Where do we go when we seek the divine?
We seek the guidance of a spiritual Master to guide us. The Muslims call such a great soul, ‘Murshid’ and the Hindus and Sikhs call ‘Guru’. Unlike us ordinary mortals, they have only come to give.
Shri. Guru Har Gobind ji the sixth Sikh Guru and the true Sikh disciples themselves provide numerous examples of universal brotherhood, love and devotion. Guru ji was and is revered not only by Sikhs, but by Muslims and Hindus as well.
One such instance is the ‘Guru ki Maseet’ (Guru’s Mosque).
In 1630 the peace loving Guru Har Gobind ji and 700 of his disciples who had camped at Ruhela (Panjab) were attacked by 10,000 soldiers of the army sent by the tyrannical governor of Jalandhar Ali Beg (Abdullah Khan). The greatly outnumbered Sikhs led by Guru Har Gobind ji all but destroyed in the Battle of Hargobindpur, Abdullah Khan, his stooges Karam Chand and Ratan Chand and their armies.
It was plain to see that dignity, valour, righteousness and justice with the grace of the Guru had prevailed over greed, arrogance and wealth. Soon after the victory and hearing of the great bravery, spiritual and noble nature of the Guru, Muslim residents of the area approached the Guru with a long standing problem they faced, they had no place to pray.
To a Guru all people are the same. Protecting the weak from oppression, to care for the needy, to spread prosperity, harmony, love and amity by their every word and action is the Guru’s nature. In probably the only known such example in history, the Sikh Guru immediately had a mosque built for the Muslims. Located at Sri. Hargobindpur, in Panjab’s Gurdaspur district, midway between Jalandhar and Amritsar. The mosque picturesquely situated on a hill overlooking a curve on the banks of the mighty Beas river catered to the needs of the Muslims until August 1947.
During the horrific partition of India in 1947, all the Muslim residents abandoned the town and fled to Pakistan. Soon thereafter the local Sikhs got together and used the mosque as a Gurdwara (congregation hall) at the same site. Here prayers were offered and hymns sung from the Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book containing the hymns of all the Sikh Gurus, various great Hindu, and Muslim saints (30 of them in number). It was protected and served by the valiant and noble Nihang Sikhs, as their solemn responsibility.
The Sikhs always maintained that this place belonged to the Muslims and wanted to return it to them. They constantly nagged the government and the Punjab Waqf Board to get Muslims to start offering Namaz at the mosque and to take over its upkeep. The Muslims were mostly poor laborers who could not build a mosque for themselves and since 1947 they had to travel 10 to 15 kms away for offering prayers. Though the mosque was a splendid structure it was in disrepair, and who would replace the Sikh staff who all worked as volunteers? The Punjab Waqf Board requested the Sikhs to continue to look after the mosque, while they found a solution.
'Guru Ki Maseet' during restoration
Commemoration stone on site
'Guru Ki Maseet' after major restoration
As the Sikhs have learnt from their Gurus, that they must take responsibility and the initiative to always be noble and do what is right. By 1997 a group of Sikhs and Muslims had come together, roped in the Cultural Resource Conservation Initiative (CRCI), and UNESCO to set things right. The restoration work began in 2000 with Sikh families donating some land adjoining the Mosque. The Nihang Sikhs and the local population volunteered for most of the spade work.
Muslim and Sikhs discussing historical texts about the mosque's history
By 2002 the restoration was complete and Maulana Hamid Husain Qasmi, the Imam of the Jama Masjid in Amritsar, led the first prayers in the mosque. Even now 388 years later, those values and that spirit the Guru espoused are vibrantly alive in the hearts and minds of many, as can be seen from the restoration, presentation of the mosque to the Muslim community and their protection by the Sikhs.
This is but one example of how magnanimous the Guru’s Sikhs truly are. They embrace thus unite all of humanity with nobility, chivalry, devotion and selfless service to all of creation. This unconditional giving irrespective of religious belief of the recipients, all attributable to the teachings of the Sikh Gurus.
Nihang Sikhs, taking care of and protecting the Mosque
The Gurus taught that it is the solemn duty of Sikhs to fight against injustice, save the oppressed, share with others and particularly the needy. Finally to remember always that one formless Creator /God (Naam) that makes all things possible.. Sikhs are reputed for their gregarious, passionate, noble, valiant, sacrificing, honest, steadfast, and intelligent nature. Time and again one can experience these qualities when interacting with Sikhs.
Sadly, some ungrateful people think that these noble qualities of the Sikhs, are the hallmark of simple fools, who give so much without asking anything in return.
Note: Shri. Guru Har Gobind ji the 6th Guru is different from the 10th Sikh Guru, Shri. Guru Gobind Singh ji.