The Martyrdom of Shri Guru Tegh Bahadur
On the 11th November 1675 at Delhi, Guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Guru of the Sikhs was beheaded by Aurangzeb.
Who killed Guru Tegh Bahadur?
Emperor Aurangzeb, ordered Guru Tegh Bahadur’s execution after a number of interviews with the Guru in which the fundamental principles of the Mughal state policy came under discussion, as to,
Whether the ultimate Truth could be encased in verbal formulae,
Whether the creed-formula of Islam did so encase it justifying its claim to being the final and exclusive deposit of Truth,
Whether this claim could be and should be imposed through terror and temptations, and
Whether a totalitarian, altogether dissent-free society was divinely predetermined as the Will of God.
Why kill Guru Tegh Bahadur?
To all the above profound and rootal questions the reply of the Guru is recorded as having been in the negative and consequently, Aurangzeb clinched the issue by formally inviting the Guru to embrace Islam. This the Guru declined, thus attracting the penalty of death according to the basic state-laws of Islam: ama alqatl wa ama al-Islam.
This historical significant momentous occurrence took place when Guru Gobind Singh, his son, was 9 years of age. The immediate cause of his father’s martyrdom arose out of Guru Tegh Bahadur having directly and personally espoused and taken up the cause of the Hindu Religion then placed under gradual interdiction by Aurangzeb, (and not involving a direct Sikh cause). Such examples are: Aurangzeb forbade all writing of history for Hindus, demolition of all places of worship of non-Muslims, closure of Hindu teaching seminaries, imposed the oppressive taxes on Hindus- that ‘many Hindus were unable to pay turned Mohammedans to obtain relief from insults of the collectors’. (It was later in 1704AD that Aurangzeb ordered the destruction of the Khalsa, and murder of Guru Gobind Singh).
The Laws relied upon to kill Guru Tegh Bahadur
Two grave crimes of Guru Tegh Bahadur under the basic laws of a Muslim state, grounded in theShariat, stand proven and established to the hilt:
- Guru Tegh Bahadur flatly declined to accept Islam, when invited to do so;
- Guru Tegh Bahadur contemptuously refused to perform a miracle; the conclusive characteristic and prerogative of an appointed messenger of God, the status that the Guru was deemed to have claimed for himself.
On both these counts he was adjudged as deserving the statutory penalty of death. The final judgement of the supreme Muslim Juriscouncil, Abdul Wahab Bohra condemned Guru Tegh Bahadur to death on those 2 counts, on referral of the Guru’s case to him by Aurangzeb.
His Sikhs met similar tortures and were also killed in front of the Guru, in attempts to weaken His resolve. They failed.
- Bhai Sati Das was burnt alive, after being wrapped in cotton.
- Bhai Mati Das was sawed in half.
- Bhai Dyala was put in a cauldron and cooked to death in boiling water.
Then Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded - a sacrifice unparallel in the annals of human history.
The message of Guru Tegh Bahadur
Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom was a superb act of self-giving. Implicit in it were his boundless sympathy for the oppressed and his concern to secure the people the freedom of belief. The protection oftilak and janeu of the Hindus meant the protection of the right of everyone to practise their religion unhindered. It involved the larger issues of human rights and freedom of conscience.
Guru Tegh Bahadur’s protest was against the State’s interference with the individual’s duty towards his faith. It meant declaring that the State had no authority over the individual’s conscience and that any attempt to create a unitary, monolithic society must be resisted. It was a reiteration of the Sikh belief in a liberal and ethical order and of the Sikh principles of tolerance and acceptance of diversity of belief and practice.
We must remember the sacrifice and teaching of our beloved Guru.