A hymn for humanity
Amar Nath Wadehra

Sukhmani Sahib
by Sri Guru Arjan Dev (1563-1606). Presentation by Syed Afzal Haider.
Izharsons, Lahore, Pakistan.
Pages: 320. Rs 1,200.

IN every community, scriptures play a vital, multifaceted role. They act as guiding lights for smooth functioning of a society, facilitate spiritual discipline and elevation, and become sources of equipoise during crises. Even if one is not a practicing theist, prayers help one acquire self-confidence while facing vagaries of life. Sukhmani Sahib is such a font of spiritual, moral and psychological strength.

There are any number of legends and parables highlighting its healing powers. One such relates to Hakim Alimuddin Ansari, the then Governor of Lahore. He was suffering from acute and chronic stomach ailment. One day he happened to visit Amritsar, where Baba Buddha cured him with a massage and directed him to Guru Arjan Dev. The latter asked him to listen to the recitation of Sukhmani Sahib every day, which Ansari did. He benefited both physically as well as spiritually.

Variously described as the beatitude of mind, the jewel of bliss, the psalm of peace and the provider of comfort, this collection of hymns—authored by Guru Arjan Dev—is part and parcel of daily prayers in the homes of many a devout Sikh and Hindu.

Forming a part of Guru Granth Sahib, Sukhmani Sahib has structural unity. It has 24 salokas. There are 24 cantos called Ashtpadis, each containing eight stanzas. Each stanza has 10 lines that form five couplets. The saloka of each canto gives the general idea of the stanzas that follow. This archetypal hymn has thematic unity too, viz., moral, spiritual and temporal evolvement of the individual.

While presenting this tome, Haider has underscored similarities between Islamic and Sikh precepts. To buttress this thesis, he has juxtaposed certain aayats—both Arabic original and English translation—from the Holy Quran (Sura Nur, Sura Baqra et al) with verses from Guru Granth Sahib that preach monotheism or the oneness of God. He also acknowledges that Sikh Gurus were all well-read in the field of comparative religions. Further, he points out the non-sectarian character of the composition. His expatiations on Zikr, Tauheed and the essence of Sukhmani Sahib are illuminating.

What makes this excellently produced work a collector’s item is the presentation of the verses in Gurmukhi along with their translation as well as transliteration in Urdu and English. The translations are lucid and should attract readership transcending linguistic, religious and cultural stratifications. The price is a bit on the high side, but then good things seldom come cheap.