This is a guest post by Raziq
In today’s times there is much debate about extremism and religious intolerance. Terrorist acts committed in the name of religion and religious intolerance seems to be on the rise. In these uncertain times we can all learn lessons from the teachings of Baba Guru Nanak.
Baba Guru Nanak was born in India to a Hindu family in the 15th century. From a young age, he had both Hindu and Muslim friends. This helped him to gain a good understanding of Hinduism and Islam. Throughout his life he was accompanied everywhere by two close friends, one was a Muslim and the other a Hindu. He was once asked “who is better a Hindu or a Muslim”? he replied ‘neither, if they don’t do good deeds then they are both in darkness’.
In the Guru’s time India was ruled by the first Mughal Ruler Babur. On one occasion during a military campaign Babur captured Guru Nanak with his companions and imprisoned them. Whilst in prison the guru started speaking about god. He also spoke about equality, tolerance and love for all human beings. This resulted in many prisoners and prison guards revering the Guru and seeking his blessings. The emperor Babur eventually heard about this and went to the prison himself. After listening to the Guru speaking he became tearful and begged for his forgiveness. He had him freed and on the request of the Guru he freed his companions and other prisoners.
Another famous incident in the Guru’s life was when he visited Mecca with his Muslim companion. After having walked from Jeddah to Mecca, the Guru was tired. He lay down to rest with his feet facing the Kaaba and fell asleep. A Muslim teacher who saw the Guru asleep with his feet facing the Kaaba got angry and kicked the Guru to wake him. He then said “How dare you dishonor God’s place by turning your feet towards Him” the Guru then replied “Brother, don’t be angry. I am very tired. I need rest. I respect the House of God as much as anyone. Please turn my feet in the direction where god is not”. The teacher then lifted his feet to turn him to another direction but suddenly realized the wisdom in the Guru’s words, god could be found in every direction. The teacher then started crying and embraced the Guru’s feet, asking for forgiveness.
The Guru also visited Baghdad and stayed there for a while. In Baghdad he continued to spread his message and even had a Gurdwara built there. Disciples of the Guru can still be found in Iraq today.
Despite the atrocities committed by the Muslim Mughal forces, the Guru never once criticized Muslims or the religion of Islam. Rather he criticized the Turks, Mughals and Afghans for not following their religion properly.
The Guru’s message was understood and appreciated by Hindus and Muslims alike and when he was dying both the Hindus and Muslims wanted to give him a burial according to their rites of their faiths. At Guru Nanak’s death, he lay on a hill, and said to his followers:
“I want all Muslims to place their flowers on one side of me. Hindu’s on the other. Whichever flowers are freshest in the morning is the greater religion.”
Everybody became excited about this, to prove that they were better. When everybody gathered in the morning, Nanak’s body had disappeared. However, all the flowers were just as fresh as the others. They were all equal. After that, everyone remembered Nanak’s words:
“Everybody is equal.”
The Guru’s teachings can be a lesson for everyone today.