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Editors’ note: 

The FAQs is an ongoing TGC series in which we answer your questions about the latest news and current events.

Our prayers go out to the families of the victims in the tragic shooting yesterday at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. Because many Christians are not familiar with this minority religion, we’ve compiled a brief list of answers to basic questions about the religion.

What is Sikhism?

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded in the region of Pakistan by Guru Nanak Dev in the early 1500s (around the time Martin Luther was a teenager). Guru Nanak Dev was the first of ten successive Sikh gurus, the last of whom died in 1708. Sikhs regard the ten Gurus not as divine, but as enlightened teachers through whom God revealed his will.

How large is the religion?

Sikhism is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world, with over 30 million Sikhs around the globe. There are estimated to be approximately 250,000 Sikhs living in the United States.

What is the focus of Sikhism?

The focus of a the Sikh is on obedience to God and on participation in the Sikh community. The Sikh ideal combines action and belief, meditating on God and living the life of a good person. Sikhs believe that by focusing their attention away from themselves and onto their creator, they can eventually become one with God.

What is the basis of religious authority in Sikhism?

The ultimate source of authority and doctrine in Sikhism is the sacred book, the Adi Granth, a compilation of teachings completed in 1604.

What do Sikhs believe about God?

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion that believes God is omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving, and without form or gender. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, taught that the creator and creation are inseparable in the way that an ocean is made up of its individual drops. Sikhs believe that God can be found both within creation and within themselves.

What are the Three Duties and Five Vices?

The three duties that a Sikh must carry out can be summed up in three words; Pray, Work, Give: Nam japna – Keeping God in mind at all times; Kirt Karna – Earning an honest living (including avoiding gambling, begging, or working in the alcohol or tobacco industries); Vand Chhakna – Giving to charity and caring for others.

Sikhs try to avoid the five vices that make people self-centered, and build barriers against God in their lives: Lust, anger, pride, covetousness and greed, and attachment to things of this world.

What is the relation between the Sikh and the Guru?

According to the Sikh Wiki, the word Sikh means a learner or student who gets instruction from a teacher who is called a Guru. The personality of the Sikh Guru is so influential that it completely transforms the disciple and shapes the student’s life to divine issues. This is achieved not by personal and physical instruction but by the belief that the Sikh develops a spiritual kinship with the Guru.

Why don’t Sikhs cut their hair?

Sikhs believe that God created hair for a reason, therefore to accept the persistent growth of hair on the face and head is to accept the will of God.

Why do Sikhs wear turbans?

Because Sikhs do not cut their hair, they wear a turban to keep it tidy and manageable.

What do Sikhs believe about Christianity?

Sikhism teaches that there are many paths to knowing and experiencing God. The Sikh scriptures teaches that the sacred texts of other religions are not false (“Do not say that the Vedas, the Bible and the Koran are false. Those who do not contemplate them are false.”).

Other Posts in this Series:

Updates on the Contraceptive-Abortifacient Mandate

God and the God Particle

The Supreme Court Ruling on Obamacare

Southern Baptists, Calvinism, and God’s Plan of Salvation

Are Mormons Christian?

The Contraceptive-Abortifacient Mandate

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?