious controversy. In fact, a new edition of the Granth Sahib without the Ragmala was printed by the Panch Khalsa Diwan for limited circulation. The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee supported the critics of the Panch Khalsa Diwan and resolved to excommunicate Babu Teja Singh in the late 1920s.

[42] J Singh (1999), Sikh Leadership: Early 20th Century, (Guru Nanak Dev University), p.61.
[43] S.S. Kapoor (2008), The Sloaks of Guru Tegh Bahadur & The Facts about the Text of Ragamala, (Hemkunt Press, New Delhi), p.62:

According to Dr. Bhai Vir Singh, the ragamala recorded at the end of Guru Granth Sahib was composed by Guru Nanak Dev.

[44] Raagmala, (Damdami Taksaal, The Official Website, Rehat Maryada – Page 27):

Raagmala
The spiritual light of the 10 Guru Sahibs is enshrined within Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee and thus the commandments of Gurbani are to be adhered to. From ‘Ik Oa(n)kaar…’ to ‘At(h)arah Das Bees.’ Gurbani is to be accepted as the Guru.

Raagmala was authored by Guru Jee, first Sri Guru Arjan Dev Jee Maharaj got Bhai Gurdas Jee to write an edition of Aad Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee – in which Raagmala is present, it is written in the same ink, on the same quality paper and in the same handwriting as the rest of the Gurbani, this edition is now at Sri Kartarpur Sahib (Doaba). Bhai Bano Jee copied that edition, which also includes Raagmala. Sri Guru Gobind Singh Jee Maharaj at Takhat Damdama Sahib got Bhai Mani Singh Jee to be scribe, Guru Jee dictated the whole of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee in which Raagmala is present, it is also present in the 4 editions written by Shaheed Baba Deep Singh Jee. Those that argue the poet Jodh wrote Raagmala in ‘Madavanal Kamkandla’ or that the poet Alam wrote it, in actual fact are mistaken. The poet Jodh wrote ‘Madavanal Kamkandla’ in Sanskrit in the Hijra year 991 (Muslim calendar), which is 1640 Bikrami in which Raagmala is not present.

The poet Aalam was one of Satguru Sri Guru Gobind Singh Jee’s 52 poets, he lived from 1712 Bikrami to 1774 Bikrami. He wrote the Raagmala according to what he heard spoken in the court of Sri Guru Gobind Singh Jee. The poet Aalam lived 113 years after the first edition of Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee was compiled – how do some argue that he wrote Raagmala 113 years before the first edition? From this it is clear that Guru Sahib wrote Raagmala. Bhai Sahib Bhai Vir Singh Jee in Sri Gur Partap Suraj Granth from 2128 Ang to 2133 Ang in detail explains why Raagmala was authored by Guru Jee. If one were to read Giani Sahib Singh’s (Dhamdan Sahib) detailed discourse about the authenticity of Raagmala no confusion and doubt would be left and one would surely be convinced that Raagmala was written by Guru Jee and that it is Gurbani. There is also a small book called “Raagmala Gurbani Hai”, published by Damdami Taksal, which details the spiritual meaning of Raagmala and has arguments for any point that has ever been raised against Raagmala’s authenticity. For these reasons each and every Gursikh should accept Raagmala as Gurbani without any doubts.

[45] Sikhism101.com (2010), op. cit.
[46] Panthic Correspondent (2010), Akal Takht Jathedar Rejects Iqbal Singh’s Ragmala ‘Edict’, (Panthic.org, 23 Aug).
Translation of Giani Iqbal Singh:

Those who don’t believe in Raagmala are Manmathees: Giani Iqbal Singh

Amritsar, 19 August (Sukhvinderjit Singh Bahoro): Singh Sahib Giani Iqbal Singh the jathedar of Takhat Siri Patna Sahib, while making the issue of Raagmala public, has released a Hukamnama which gives order to the Sikh Sangats to take away the Saroops of Siri Guru Granth Sahib jee from such Gurdwara Sahibs where Raagmala is not read. Giani Iqbal Singh the jathedar of Takhat Siri Patna Sahib in a statement said that at Takhat Siri Patna Sahib a special meeting of Punj Pyare was held and it was unanimously decided that in Gurdwaras where Raagmala is not read, the Sacred Saroops of Siri Guru Granth Sahib jee should be taken away from there.

[47] G. Singh (2004), Guru Granth – Guru Panth, (Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh; Seminar Nov).
[48] K.S. Duggal (1988), op. cit.
[49] M. Singh (2002), op. cit.
[50] S.S. Kapoor (2008), op. cit., pp.62-3.
[51] M. Singh (2002), op. cit.
[52] G. Singh (2004), op. cit.
[53] M. Singh (2002), op. cit.
[54] S. Singh (1996), About Compilation of Sri Guru Granth Sahib (Adi Birh Bare), (Lok Sahit Prakashan, Amritsar; Global Sikh Studies), pp.17-8.
[55] M. Singh (2002), op. cit., p.9.
[56] Ibid.
[57] M.A. Draz (2001), The Qur’an, An Eternal Challenge, (The Islamic Foundation, UK), pp.69-70.
[58] Ibid., pp.3-4.
[59] M. Singh (2002), op. cit., p.9.
[60] Ibid.

2 comments

  1. RaagMala should not have been added at pages 1429-1430 because it is neither uttered under any Mahla or Bhagat jee nor concludes in the name of “Nanak”. Out of (31) Raags, nine raags are not mentioned, though
    various Raags are included. Readers may wish to read Book “Mundavani” by Giani Gurdit Singh and “RaagMala Parchole” by Giani Surjit Singh, New Delhi. Since its establishment, SGPC has been creating problems rather than resolving in the light of Gurus’ Teachings.

    • You’re missing the forest for the trees Gurmit because what you or your Giani cannot explain away is how such a huge, protracted controversy has managed to engulf orthodox Sikhdom when your alleged holy book is supposed to have been compiled and apparently preserved by your Gurus. It cannot explain away how the Ragmala appears in your oldest extant manuscripts.

      The irony? The fact that you’ve been compelled to leave a comment citing our readers to reference a book attempting to placate this controversy is additional proof of how divisive this controversy really is.

      The Qur’an hasn’t suffered from anything like this controversy that has no resolution is in sight! Doesn’t that say anything to you?

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