Akal Murati is a composite term comprised of - akal (nontemporal/ [lit. a - does not] and [kal - die/end] and murati/murti (image or form), which occurrs in the Mul Mantra (root formula) or fundamental creed of the Sikh faith as recorded at the beginning of the Japu, the composition with which the Guru Granth Sahib opens, literally means `timeless image`.
In the compositions of Guru Ram Das (GG, 78), and Guru Arjan (GG, 99, 609, 916 and 1082), the expression Akal Murati reinforces the original meaning of Divine Reality that is beyond the process of time, and yet permeates the cosmic forms. The nontemporal Being transcends the spacetime framework and, as such, is Formless. However, in its manifest aspect, the same Being assumes the cosmic Form.
Sikh Vision of God
The Sikh vision of God combines the Formless and its expression in natural forms, the transcendent and the immanent, the essence (spirit) and existence (creation).
Akal Murati, Two Interpretations
The expression `Akal Murati` lends itself to interpretation in two ways. The exegetes, who treat it as one term, take akal in the adjectival form that qualifies the substantive murati, the whole expression implying Everlasting Form equivalent to the Supreme Being. Those approaching the pair akal and murati severally, treat both the units independently, each expressing an attribute of the Divine Reality, believed to transcend time and space, yet manifest in spaciotemporal forms. But, despite the divergence of approach, both interpretations agree in substance, i.e. the featureless eternal Reality assumes features and modes of empirical existence. To put it differently, `Akal Murati` presents a synthesis of nirgun and sag"un facets of the Absolute God of Guru Nanak`s vision. It however does not embrace the notion of incarnation.
Re-incarnation plays no part in the theological postulations of Sikhism.
1. Talib, Gurbachan Singh, Japuji-The Immortal Sikh Prayer-chant. Delhi, 1977
2. Trilochan Singh, "Theological Concepts ofSikhism," in Sikhism. Patiala, 1969
3. Sher Singh, The Philosophy of Sikhism. Lahore, 1944
4. Jodh Singh, Gurmati Nirnaya. Ludhiana, 1932