Sikhi against divorce

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Laava: Couple slowing walking clockwise around the Guru Granth Sahib

Sikhism does not give the right of divorce to its adherents except in extreme circumstances, and even then since it is not legislated within Sikhism this is decided by Western, Hindu, Muslim or other courts. The Guru Granth Sahib does not specify a word for 'divorce' and this act is not considered in the holy Granth; apart from the word 'chhutee' (Gurmukhi: ਛੂਟੀ) which means 'released' or 'escaped' no other word is specified for this act of separation. In English we have the word 'divorce'; in Urdu we have 'Talaak'; in Spanish we have 'divorcio', etc

Many Sikh sources mention the difficulty of divorce in the Sikh tradition; some quotes from Sikhs are as follows:- “In the case of broken marriage, divorce is not possible according to the Sikh religious tradition. The couple can, however, obtain a divorce under the Civil law of the land.”

Anand Karaj

Main article: Anand Karaj

Anand Karaj (Punjabi: ਅਨੰਦ ਕਾਰਜ, anand kĝraj) is the name given to the Sikh wedding ceremony, literally translated as "Blissful Event or Occasion". Sikhs regard marriage as a sacred bond of mutual dependence between a man and a woman. A true partnership in marriage is made between those who are united in spirit as well as in mind and body. Marriage is regarded as a strong bond between the bride and groom and the relatives of both families - it is accepted as a joining of the two families into one as well.

Based on a concept depicted in Laava, the Sikh marriage is not merely a physical and legal contract but is a fusion of the souls; a holy union between two souls, where physically they appear as two individual bodies but in fact are united as one. The couple must feel and think alike and both must be completely identified with the other, i.e. they need to become "Ek Jot Doe Murti" meaning "one spirit in two bodies".

The Bride: a new member of the family

It is difficult for the western mind to comprehend the concept of Anand Karaj as specified in the Sikh culture. Most Sikhs would refuse to consider divorce, unless the relationship had completely broken down and all avenues for reconciliation had been exhausted; many options have to be explored and undertaken before a divorce will be accepted by the community. The relationship is central to Sikhi and an important aspect of the Sikh way of life.

A marriage in Sikhi is just like a birth of a "new person" into a family; it is the introduction of a new soul into a new family. When a new baby is born into a family, the family cannot "divorce" the child and so in a similar manner it is considered impossible to "divorce" a bride or groom who has come into the family. The bond has to be nurtured and cultivated; much effort has to be made to make the relationship loving and steady. The Guru Granth offers advice on how one should like as a husband and wife.

"Birth" of a new member

When a new person is born into the family, the family has to cherish and love this new member - be it a new bride or a groom or a new born baby. Just like a newly born who does not know his or her parents; the bride or groom may not know their new parents (in-laws). Also when a baby is born into a family, his or her personality is unknown and adjustments have to be made to catered for the new member; the same applies in marriage; adjustments have to be made for the new members by the members and also the rest of the family.

When the Anand Karaj has taken place, with the blessings of the Guru, the responsibility of the bride has been transferred from her parents to the parents of her husband in. It is implied that the in-laws will treat the bride as a daughter and the groom' in-laws will treat him like a son. A loving environment has to prevail at all times and much care and tact has to be used to ensure that the relationship is built to endure. Responsibility for the happy marriage is shared by all in the family and community; it is the hub of the Sikh Dharam and so considered too important to be left to chance or to it own self destruction; much care is given to this relationship.

The new bride is respected just like a "daughter" and given equal rights to the husband in the new family; the actual tasks performed by the bride and the bride-groom may be different depending on their preferences and skills but their rights in the family are on an equal footing; this is essence of Sikhi.

Marriage: Path of spiritual awakening

Main article: Laava

During the Anand Karaj (wedding ceremony), the couple walk four times around the Guru Granth Sahib while the Laava shabads are both recited and sang. With each round the couple agree and confirm to the Guru and Sangat (congregation) the commitment of both individuals to this new relationship and their undertaking to the Guru and to God.

The four nuptial rounds were written by Guru Ram Das for his own wedding. They explain the journey of the souls toward the Almighty; marriage is a vehicle to help in this journey. In the four rounds, the Guru tells us of the duties that a person undertaking a life of marriage should perform. In the first round, the Guru asks the partners to:

  • commit to righteousness, renounce sinful actions and Remember, mediate and embrace Naam - Name of the Lord
  • Only by good fortune, is real peace obtained; Worship the one Waheguru and all your sins will vanish

In the second round, the Guru asks the partners to advance further towards meeting the True Guru - God:

  • have fear of God and your ego will disappear; sing God's praises and feel His presence; God is everywhere, outside and within, sing in Joy

In the third round, the Guru says that the partners mind is filled with "Divine Love":

  • meeting the Sadh Sangat (Holy Congregation), which is only obtained by good fortune
  • Recite Gurbani and sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord; the Naam will vibrate and resound within your heart and you will know your future destiny.


In the final round, the Guru says that the partners mind become peaceful and they will have found the Lord:

  • God's Will seems sweet to these Gurmukhs; they will accept their destiny; you will lovingly focus your consciousness on the Lord, day and night
  • All your desires will be fulfilled and the Souls will blend with Waheguru and only Naam will occupy your heart.

Divorce is taboo

Divorce in Sikhism is considered a very grave matter. When the marriage takes place the husband and wife agree in the presence of Sri Guru Granth Sahib to stay with each other and love and honour each other for life. If marital discord takes place, the community intervenes. First some senior members of the Sangat (community) may be asked to intervene and help to resolve any differences. Secondly, the Panj Piaray can be asked to help resolve the situation. There is always pressure on the couple to resolve their differences in a amicable manner and help is freely given by the senior members of the Gurdwara or sangat.

In the extreme and very rare case where one side simply refuses to reconcile one party may ask the permission of the Sangat or Panj Pyaray to divorce and later re-marry.

Marriage is not however considered something that can be formed and broken at will. It is a commitment made in front of God and to be relieved of that commitment to the other person some very extenuating circumstances must be present.

Gurbani: Guide to a moral code

The Guru Sahib teaches us how to become rational thinkers and beings who live our lives in a moral way. This shows how much free thinking Guru Sahib has given to his Sikhs. It is a fact that divorce is not a simple thing as it involves the lives of not only two human beings, but the lives of their children.

There can be many different situations and circumstances related to divorce. Stating every different situation is impossible because a divorce can involve a simple reason or many complex reasons. There can also be numerous possible solutions to a case.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji is not a rule book. Gurbani teaches us how to think and how to tackle every problem and find the best solution. This is why Guru Sahib gave the power to Sikhs to make decisions that are best for everyone. Gurbani gives freedom of free thinking whereas archaic and inflexible rules would not.

In Sikhism marriage is highly regarded and both man and woman must respect one another as they join together to share their spiritual path and goal in life.

Marriage and Sexuality

This is a stark contrast to Satguru Nanak’s example. When the King of Sangladeep sent dancing girls to entertain and seduce Guru Nanak Sahib jee, Guru Sahib said,

"O princess, my daughter, run away from this place! Chant the True Name, and embellish your days. Serve your Beloved Lord God, and lean on the Support of His Love. Through the Word of the Guru's Shabad, abandon your thirst for corruption and poison. ||7||" (Ang 1187)

Wives as equal Partners

The teachings of the Sikh Gurus, beginning with Guru Nanak, that women are equal partners in marriage were, while little known outside of the Punjab, revolutionary at the time. In parts of the world women are still engaged in winning their rights of equality.

The concept of slavery (the wife being considered as a piece of property) or of couples having sexual relations outside of marriage is absolutely forbidden in Sikhism, unlike in many other Religions.

Other Religions

Talaq

In Islam if a man says “Talaq” three times to a wife, they are divorced. This cannot be reversed which makes it clear that any Muslim under the influence of frustration or anger can simply destroy the relationship and the lives of his children. Women on the other hand do not have the right to talaq, but they do have the right to khulla (divorce). [[1]]

The Muslim wife all across India lives under the un-Islamic threat of triple talaq. Most Islamic scholars feel that the time has come to abolish the practice as countries such as; Iraq, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Turkey and Tunisia have done, but until this is done, for those living under the dominance of the Ulema, the Muslim marriage remains imprisoned in inequality.

Most Ulemas agree that triple talaq in one sitting is biddah (a sinful act) - three words that end a marriage in one breath.

After talaq, the status of the wife becomes haram (illegitimate) to her husband.

Says Islamic law scholar, Tahir Mehmood, "Triple talaq deserves to be outrightly repealed. It has no place in the holy Quran and it's the distortion of the law - not the Islamic law."

The Quran is very cautious when it comes to talaq. In fact, it says that it is the most hateful act in the eyes of Allah, sanctioned only in extreme circumstances, when a couple is unable to stay together despite all efforts of reconciliation.

Divorce by phone or internet?

And in Lucknow, on March 16, 2008 (IANS) The All India Muslim Women Personal Law Board Sunday came out with its much-awaited ‘model’ nikahnama, which explicitly bars men from declaring ‘talaq’ (divorce) in a fit of anger, intoxication or partial sleep or even by phone, SMS or internet. The model nikahnama (divorce declaration) aimed at providing Muslim women protection from undue oppression by their husbands, spells out the wife’s legitimate rights, granted under the Shariat, as also the duties of both husband and wife. It emphasises the importance of marriage and discourages divorce.

Nikĝḥ al-Mut‘ah

Nikĝḥ al-Mut‘ah (Arabic: نكاح المتعة‎ marriage for pleasure), or sigheh (Persia), is a fixed-term marriage contract according to the Usuli Shia schools. It allows (temporary marriges) where couples can have religiously sanctioned sex for a limited period of time, without any commitments, and without the obligatory involvement of religious figures.

The Catholic Church

In the Catholic Church, a marriage is considered to be a valid contract entered into between a man and a woman and God. The priest oversees the wedding but the marrige is performed by the man and woman to God. In simplest terms, it is necessary that the marriage is contracted, that a valid ceremony/contract be performed, and that both parties enter willingly into the contract. If any of these conditions lack, then the marriage is not contracted, Divine sanction is not obtained, and there is in actual (and religious) fact no marriage. An annulment is a finding later that there was no actual marriage contracted in God's eyes, and therefore no marriage in reality (from the religious point of view), regardless of civil ordinance or appearance to humans. Some accuse the Catholic Church of hypocrisy for teaching that all marriages are permanent but providing the means of annulment.

Tactics for a happy marriage (Humour)

Progress of a Marriage

1st Year: A G

2nd Year: O G

3rd Year: Sunde Ho

4th Year: O Bunty de papa

5th Year: Mein kya, sunya nahi

6th Year: Kithe Margaye?

7th Year: Tusi aa rahe ho ya mein aawan?

8th Year: Jaa-o, khasmaa noo(n) khaa-o!


First lesson

My closest bosom friend, Jugraj - later (Col. Kahai) was married in 1960. Our turn came in 1961 and naturally he was the best man. At that time he was posted in Delhi and we stayed with them for a couple of days before leaving for Malaysia. As an example of married bliss, they started some innocuous argument, and his Shrimati Tital (her pet name) was not going to give up her lead positon. After about 10 minutes of healthy banter, Jugraj went into a silent mode. In warfare, a one-sided position is just not tenable and spoils the fun. It had the portent to put Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' into a revised edition. "Now, Jugi, what have you to say? Looks like you have run out of your clever arguments!" "No, Tital, I just wanted you to have the last word!" This was an early lesson to learn and I have since kept quiet - (except, I am told, that I sometimes compensate by talking in my sleep!) This was Rule No.1 for a sustainable happy marriage. (by Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia))

See also