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Fall 1992 · Vol. 21 No. 2 · pp. 74–75 

Book Review

Understanding Sikhs and Their Religion: A Christian Perspective

Santosh Raj. Winnipeg, MB and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred, 1991. 70 pages.

Reviewed by Alicia Hughes-Jones

In the author’s words, he has written a book to serve “as a tool for the Christian to reach out to Sikhs.” No knowledge of the Sikh culture is necessary to understand and use the information Raj presents and, although intended for those involved in ministry to the Sikh community, anyone interested in other cultures will enjoy reading it. After a brief description of the history, belief system, scripture, and doctrine of the Sikh religion, the author then describes the Sikh value system and draws some distinctions between Sikhs and Hindus, and Sikhs and Muslims. Raj is pastor of Hindi Punjab Gospel Chapel (Mennonite Brethren) in Vancouver, B. C.

Sikhs conceive of God as the Creator, as omnipresent, and as outside Time. Although Sikhs may refer to God by Hindu and Moslem names for God, Sikhs reject other aspects of Hinduism and Islam such as the use of religious images or idols, facing a particular direction to pray, and the wearing of certain religious symbols. The Sikh religion, formed in reaction to some aspects of Hinduism, accepts some Hindu beliefs such as karma and the cycle of reincarnation.

The Sikh word for God is “Wah Guru,” which translates as “Wondrous Teacher.” The word “Sikh” means disciple and the Sikh religion centers around one God perceived as the “supreme Truth.” Sikhs date their discipleship from ten gurus, whose teachings span a period from A.D. {75} 1469 to A.D. 1708.

One may draw certain parallels to Judaic beliefs such as obedience to the Law and righteous living. For example, a Sikh may “know” God, which is to say become closer to God through knowledge of God’s truth as shown in the teachings of the gurus and by applying these teachings to life. Meditation and hymn-singing are important. Indeed, the Sikh scripture known as the Granth Sahib is described as being arranged in “musical measures” and consists of hymns of the first five and of the ninth gurus. The Granth Sahib may be likened to certain of the Psalms which are more meaningfully sung than recited and probably, like the Psalms, comprises an oral tradition which may be quite ancient.

The North American seeking to carry the Word to the Sikh community will appreciate descriptions of Sikh culture, history and the origin of the contemporary Sikh community in Canada. “Myths about Sikhs in Canada” is helpful, as is the discussion of culture shock faced by Sikh immigrants. The “meat” of Raj’s message is in the second half of the book where he discusses Sikhism and Christianity and presents testimonies of Sikh Christians.

The strength of Understanding Sikhs lies in the discussion of Sikh beliefs and values in terms the Western Christian reading audience can understand, and in occasional comparisons of Christian and non-Christian religious beliefs and practices.

Alicia Hughes-Jones
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Tabor College
Hillsboro, Kansas

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