I confess that the Desi Pub disappoints me. That’s because, in earlier times, I looked into the traditions of their proprietors.
“Even if wine is made from the water of the Ganges, O Saints, do not drink it.”Guru Granth Sahib
Before I owned a copy of the Quran a quarter of a century ago, I had books on the Sikhi path. If my lamentable interactions with some Asian students years back can be credited with anything, it was setting me on the path towards reforming my soul.
Of course, those I knew then were not themselves religious in any form, but I did not know that. It was hard for me to appreciate then, raised in such a religious home, that most people have no interest in religion whatsoever. Most people are not guided by their noble traditions; for most people those traditions are but symbolism, a back story of identity.
So of course I know they have nothing to apologise for. Would I be disappointed with all of England for their ignorance of the pronouncements of John Wesley? Would I lament the British for knowing nothing of George Fox? No, most people do not walk these paths of inner and outward reform.
A close friend of mine used to live opposite a raucous Sikh pub. Some Sikhs I knew at university were faithful, but most just partied hard. The friendly neighbourhood shopkeeper, his head wrapped in a dastar, his beard neatly clipped, has filled the aisles of his multiple stores with mountains of cheap booze. Down in town, that most traditional looking Sikh, his wife wearing a modest dupatta, has opened a shop selling cannabis flavoured lollies, bongs and multicoloured vapes.
To each their own. It is no business of mine. Years ago, a Muslim businessman used to lambast me because I would only ever buy a tandoori chicken pizza from his shop. He did not know that I had a two mile walk home from there, and could hardly manage more, so one day castigated me for my meagre purchases: “Is this all you’re buying? You’ll force me to sell alcohol!” Needless to say, I bought no more tandoori chicken pizzas from him after that.
I realise that most people do not approach religion as we do. I realise that for the majority, religion is just a cultural backdrop, remembered only at the birth of children, in marriage and death. If it is remembered, it is to pen an intricate tattoo on one’s right arm, or in affixing a sticker to the back of your car. For most people, it is not something that you become, which affects every fibre of your being.
I respected the Sikh tradition, although I am a Muslim, because it teaches its adherents to value the truth above all else. In its truest sense, it is the path of the seeker on the journey back to the One. The Muslim reading the Guru Granth Sahib will find much they can relate to. Indeed, three of the sages the Sikhs embrace as their own were themselves Muslim.
There are five prayers and five times of day for prayer; these five have five names. Let the first be truthfulness, the second honest living, and the third charity in the Name of God. Let the fourth be good will to all, and the fifth the praise of the Lord. Repeat the prayer of good deeds, and then, you may call yourself a Muslim.Guru Granth Sahib
Islam, in its truest sense, is an active path towards achieving a state of safety and good health. A Muslim is a person who is trying their best to walk that path of promoting safety and health in their own lives and in their community. That was the prophetic way, through every generation, for as long as prophets were sent.
Scrape back the layers of sediment that have amassed on top of sanatana dharma and you will rediscover all that was once obscured. In ancient times, wise gurus and bhagats called their people back to this message too. They opposed tyranny in their times. They called the people to serve the poor, not the rich. They asked their followers to shun all that would send them towards insanity. In short, they promoted that active path towards living well.
We need wise gurus and bhagats in our own time, who will call people away from this insanity. No, not me. Let a people from amongst themselves call back to them. I have seen such people; those who reflected on what they had with them already.
It is difficult to be called a Muslim; if one is truly a Muslim, then he may be called one. First, let him savour the religion of the Prophet as sweet; then, let his pride of his possessions be scraped away. Becoming a true Muslim, a disciple of the faith of Mohammed, let him put aside the delusion of death and life. As he submits to God’s will, and surrenders to the Creator, he is rid of selfishness and conceit. And when, O Nanak, he is merciful to all beings, only then shall he be called a Muslim.Guru Granth Sahib
Thus the wise one has spoken. There a man who called to a better way. Oh seekers, seek!