Paradoxical Theology of Sikhism

We received the following polite inquiry from Narayan Nurayn who believed our charge against the dual concepts of Nirgun-Sargun being a theological contradiction, and thus false, might be flawed. In response, we drew his attention to a number of prominent Sikh academics and their understanding of this paradoxical orthodoxy in an attempt to prove that our position was not simply predicated on a mere etymological interpretation, but a broader conceptual one.

Hi, I appreciate very much your use of logic in debating with the Sikhs. I can’t identify myself as a baptized Sikh, but still I would like to understand more your position on the Sargun-Nirgun.

In short, I do not see that these terms are being clearly enough defined. As far as etymology is concerned, does the terms [sic] simply collapse into a no-attribute/yes-attribute dichotomy?

This strict dichotomy where the two states are interpreted as bipolar opposites is how a number of prominent Sikh scholars have understood and interpreted it. For instance, as quoted in the article: Attributeless Waheguru, Prof Trilochan Singh makes a clear distinction between what he calls “two metaphysical Truths”:

[E]kang (i.e. the numeral one) and oamkar are two different concepts standing respectively for the transcendent Self-Existent Being and the Immanent All Prevading [sic] spirit. The first is the Supreme and Absolute Being and the second is the creation out of His own Spirit. They are NOT one and the same but stand for two metaphysical Truths, which are fundamental to Sikh Cosmology. [1]

Rajinder Kaur too accepts that “God is also transcendent because the immanence of God is NOT IDENTICAL with the WHOLE being of God” [2] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours). In other words, the immanent aspect has a nature that is unique enough to make it entirely distinct from and dissimilar to the nature of the whole. What is more, she is forced to divide the two natures with respect to God’s temporal relationship with creation by acknowledging that while the part of God beyond space-time is atemporal the other is temporal:

God is before space-time, after space-time and, also, in space-time. God as beyond space-time is named as ‘Adesh’ and ‘Akal’; while God in space-time is named as ‘Sarbatr Desh’ and ‘Sarbatr Kat’. [3] (bold ours)

Now unless someone believes in one identical and indistinguishable nature of God that is both temporal and atemporal, the only logical conclusion must be that there are two essential natures of God.

Likewise, Rajinder Kaur Rohi holds the following:

It is the manifestation of God Himself in the forms and the inner essence of creation. … He Himself exists in the creation as the very essence of it. But, at the same time God is UNMANIFEST, transcendent, FORMLESS, in His purely essential nature. [4] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

The very definition of the law of non-contradiction holds that a proposition and its negation are false at the same time and in the same respect. This is precisely what Rohi affirms that the two natures of God – one being the immanent manifestation of God that exists in creation as its very essence while the other being the “unmanifest, transcendent, formless” aspect of God who exists “in his purely essential nature” – exist at the same time, but as non-identical natures.

Prof Daljeet Singh goes into some detail regarding the indelible relationship between what he refers to as the “attributive aspect (Immanence) of God”, which in Islam is called the Transitive Attributes of God, i.e. those attributes that require an object (for more information, read the section in our article: Attributeless Waheguru, titled: The Attributeless God), and His creation. It is worth exploring his position in some depth. He begins by stating that “God is both Transcendent and Immanent. He is both in the universe and outside it”. Daljeet continues by explaining what the Gurus meant by the term Transcendent:

That state of God is not to be envisaged in terms of limitless space or time but in terms of spacelessness and timelessness, i.e. something beyond the categories of space and time, something beyond a relative world. Actual space and time are the dimensions of a becoming, relative or changing universe. With these categories we understand and assess the Universe in which we live. The nature of God transcends all known categories with which we describe the universe. The Gurus again and again describe Him as Wondrous, Infinite, Unfathomable, Unknowable, Indescribable, Ineffable and Immeasurable by human categories of thought and perception. … We, therefore, cannot completely comprehend God who is beyond us and unconditioned and unfettered by those dimensions and limits. … Ultimately the Guru calls Him Wondrous the Wonder of Wonders, i.e. He is beyond description and comprehension or, ‘Wholly Other’ as described by Otto. “The mind alone can never know Him”. [5]

He Himself exists in the creation as the very essence of it. But, at the same time God is UNMANIFEST, transcendent, FORMLESS, in His purely essential nature.Rajinder Kaur Rohi

The Transcendent state of God is, therefore, atemporal, “Wondrous, Infinite, Unfathomable, Unknowable, Indescribable, Ineffable and Immeasurable”. Following the becoming of creation, Daljeet states that “[a]ccording to the Gurus, God creates the universe, then becomes Immanent in it, being at the SAME TIME Transcendent. … Thus, God is both Transcendent and Immanent. … He is SIMULTANEOUSLY Transcendent and Immanent” (bold, underline, capitalisation ours). But, the crucial point to note is that “[n]aturally, when the world is not there the question of His Immanence does not arise. That is why when there was no form, the Word (immanence) in essence abided in the Transcendent God”. Hence, while the “term Transcendent describes Him as ‘Wholly Other’,” the “Immanent aspect indicates the same God’s love for His creation … it emphasises God’s capacity for revelation, His nearness to Man and His deep and abiding interest in the world”. But, it is the aspect of God that is “flowing from His Immanent character” and through which He is described as “the Ocean of Attributes, Values and Virtues”, that “God has been described as full of all values, as Father, Mother, Friend, Brother, Enlightener, Protector, Shelter of the shelterless, Loving, Benevolent, Beneficent and Helper of the poor and weak”. In other words, it is not the “wholly other” Transcendent aspect of God that could have these values, since He is “Unfathomable, Unknowable, Indescribable, Ineffable and Immeasurable”, but rather the Immanent nature, which arises with the becoming of creation. This is what Daljeet says below:

The attributive aspect (Immanence) of God is extremely significant. It inextricably links God with the universe. It establishes beyond doubt the character and direction of Gods Will and Immanence. This leads to four important inferences. First, attributes and values can have a place only in a becoming, relative or spacio-temporal world, since all perfection is static and all qualities are relative. A God of Attributes has, thus, a meaning only in relation to the changing world of man. Evidently, for the expression of attributes, a changing universe is essential and becomes an integral part of the plan of God. In other words, God and the universe are conjoint and inter-linked, the latter depending on the former. It is IMPOSSIBLE to think of a God of Attributes or of His Immanence in the ABSENCE of a relative or changing world. That is why when God was by Himself, the question of ‘love and devotion, of good or bad actions, or of the saved or Saviour’ could not arise, there being nothing other than Him. [6] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

If it is inconceivable to think of a God of attributes in the absence of creation, then the attributive aspect of God, i.e. Immanence, could not have existed sans creation. This proves that for Daljeet, there are two separate and distinct aspects of God – a single aspect sans creation, and two bipolar aspects that came to be with the becoming of creation. This is also true of God’s Will, says Daljeet:

The Gurus conceive God as a God of Will. Everything is governed by His Will. … The entire universe is created, sustained, and moved according to His Will. … Just like the Attributes of God, God’s Will too can be exercised ONLY in a changing world and towards a goal. [7] (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)

Hence, it is not just restricted to, as you put it, a yes-attribute/ no-attribute dichotomy, but rather extends to encompass two contradictory natures of God.

In other words, are the terms genuinely functioning, philosophically, as polar opposites?

The above strongly seems to suggest this, yes.

Or, as it seems to me, are they functioning in a different way, meant in a different “sense” as they are being used?

Let’s further explore prominent Sikh scholar Wazir Singh’s conception of this counterintuitive theology with his exposition of the conception of creation:

The moment of transformation from the unrevealed to the revealed, from the unmanifest to the manifest, from the impersonal to the personal aspect, is the moment of creation. The pure, shapeless essence turns into cosmic existence, with all its contours and contents, evolutionary processes and infinite creative advances. What is potential in one phase becomes actual in the other. [8] (bold ours)

However, this transformation is not one where God transformed from one state to another in toto, but rather partial:

The aspect that is superemely [sic] real or sat(i), is indissoluby [sic] associated with the aspect that is phenomenal or nam(u). Thus the sat(i) nam(u) of the mool mantra may be interpreted as the Real-cum-Apparent, Infinite-Finite, Being-Becoming. It does not mean that the Divine Being lacks perfection; it only implies that in His phenomenal aspect He is finite, whereas in His transcendental aspect He is infinite and perfect. [9] (bold ours)

What does it, therefore, mean to say that a being is infinite-finite? Again the answer to this is alluded to by Wazir in his interpretation of the all-important first composition of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the basis of Sikh theology, the Mool Mantra:

The numeral 1 (one) represents the single, Undifferentiated Essence or Spirit which is the unmanifest, formless Absolute. The symbol oamkar, on the other hand, represents the expressed power of Being, in its differentiated, manifest forms. The combination of ek-oamkar, on the whole, is therefore indicative of the one-many, unmanifest-manifest, Absolute-cum-God. … Both retain their position and importance as aspects of the same single system. [10] (bold, underline ours)

Here he refers to two diametrically-opposed concepts as aspects of the same single system. He continues elsewhere:

In terms of his [Guru Gobind Singh’s] own philosophy, the Absolute Spirit is formless and featureless, colourless and casteless. Not a quality can we attribute to it; ‘Neti, Neti’ is the cry defying all description of it. This side of the picture refers to the Essence, i.e. the formless Being. The other side is the physical universe, or creation. It is the negation of Neti, and is an affirmation of the expressiveness of the Absolute Spirit. He also characterizes the Spirit as Kaal (Time) in the temporal sense, and Akaal (Eternity) in the transcendent sense. Guru Nanak and his successors had resolved the opposition between the formless ‘essence’ and physical ‘existence’ by the formula of essence-in-existence, which they termed Nam. [11]

God is also transcendent because the immanence of God is NOT IDENTICAL with the WHOLE being of God. – Rajinder Kaur

Hence, what Wazir has posited is a concept of God where His essential being exists as a single system comprising of bipolar aspects of which one is his Transcendent attributeless self that was infinite, ineffable, atemporal and/ or timeless sans creation, whilst the other, i.e. His Immanent self, is its mutual opposite. Yet, despite this Immanent nature emerging with the becoming of creation, this single system (God) has nevertheless managed to somehow remain Transcendent. The inevitable question is how a theology can be logically coherent while affirming something, let alone God, to be infinite-finite and temporal-atemporal at the same time and in the same respect?

For example, in one sense I am strong, say lifting a feather, but in another sense I am without strength, or weak, as when I try to lift a building.

The analogy is flawed because unlike Waheguru, who can be described by two mutually exclusive qualities, your analogy describes two separate situations for which two separate attributes can take effect. On the other hand, if we take only a single situation, then you cannot be described as being both strong and weak at the same time while lifting either the feather or the building.

But there is another important factor that warrants further examination. In order for you to lift a feather, the following two essential components are required: 1) will or volition, i.e. your will to act, 2) an object, i.e. a feather.

In Waheguru’s case, he is said to have been in a state of sunya (crudely translated as an absolute state of latency; equipoise) during his Nirgun state sans creation. Prof Bhandari better explains this concept by stating that before Waheguru assumed the Sargun state, “[t]he Gurus … used ‘Sunya’ in conjunction with terms like samadhi, tari (trance, meditation) or sahaj (equipoise, balance) or sach (holy truth) … [to] describe the state of complete tranquillity and oneness of the Absolute Self, and refer to that latent form in which every aspect of creation lies dormant in Him, waiting for the operation of the Divine urge for its unfoldment”. [12] While Wazir puts it thus:

When we say Brahman is featureless, ‘featurelessness’ becomes its feature. In order to give expression to our sense of the Beyond, that which defies all expression or description, we coin several terms, just as Nothingness, Emptiness, Big Zero, Sunya, as well as Formless, Nirakar, Nirankar, and Nirgun. But again, Nirankar is a name, and so are other epithets so coined. Perhaps, we cannot do without names. It is our linguisic [sic] compulsion to assign a name or symbol to anything we know. It is human compulsion. [13] (bold ours)

Here, Wazir feels it necessary to go as far as to justify applying names to that which he calls “Nothingness, Emptiness, Big Zero, Sunya”. Be that as it may, the point is that during this state of sunya, not only was Waheguru in a form other than what he was with the becoming of creation, but he was latent and inactive sans creation. Hence, a being that is inactive, i.e. does not have the will to act, and is surrounded by nothingness, is in actual fact devoid of those attributes that necessarily require an object for their functionality. Hence, how can the capacity to act be ascribed to a being who, in the complete absence of anything external to him, exists in a perpetual state of dormancy (sunya), i.e. eternally volitionless and incapable of willing to act, let alone lifting a feather or mountain?

To be clear, I am merely suggesting that one could be clearer as regards the ways in which the terms nirgun and sargun are being used, because they could be more contextual and functional than just to be simple opposites.

Given the above, this is certainly not the case. These bipolar concepts have a much more concrete and specific understanding than what you might have understood so far, or are even perhaps willing to concede.

It is worth considering that the acceptance of a seemingly contradictory nature of God is not entirely unsurprising given the ancient tradition from which this concept was borrowed, i.e. Hinduism, as well as the socio-cultural and religious backdrop in which the Gurus subsequently moulded it, albeit with their own peculiar refinements. If there is anything that uniquely identifies the theological paradigm of the Indian subcontinent, it is the erroneous belief that since God is not subject to the bi-valued laws of logic, He can thus exist and act contradictorily.

As I understand, describing God as being “without attribute” is simply a condensed form of the argument that God is not bound by any attribute, but is superior in His essence to any attribute or description.

The word “bound” is too loose a term and would require you to define it.

One could argue that the attribute of life, for instance, is a sine qua non of a living being. The same would be true of the attribute of will or volition for a being that acts. Moreover, if this being is, to borrow Anselm’s oft-quoted descriptive, the greatest conceivable being, then all the attributes possessed of this being must be perfect in the absolute sense of the word. It, therefore, makes no sense to firstly make a distinction between the attributes and the essence of a being, before suggesting that the essence is superior to any one of these attributes, when these very attributes are a sine qua non of the essence of this being.

Besides, as we have quoted above, to say that God is “without attributes” is to say that attributes that necessarily require an object, i.e. creation, are “latent” sans creation and, hence, only make sense in “a relative or changing world”. As Daljeet put it: “God was by Himself, the question of ‘love and devotion, of good or bad actions, or of the saved or Saviour’ could not arise, there being nothing other than Him.”

Likewise, to say that God has attributes is a condensed form of the argument that states that God reveals Himself in the medium of attributes such as Truth, Mercy, Oneness, etc.

This argument is a gross over simplification of God, and is essentially exposed by the attributes you have cited as examples. If we accept a priori God’s oneness and existence to be eternal, then these do not require any type of revealing or manifestation, precisely because they are examples of intrinsic attributes that are unchanging and constant – what we can call intransitive attributes. At the same time, intransitive attributes cannot be the same as those that necessarily require an object and are functionally dependent upon His will, e.g. love, mercy, compassion, seeing, hearing, etc, i.e. His transitive attributes. Hence, a basic categorisation of transitive and intransitive attributes must be affirmed if we are to correctly understand the essential nature of God. To cite an obvious example, unlike the attribute of mercy, the attribute of life does not require an object for its functionality.

These attributes apply to Him functionally,

As we have argued, if you mean that they all apply to Him functionally in the sense that they are actualised through His divine will, then in light of the obvious dual categorisation of God’s attributes mentioned above, this is false.

and so to relate this back to the Nirgun argument is, then, to say that God, to use the term “transcend,” transcends any attribute which, though transcended in His essence, yet equally applies to Him as a valid attribute on the basis of His Self-Revelation of Himself in Scripture.

The scholars and academics we have cited above suggest that there is certainly more to the definition and understanding than you have construed. It seems as though your knowledge of the concepts of Nirgun and Sargun are at best superficial and at worst contrived.

What is more, the above argument is so generalised that it fails to distinguish between God’s attributes. It further seems to imply that attributes that we have argued are a sine qua non of His essence can somehow be “transcended in His essence”! Your explanation forces us to the conclusion that not only can all His divine attributes apply to Him functionally, but that He can also somehow transcend them. This begs the question of how an eternal creator can, firstly, treat His absolute perfect attribute of life as a functional attribute à la mercy or love that’s dependent upon His will; and secondly, how He can choose to transcend His attribute of life?

In this sense, I would argue, the affirmation of nirgun and sargun does not violate the law of non-contradiction.

As we have said, we consider your understanding to be too simplistic and, therefore, entirely flawed.

Furthermore, the idea of transcending logic, if one takes the term “transcending” at face value, meaning going beyond logic but also including logic, is not to advocate irrationalism or violate the law of non-contradiction. Transcend means to exceed but simultaneously incorporate that which is transcended, as a city is transcended by a country, where the country incorporates and goes beyond the bounds of the city. In other words, as the saying goes, there is always a greater knower, and so it is sensible, in my understanding, to say that God, in His essence, transcends the logical process, but at the same He does not defy it either.

It always helps to give a concrete example to better explain something. Nonetheless, in light of the way the bipolar models of Nirgun and Sargun have been conceptualised, the theology of Sikhism violates the law of non-contradiction in that God, since the becoming of creation, has been what He was sans creation while, at the same time, being its polar opposite. Now, if you’re insisting that we, as rational creatures, suspend our ability to think logically when it comes to contradictory information revealed by God of Himself, then that would mean that He expects His servants to accept objectively false notions as true.

God is eminently rational, the Most Rational, but being the Source of Rationality He is not yet bound to it, but binds it according to His Will, His Essence, etc. o:p>

If that were true, then that would imply that His rational creatures would have to be open to the possibility that God could exist contradictorily and act in impossible ways which we would otherwise affirm necessarily as irrational and false. To put it another way, even if God did not reveal what these irrational concepts applicable to Him might be, we would still be forced to counterintuitively believe and accept that since He is not bound by what we, as rational creatures, have been taught to recognise a priori as universal logical truths, He could exist and act illogically.

However, if we accept these objectively based absolute universal truths to be inspired and taught to us by the source of all Truth, then what is more reasonable to affirm: God reveals to us knowledge of His divine self in harmony with our intellects, or that He reveals and demands we accept mentally oppressive concepts that force us to violate what we intuitively know to be logical truths?

If Logic were superior to God, then God would [be] the subject, subjected to Logic, but since God is the Most High, He is the Subjector of Logic, the Author o[f] Reason, and so He is above reason while at the same time consistent with it just as He is and must be consistent with Himself.

To say that logic (we take it you mean here the bi-valued laws of logic) is superior to God is to presuppose a conflict between divine truth and the faculties of reason He has endowed us with to recognise these universal truths predicated on the laws of logic.

There are truths of God that we believe and accept as inviolable, precisely because God could never be or act in a way that would negate what defines Him as God. These are objective truths that have been revealed by God and which cannot, therefore, violate the universal laws of bi-valued logic and still be defined as truths. We are bounded by and can only make sense of the world through the powers of reasoning endowed us by God. The very idea of God transcending or being above reason, i.e. the human reasoning process, would be meaningless in a practical sense. Hence, to even assert that God is above reason is nonsensical. What could God possibly reveal as an example of Him acting in a way that we would see as illogical and irrational? In fact, can information be called information if it transcends reason?

Yes, God is, as you say, consistent unto Himself, but only in a way we understand Him to be.

I hope to hear your response. May God bless you.

Allah yadeek (may Allah guide you to the truth).

[1] P. Singh (1985), Sikh Concept of the Divine, (Guru Nanak Dev University Press, Amritsar), p. 123.
[2] R. Kaur (2003), God in Sikhism, (Secretary Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar), p. 67.
[3] Ibid., pp. 39-40.
[4] R.K. Rohi (1999), Semitic and Sikh Monotheism – A Comparative Study, (Punjabi University, Patiala, India), p. 146.
[5] D. Singh (2004), Sikhism: A Comparative Study of its Theology and Mysticism, (Amritsar, Singh Brothers), pp. 187-8.
[6] Ibid., p. 190.
[7] Ibid., p. 191.
[8] S.S. Bhatia, A. Spencer (1999), The Sikh Tradition: A Continuing Reality (Essays in History and Religion), (Publication Bureau Punjabi University, Patiala, India), p. 91.
[9] W. Singh (1981), Philosophy of Sikh Religion, (Ess Ess Publications, Punjabi University, Patiala), p. 14.
[10] Ibid., p. 11.
[11] Ibid., p. 102.
[12] J.S. Mann, S.S. Sodhi, Concepts in Sikhism – Cognitive Psychology – Mind Map Approach to Understanding Sikhism for the Second Generation Sikh Children, (Global Sikh, online Word file, 9 Dec. 2009), p. 459.
[13] S.S. Bhatia, A. Spencer, op. cit., p. 202.

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  1. You are approaching Sikh Philosophy from a different context and trying to, from that context, make what assertion? That Sikhism and its assertions do not make sense from that chosen context?

    1. Sikh philosophy is not the same as instruction from Allah.

    *From the perspective of Sikhism, Perceptual Reality itself is an instruction from Ik Onkar, Sikh Philosophy is a collection of thoughts on this instruction.

    *From the perspective of Islam, Allah directly dictated in writing to mohamed what his orders were.

    From the above, can we then use Sikh Philosophy to show that the orders of God to the Sikhs are nonsensical?

    2. Sikh Philosophy asserts that Perceptual reality, a dualistic process, is an incorrect approach to understanding reality. Objects, space, life, emotions, while consumed by the mind and body as separate, are in reality connected. The connected reality is One, and that One, is unborn, it is immortal, it is beyond reality, to this One, our perceptions and selves are as Illusion. To this One, what Sikhs call Ik Onkar, all Sikh Philosophy is devoted towards.

    * Sikh Philosophy is derived from Perceptual reality, because it is derived from perceptual reality, its assertions are based upon that which is repeatedly perceivable and constant by anyone who wishes to meditate on it. Sikh Philosophy is based upon Sat, Sat is Ik Onkar, Sat translates as Truth, Ik Onkar is Truth, Ik Onkar is One Reality, God is One.

    * Islam is derived from the words written down, as dictated by the angel gabriel to the last prophet. From those words, muslims are instructed that there is one God and that God created everything, and that there are no other gods.

    From the above, can we then take Sikh Philosophy to show that the God of Sikhs has more then one God?

    There is a reason that the original Sikhs were able to convert your brother Muslims to Sikhism, everything in Islam is based on words on some paper. Sikhism is based on everything around you at every moment of your life.

    Dishonesty of perceptual reality cannot just be explained away by citing the Koran knows best. Neither can the dishonesty of presenting Sikhism as revealed in the same way as Muslims understand their religion to be revealed just because one is a good muslim.

    • 1. If what you mean by “a collection of thoughts” is a claim to truth, then these truth claims are as much open to the process of objective falsification as any other property of propositions said to be true. Whether that proposition is said to have arrived directly from God or from the collective philosophical thoughts of 10 individuals makes not a jot of difference to determining the truth or falsity of a proposition!

      2. No amount of meditation can, therefore, prove that that which is shown to be objectively false is, in reality, true. So, if Sat/ Ik Onkar/ Truth/ One Reality/ God is true, and this truth is expressed as a proposition, then since propositions are carriers of truth-values, these can only be proven to be true or false objectively, not subjectively.

      If you claim that you know truth through some absolute non-objective process, then how do you know it to be true without some point of reference external to you? In other words, how do you know that your own internal subjective process of determining truth isn’t, in actual fact, false without some objective frame of reference?

      We would say that you can’t prove or disprove to yourself, or anyone else’s for that matter, any such claims to truth.

      Your claim to truth would be no different to a person who has claimed to have meditated and come to the realisation that the moon is God!

      • In reply to your points, as you have numbered them.

        1. That is correct. Sikh Philosophy on the nature of reality is open to testing, it is open to honest mistakes, it is open to evolution of information, it is not asking for belief, the Guru Granth is a collection of thoughts which teach one to question fixed points of argument, to question, to question, to question, to meditate on those questions, to fight for the ability to question–Are the ordered commands of Allah open to any of the following?
        If one was to say that a command of allah is not righteous, that it causes suffering, that it causes slavery, that is mocks ones intellect, that it mocks honor and goodwill, can one question such a command without risking hellfire?

        2. Ik Onkar is Truth, not Ik Onkar is True. Truth as an Ideal, Truth as a foundation of Inquiry, Truth as the fixed point in the Maya of human perception. That which is not Maya. Meditation on that which is Truth. Meditation on Ik OnKar, one Truth, not the dual truth of a human, but the singular truth of reality. Sikh Philosophy is only a collection of thoughts on this Ideal of Truth.

        Does such an Ideal exist in Islam? Does Allah not instruct his followers as to the nature of reality and themselves? Is hellfire not reason enough to believe?

        3.You wish to know from what basis such statements rest on, and that is a healthy position to take, if you are willing to meditate on such questions in order to Seek the Truth, this process, is welcomed by Sikhs. You are welcome to question the thoughts of the Gurus, the Thoughts of the Saints, The thoughts of the Martyrs, but Abu Adeeba, there was a time when one could not. There was a time when the point had to be fought over. Not because of political power as you seem to think, but because it is an evil thing to want to enslave others. Whether commanded otherwise by God or man, one should have the right to question. What truth cannot survive testing?

        The world that you live in, the one that allows you to question the thoughts of the Kafirs in order to bring them to islam, is the same that will slaughter those who question the commanded orders of allah. The same that will use men to enforce the will of an ‘almighty’ god because eternal hellfire awaits those who question such wisdom. That world cannot be used to reflect on Truth–not without being a coward and not turning those same questions onto islam.

        So you can question the thoughts of the Satgurus, you can learn Nyaya and ask if they are mistaken, you can create new schools of argument, but would you do so as a muslim?

        • 1. If Sikh Philosophy’s truth-claims are open to testing as you’ve acknowledged, then why were you bothering to make the distinction between the two differing modes of transmission in the first place?!

          Like we said, whether material is said to be Ipsissima verba dei or a philosophical model, makes no difference to determining the truth or falsity of a proposition.

          Hence, your point, it seems, was irrelevant to begin with!

          In any case, when it comes to the historical material that represents what you’ve called “Sikh Philosophy”, then we have argued that, for example, the theology-proper of Sikhism vis-à-vis nirgun-sargun is contradictory, and, thus, false.

          As for the ordered commands of Allah being open to questioning, then that depends on the commands. There are certain commands that can never be subject to change because they can never be questioned, for example, the concept of Tawheed (crudely translated as monotheism, though far more profound than its linguistic meaning) which, in its essential nature, has it that God is one, unique and absolute.

          However, there are those commands that are time and/ or locale specific, the determination of which is subject to considered reasoning.

          There are also those areas in Islam that are open to interpretation since the evidences that come down to us are inconclusive in the sense that they can be interpreted one way or the other. This is reflected by the many differences of opinion that exist between, for instance, the four famous Sunni schools of thought.

          However, if someone were to question a true command of God, then the fault cannot lie with God, but with said person’s intellect, or lack thereof, because absolute truth from God can never be open to questioning, as we’re certain you’ll agree.

          2. You said that Ik Onkar is Truth. Now, it goes without saying that, as theists, we would agree that God is Truth! However, what we were alluding to when we said: “So, if Sat/ Ik Onkar/ Truth/ One Reality/ God is true,” was in reference to the truth or falsity of your concept of, i.e. your belief in, God. We maintain that what you perceive to be the Truth is, in our understanding, false for the many reasons we have published in various papers on our website vis-à-vis the nirgun-sargun model. Hence, your meditation of Ik Onkar seems to us to be a complete waste of time since we see it as meditation upon falsehood.

          We would question what worth there is in believing in something that cannot stand up to human reasoning? How can anyone be required to believe in a mentally oppressive concept that is irrational and illogical?

          3. Based on this, you can’t expect us to start meditating on that which doesn’t make rational sense. If we asked you to think about, ponder over, and appreciate the beauty of a squared circle, could you; truly? You could perhaps appreciate the simplicity with which such an example sums up an object whose existence is impossible; but to consider it to be true in the strict sense of the word would be ludicrous.

          Hence, when a Guru, or even Christian for that matter, comes to us with a concept of God that we deem to be contradictory, and thus mentally oppressive, we’ll question it; then expose it for what it really is in defence of the Truth.

          As for the world of Islam not allowing questioning without slaughter, then what do you mean by the word slaughter? Islam doesn’t teach that people be slaughtered simply for questioning the commands of Allah. If that were true, then you wouldn’t find the large swathes of Jews and Christians still living across the Muslim world from before the advent of Islam. As such, your perception of Islam seems to be wholly skewed, and we would invite you to further studies.

  2. You can’t really use the mind to understand God because God is transcendental to the mind, hence all these tedious arguments about “the properties of God” will always descend into contradiction. I’m sure the Islamic version has similar problems.

    By doing Naam Jap, stilling the mind in meditation one can get experiences that transcend all worldly logic!

    Waheguru Ji Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!

    • So what did you use to understand that the mind can’t really be used to understand God?!
      Yes, He’s transcendent; but He endowed us with a mind to understand. If He then provides information regarding His self to a mind that isn’t meant to understand the information He provides, then where’s the wisdom in that?

      And no, Muslims have not been given knowledge by God of His self that is contradictory, false and mentally oppressive, and told to accept and believe it no matter what!

      Finally, no amount of experience can explain away the false and contradictory concept of God in Sikhism which Sikhs attribute directly to God via their Gurus’ experiences.

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