What is the Sikh attitude to inter-faith marriages?

Marriage is about two bodies walking ‘one path’, not ‘two paths’.

In recent years, the incidences of interfaith marriages (i.e. Sikh and non-Sikh) have been increasing in Gurdwaras across the world despite the Panthic Sikh Rehat Maryada clearly stating that “a Sikh should marry only a Sikh.”

Rehitnamas further say:

(ੳ) ਨਾਤਾ ਗੁਰੂ ਕੇ ਸਿਖ ਨਾਲ ਕਰੇ। (ਰਹਿਤਨਾਮਾ ਭਾਈ ਚੌਂਪਾ ਸਿੰਘ)
1. Have relations with a Sikh of the Guru. (Rehatnama Bhai Chaupa Singh)

(ਅ) ਕੰਨਯਾ ਕੋ ਮਾਰੇ, ਮੋਨੇ ਕੋ ਕੰਨਯਾ ਦੇਵੇ, ਸੋ ਤਨਖਾਹੀਆ ਹੈ।
ਸਿੱਖ ਕੋ ਸਿੱਖ ਪੁਤ੍ਰੀ ਦਈ, ਸੁਧਾ ਸੁਧਾ ਮਿਲ ਜਾਇ।
ਦਈ ਭਾਦਣੀ ਕੋ ਸੁਤਾ, ਅਹਿ ਮੁਖ ਅਮੀ ਚੁਆਇ। (ਰਹਿਤਨਾਮਾ ਭਾਈ ਦੇਸਾ ਸਿੰਘ)
2. Killing a daughter or to give a daughter (in marriage) to a non-Sikh, such a person commits great offence. Sikh should give his daughter (in marriage) to a Sikh. Thus Gurmukh meets a Gurmukh. Giving a daughter to a Bhadni (non-Sikh) is like giving nectar to a snake. (Rehatnama Bhai Desa Singh)

(ੲ) ਕੰਨਯਾ ਦੇਵੈ ਸਿਖ ਕੋ, ਲੇਵੈ ਨਹਿ ਕੁਛ ਦਾਮ।
ਸੋਈ ਮੇਰਾ ਸਿਖ ਹੈ, ਪਹੁੰਚੇਗੋ ਮਮ ਧਾਮ। (ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਤਾਪ ਸੂਰਜ)
3. A Sikh gives (in marriage) his daughter to a Sikh and does not accept any money in exchange. He is my Sikh and will reach in my presence. (Guru Pratap Surya)

In response to the growing trend of Gurdwaras relaxing Gur Maryada to accommodate the wishes of individuals rather than respect the Guru’s teachings and Sikh Rehat Maryada, the Sri Akaal Takhat Sahib – the Supreme seat of authority of the Sikhs – has issued a Hukumnama (decree) regarding this matter on the 16-8-2007.

The original letter (along with a translation) can be seen on the link below:
http://www.sna.org.uk/cms/hukumnama/

If a Sikh wants to marry a man or woman who is not a Sikh and does not believe in the 10 Gurus and their teachings, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, and believe in the Amrit given by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, then he or she should first become a Sikh and change his/her name legally and own sole allegiance of faith to Sikhism and no other belief.

The person should become a Sikh both in letter and spirit. The Hukamnama issued in 2007 by Sri Akaal Takht Sahib has simply made this clear. Ideally every Sikh should be an Amritdhari, or at least faithfully believe and strive towards taking Amrit. The Hukamnama does not say that a Sikh should marry only an Amritdhari. The message is that a Sikh should marry within the Sikh community and if he/she wants to marry someone who is not yet a Sikh (not born in a Sikh family and does not have Singh or Kaur as part of their name), that person should really “become a Sikh” and change his/her name legally. The couple’s future children should be raised in accordance to the Sikh religion and their hair should not be cut.

All Sikhs should use the name “Singh” or “Kaur” with their name. Every Sikh child should have Singh or Kaur as part of their name even if the family name/surname is used for some legal reasons.

Extract from Teaching Sikh Heritage by Dr. Gurbaksh Singh

My opinion regarding interracial and interfaith marriage is different from it.  What, I tell the youth at the camps is briefly mentioned below.

There should be no racial bias according to Sikh faith, hence, there is no racial bar against a marriage. Regarding interfaith marriages, it should be well understood that they may be performed by two or more ceremonies but such marriages will not be happy ones.  Religion is not just a collection of beliefs to be understood but a path of life one decides to follow. Two spouses cannot simultaneously walk on two different paths, i.e. practice two faiths and still remain together as a couple.  Otherwise, it is literally a marriage of convenience and not a marriage of minds and hearts.  It is not a true marriage where both partners cannot jointly practice their faith, the mission of their life.  Without practicing faith, we are no better than animals.

In case the two belong to different faiths, before they marry they must decide which faith they are going to follow.  It may be remembered that conversion for marriage does not mean a change of belief, but it is for a worldly advantage.  Such a wedding may soon create problems.  Here are two case histories from a dozen interfaith marriages that I know.  Each has its own lesson for us to learn.

1. I was invited by the New Jersey sangat for a week long seminar there.  My host was a white lady married to a Sikh.  During informal conversation at her house, she narrated her experience of their marriage.  It is rare to find such honest and sincere people.  What she shared with me is retold below in her words.

“My husband is a great human being.  While working for him as his secretary, I liked him.  We got married, even though my British parents did not agree with it.  Later, when they found my husband to be a nice and noble man and also financially well off, they reconciled with our marriage.  They now visit us regularly.  Before our relations became normal with them, we started facing other problems.

The problem of naming our children was easy to overcome.  We agreed to give them both Punjabi and Christian names. The other problems, however, continue.  When we go to the church, none of us really benefit from it.  He does not believe in Christianity and he just sits there to be with me.  My mind remains constantly occupied with the idea that I am forcing one gentleman to sit there for nothing.  The same thing is experienced at the gurdwara where our roles are switched.  I do not understand Sikh sermons recited in Punjabi. He knows that I am there waiting for the function to be over.

The third problem is regarding the faith of our children.  Should we raise them as Christians or as Sikhs?  It bothers me most and it also seems to have no solution. He says, “I can raise them as Christians.  However, as a true Christian, I feel it is sin to raise the children of a Sikh as Christians. If we do not teach them any faith that also is a sin. I am really under great stress.”

We discussed the topic of interfaith marriages quite often during the days I stayed with them. When, I asked her what I should tell the youth about it, she summarized her experience in two sentences. “If you love a person of a different faith, be a sincere friend but do not marry that person.  By marriage, you will ruin the true meaning of life for both.”

2. There is a different experience of interfaith marriage as well.

A European lady is married to a Sikh who cuts his hair.  She studied Sikh faith and had observed the Sikh culture before her marriage to him.  She not only accepted the Sikh philosophy and culture, but also practiced it sincerely.  She even taught Sikh heritage to the youth at the camps, of course, with some Christian element.  One day, when I visited them for a Sikh youth camp, she gave a pleasant surprise to me by asking, “I want to become an Amritdhari Sikh.  I wish my husband joins me.  Please convince him to stop cutting his hair and also take Amrit.”

The conclusion I draw from these two case histories is that one must marry within one’s faith.  In case of an interfaith marriage, they must, before their wedding, join one faith and sincerely live that faith to have peace and achieve the mission of human life.

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3 Responses to “What is the Sikh attitude to inter-faith marriages?”

  1. Simran Gill says:

    I do not agree at all. Religion is just your belief on life, god, etc. You should still be able to be free and love who you love. You should not be only limited to the people in the sikh religion when there are millions of people out there. Why are Sikhs told to marry Sikhs? Is it because the religion is better, and the people are better? No. I have met many people who are Sikh and are awful people. I, myself, refuse to live my life through these guidelines telling you who to marry and what to do. I do not even believe myself to be a Sikh anymore; I believe myself to be agnostic

  2. N Kaur says:

    I am sikh and am married to a muslim, we have been together for 8 years and are very happy, does it matter what religion you are as long as you believe in 1 god, muslims call him Allah, sikhs call him waheguru. I continue to practise my faith and he practises his and we give each other full respect. He is one of the kindest practising muslims I know, and we should not forget when we die we are all equal in Gods eyes, it is not what religion we followed that will determine our fate but our purity of heart and belief in God. Ones personal belief and relationship with God has nothing to do with what your spouse believes, in fact there are plenty of people who call themselves sikh but they have never washed and bowed down to their creator, they think if we listen to prayer or go the temple then we are sikhs that does not make a sikh, and how many people born into a religion and are non practising, surely its more important that we find someone who believes in God and practises a faith that find someone who was born into religion but does nothing.

    If we have children they will be taught both faiths and can choose freely and no offence will be taken as it will be their choice, all this you can do this and cant do this is irrelevant, our love has proven that inter faith relationships can work, God has blessed us and we are eternally grateful, may others out there learn from our blessings (if you want to call me a non sikh then fair enough but I never said that you did and I believe God is my judge not you)

  3. N Kaur says:

    There is nothing wrong with interracial marriages
    It does not matter what faith you are as long as there is purity of heart
    Faith is about oneness and love for the diving your spouse has nothing to do with it
    I am Sikh my husband is Muslim and we are fully compatible as we respect each others beliefs
    I don’t care what religion my children are as long as they believe in God
    How many sikhs how many muslims how many people of other faiths have been hypocrites
    The one who create me will judge me and no one else

    ps I left a comment before on this web page and it has been removed because people do not want to show anything that conflicts with the above which is wrong, our Gurus said everyone regardless of religion is equal so why remove the truth

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