Note on terminology

The overall title of this essay is ‘Sikhism’ as a most widely recognized term. It is used by the GCSE and most textbooks.

However we use the term ‘Sikhi’ within this text and in other resources on the website, as a more accurate name for the beliefs and life of Sikh people. The word ‘Sikhism’ was coined by the British Raj, it was not a term Sikhs used themselves. Author Arvind-Pal Singh Mandair describes the term as a ‘colonial construct’ (A Singh Mandair, 2013: p. 5). The word ‘Sikh’ comes from the Punjabi verb ‘Sikhana’, meaning ‘to learn’. Thus a ‘Sikh’ is one who learns. The term ‘Sikhi’ as opposed to ‘Sikhism’ implies a continuous state of learning and engagement, rather than a box into which people can be placed. Sikhi is not an ‘ism’, it is a way of life.

For now the terms ‘Sikhism’ and ‘Sikhi’ will be used interchangeably in Religious Education and in wider culture. However in time ‘Sikhi’ may become the preferred term.

Reference: Singh Mandair, A (2013) Sikhism: a Guide for the Perplexed, Bloomsbury, London

Sikhi is founded upon the life and teaching of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and nine successive gurus who lived in the northern part of South Asia between the 15th and 18th centuries. Sikhi is a worldwide religion with nearly 30 million adherents which is about 1% of the world’s population.

This section was written by Dr Ranvir Singh, Head of RE and Citizenship Coordinator at Cranford Community College. He is passionate that RE can provide insights into how young people can influence the world around them.

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