Guru Granth Sahib on using force

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This article deals with the guidance that the Guru Granth Sahib provides on the topic relating to the use of force. The following Shabads (verse) seek to clarify the position on this important aspect of human exploitation.

ਕਬੀਰ ਜੋਰੀ ਕੀਝ ਜ੝ਲਮ੝ ਹੈ ਕਹਤਾ ਨਾਉ ਹਲਾਲ੝ ॥ ਦਫਤਰਿ ਲੇਖਾ ਮਾਂਗੀਝ ਤਬ ਹੋਇਗੋ ਕਉਨ੝ ਹਵਾਲ੝ ॥੧੮੭॥
Kabīr jorī kī­ė julam hai kahṯĝ nĝ­o halĝl. Ḏafṯar lėkẖĝ mĝʼngī­ai ṯab ho­igo ka­un havĝl. ॥187॥
Kabeer, to use force is tyranny, even if you call it legal.

When your account is called for in the Court of the Lord, what will your condition be then? ॥187॥

ਕਬੀਰ ਜੋਰ੝ ਕੀਆ ਸੋ ਜ੝ਲਮ੝ ਹੈ ਲੇਇ ਜਬਾਬ੝ ਖ੝ਦਾਇ ॥ ਦਫਤਰਿ ਲੇਖਾ ਨੀਕਸੈ ਮਾਰ ਮ੝ਹੈ ਮ੝ਹਿ ਖਾਇ ॥੨੦੦॥
Kabīr jor kī­ĝ so julam hai lė­ė jabĝb kẖuḝĝ­ė. Ḏafṯar lėkẖĝ nīksai mĝr muhai muhi kẖĝ­ė. ॥200॥
Kabeer, it is tyranny to use force; the Lord shall call you to account.

When your account is called for, your face and mouth shall be beaten. ॥200॥

ਕਬੀਰ ਲੇਖਾ ਦੇਨਾ ਸ੝ਹੇਲਾ ਜਉ ਦਿਲ ਸੂਚੀ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਉਸ੝ ਸਾਚੇ ਦੀਬਾਨ ਮਹਿ ਪਲਾ ਨ ਪਕਰੈ ਕੋਇ ॥੨੦੧॥
Kabīr lėkẖĝ ḝėnĝ suhėlĝ ja­o ḝil sūcẖī ho­ė. Us sĝcẖė ḝībĝn meh palĝ na pakrai ko­ė. ॥201॥
Kabeer, it is easy to render your account, if your heart is pure. In the True Court of the Lord, no one will seize you. ॥201॥

When force is allowed

Guru Gobind Singh in the Bani called Zafarnama which appears towards the end of the Dasam Granth says:

ਬ ਲਾਚਾਰਗੀ ਦਰਮਿਯਾਂ ਆਮਦਮ ॥ ਬ ਤਦਬੀਰਿ ਤੀਰੋ ਤ੝ਫ਼ੰਗ ਆਮਦਮ ॥੨੧॥

ਚ੝ ਕਾਰ ਅਜ਼ ਹਮਹ ਹੀਲਤੇ ਦਰ ਗ੝ਜ਼ਸ਼ਤ ॥ ਹਲਾਲ ਅਸਤ ਬ੝ਰਦਨ ਬ ਸ਼ਮਸ਼ੀਰ ਦਸਤ ॥੨੨॥

ba lachaargi darmian aamdam, ba tadbir teer-o kamaan aamdam (21)

chu kar az hameh heel-te dar guzasht, halal ast burdan b-shamshir dast (22)

It was out of sheer helplessness that I came onto the battlefield (since I was surrounded from all sides at Chamkaur). But having decided to battle with your forces, I came with all the battle plans and munitions.

When all the options for solving a conflict have been exhausted completely, only then is the taking of the sword in your hand deemed legitimate.

This bani by the tenth master is in Persian for the convenience of Aurangzeb who was the recipient of this letter, called the Zafarnama or "Declaration of Victory". It clearly defines the steps that are required to be taken before one can consider the use of force. Firstly, the Guru was surrounded by the enemy; secondly, the Sikhs had tried all types of negotiations; including an evacuation of the site. Only when all these options had been exhausted does the Guru say that force can be used.