Are Sikhs Muslims? 10 Ways Sikhism Differs From Islam

A Comparison of Sikh and Muslim Faiths

Modern Sikh Tall and Small
Modern Sikh Tall and Small. Photo Courtesy Rajnarind Kaur

Question: Are Sikhs Muslims? 10 Ways Sikhism Differs From Islam

Sikhs have been the victims of hate crimes and domestic terrorism targeting Muslims in a back lash following September 11, 2001 and the Gulf War. Sikhs have a unique and distinct appearance. When people living in Western countries come in contact with Sikhs having a beard and wearing a turban, many assume they are Muslims.

Are Sikhs Muslims?


No. Sikhs are not Muslims.

Sikhism is a distinct religion with a unique scripture, guidelines, principles, initiation ceremony and appearance developed by ten gurus over three centuries.

10 Ways Sikhism Differs From Islam

1. Origin:

  • Sikhism originated with the birth of Guru Nanak in Punjab circa 1469 and is based on the guru's writings and teachings. The Nanak philosophy "There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim," meaning all are spiritually equal was propagated by Guru Nanak born of a Hindu family and his spiritual companion Bhai Mardana born of a Muslim family on a series of mission tours. guru Nanak compiled writings of both Hidhu and Muslim saints which are included in Sikh scriptures.
  • Islam originated in 610 A.D. with Prophet Muhammad and the Quran (Koran). Islam's roots can be traced to about 2000 B.C in the Middle East to Ishmael the illegitimate son of Abraham's begotten with his first wife Sarah's handmaiden, Hagar given to Abraham by Sarah "to be his wife." (Genesis 16:2) Because Hagar despised and mocked her mistress, at Sarah's behest, Hagar and her son Ishmael at age 16 were cast out after Abraham and his wife Sarah produced their legitimate son and heir Isaac. (Genesis 21:9-10)

    Abraham grieved at the loss of Ishmael and was promised by God to bless Ishmael "son of the bondwoman...because he is thy seed." (Genesis 21:13) God promised to make Ishmael the father of "princes...and a great nation." (Genesis 17:20)

    Ishmael fathered 12 sons "by name, by town, and by castles, according to their nations" (Genesis 25:12-17):
    1. Nebajoth
    2. Kedar
    3. Adebeel
    4. Mibsam
    5. Mishma
    6. Dumah
    7. Massa
    8. Hadar
    9. Tema
    10. Jetur
    11. Naphish
    12. Kedemah
    The Islamic scripture Quran does not refer to Ishmael's mother by name. The Quran tells that Ishmael and his father Abraham built the Ka'aba of Makkah (Mecca) the center of Islam at the site of spring Zamzam where Allah provided water to Ishmael and his mother when they were alone in the desert. Over the centuries, the Ka'aba fell into the hands of idol worshiping pagans.

    In 630 A.D. Prophet Muhammad re-established leadership in Mecca and rededicated the Ka'aba to worship of one God Allah.

    (Islamic Quran Sura may conflict with (Genesis 15-25)  Jewish Torah / Christianity Old Testament.)

    2. Deity:

    • Sikhs believe in Ik Onkar, one creator who is present in all of creation. Sikhs refer to God as Waheguru.
    • Muslims profess belief in Allah and his prophet Mohammad.

    3. Scripture:

    • Sikhs accept the scripture of Siri Guru Granth Sahib as the living word of their Guru or Enlighter. The Guru Granth offers instruction and guidance on how to achieve humility and overcome egoism to illuminate and liberate the soul from the bondage of spiritual darkness.
    • Muslims follow the scripture of the Quran believing it to be the word of God as revealed to the Prophet Mohammad by the Angel Gabriel.

    4. Fundamental Principles:

    5. Worship:

    • Sikhs worship in the gurdwara. Services include langar free food from the guru's kitchen. Sikhs begin the day with meditation and recite daily prayers in the morning, evening and at bedtime.
    • Muslims worship in the mosque and recite prayers five times daily.

    6. Conversion:

    • Sikhism does not practice proselytism, nor seek to convert, but accepts anyone who chooses to be initiated regardless of background. Sikhism believes in defending the oppressed against tyranny of forced conversion, by peaceful means, or taking up arms should negotiations fail.
    • Islam has a history of forced conversion with either payment of Jizia tax or enforced fight for property and life upon refusal. Sharia law is still followed by modern day fundamentalist extremists in the Middle East.

    7. Appearance:

    • Sikhism Keshdhari devotees and Armitdhari initiates do not cut or remove hair from the body face or scalp. Devout Sikh men and some women wear religiously mandated turbans in a variety of styles to cover and protect unshorn hair.
    • Muslim male devotees may wear a turban, or fez, and grow a beard, but generally do not keep hair intact on the scalp or body. Women devotees may wear hijab to cover hair on the head, or burqa to cover the body. Women generally remove facial and body hair. Islamic religious headgear is predominately worn in the Middle East, increasingly in Europe, but is rarely worn in the United States.

      8. Circumcision:

      • Sikhism is against ritual mutilation of the genitals, respecting the body as perfect in its natural state of creation. Sikhs do not practice circumcision for either male or females.

      Islam widely practices culturally dictated circumcision for male and females, both historically and in modern times.

      9. Marriage and Status of Females:

      • Sikhism code of conduct outlines marriage as a monogamous relationship teaching that bride and groom are fused by the Anand Karaj ceremony with the divine sharing one light in two bodies. Dowry is discouraged.
      • Sikh women have equal status to men in every aspect of life and worship. Sikh women are encouraged to be educated, become community leaders and are welcome to take part in every ceremony.
      • Islamic scripture of the Quran allows a man to take up to four wives. Ilsamic law requires Muslim couples to sign a Nikah contract stipulating bride gift, and is followed by Walima, a public ceremony.
      • Islam does not allow women to enter the mosque where men worship. In many parts of the world Muslim women are segregated, secluded and heavily veiled.

      10. Dietary Law & Fasting:

      • Sikhism does not permit the eating of animal slaughtered ritually according to Muslim law halal. Sikhism does not believe in ritual fasting as a means to spiritual enlightenment.
      • Islam dietary law requires that animals eaten for food be slaughtered according to halal ritual reading of prayer while the live animal is bled to death. Islam observes Ramadan, a month long fast during which no food or drink may be consumed during daylight hours. Fasting deprivation is thought to purify the soul.

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