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The word ‘secular’ is derived from the Latin word "Saeculum" (meaning present age or this world). It was first used in 1648 in the treaty of Westphalia at the end of religious wars in the west. At that time it denoted “the removal of territory or property from the control of ecclesiastical authorities.” [1] George Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906) was the main exponent of this doctrine and defined it as “well being of mankind in the present life to the exclusion of all considerations drawn from belief in God and a future state.” [2]

Soon it acquired negative connotations and began to be used as a weapon of counter-religious ideologies. It was defined as non-ecclesiastical, non–religious and non-sacred anti-clerical act. Its simple definition became “Liberation of modern man from religious tutelage.” The dictionary meaning of secularism is ‘concerned with the affairs of this world, worldly, not sacred, not monastic, not ecclesiastical, temporal, profane” (The concise Oxford Dictionary 1958 page 1124) Considered in this context secularism can mean individualism and goodbye to morality, truth, justice, compassion and fair play.

In Sikhism sacred and secular are co-mingled but purified. The Guru condemned the secular authorities as “beasts and animals” (SGGS 1288) and the religious leaders as “butchers and liars.” (SGGS 471) He said that ‘truth, fair play and justice have taken flight from both.’275He secularised religion by divesting it of mystery, miracles, magic, divine incarnation and supernatural mediation between man and God and purified secularism by investing it with equality, mutual respect, goodwill, morality, equal opportunity, religious toleration and openness in administration.

Even in the most advanced western countries like England and the U.S.A, secularism is not practised in the real sense. For example only a Protestant Christian can become the head of state in Britain. In America President Ronald Reagan declared 1983 as “Year of the Bible” in his speech in the House of Representatives on 5th April, 1982 and celebrated it at the state’s expense. In the Sikh concept of secularism, “All have equal rights in affairs. Nobody is an outsider.” (SGGS 97) The Guru treated all religions equally and wanted all to share in the bounties of nature. “O Nanak a truly religious leader should be known as such only if he brings all people together.”

To demonstrate this Guru Granth Sahib contains verses of Dhana, a farmer from Rajasthan; Sadhna, a butcher from Sindh; Sain a barber from Rewa; Ravidas, a cobbler from Benares; Namdev, a calico printer from Maharashtra; Jaidev a Brahman from Bengal and Farid and Kabir who were Muslims. Hindus, Muslims and Vaishnavites all find a place on the pages of the Sikh Holy Granth. “Everybody is my friend and I am a friend of everybody” (SGGS 671)

See also


  1. ^ “The Social Reality of Religion” by Peter L. Berger page 10. He defines the term to mean “the process by which sectors of society and culture are removed from the domination of religious institutions and symbols”(page 197) Professor Roger Mehl defines it as “the process by which a society disengages itself from the religious ideas, beliefs and institutions which have ordered its existence in order to constitute itself an autonomous reality, and in order to enclose religion in the private sector of life” (The secular and secularisation” page5)
  2. ^ “Shorter Oxford Dictionary” page 1164. For further reading refer to Archbishop of Canterbury A.M. Ramsey’s “Sacred and secular” or Harvey Cox’s “The sacred city”
  • This article based on publication "Sikh Religion and Science" by G.S.Sidhu M.A; FIL (London)