Martyrdom in Sikhism

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Martyrdom in Sikhism represents an important element of the faith. Sikh festivals are largely focused on the lives of the Gurus and Sikh martyrs. Their martyrdoms are regarded as instructional ideals for Sikhs, and have greatly influenced Sikh culture and practices. The Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev, is generally regarded as the first Sikh martyr.

Martyrdom in Sikh Belief[edit]

Martyrdom is a fundamental institution of the Sikh faith.[1] The martyrdom of Guru Arjan in the 17th century is regarded as a key moment in Sikh tradition which has influenced Sikh practices and beliefs,[2] helping define a deliberately-separate and militant Sikh community.[3] The later martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur, who refused to convert to Islam in an effort to protect Hindu religious practice, is credited with making respect for freedom of conscience a key part of Sikh identity.

One of the terms referring to a sikh martyr is "shahid" or "shaheed". A male martyr is "shaheed singh", and one who has attained martyrdom is "shaheedi".[4]

The concept of martyrdom was made explicitly part of Sikh teaching by Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

Prominent Sikh Martyrs[edit]


  1. ^ Singh, Kharak (1997). "Martyrdom in Sikhism". Sikhism, Its Philosophy & History. Chandigarh: Institute of Sikh Studies: 18. 
  2. ^ Fenech, Louis E. (2001). "Martyrdom and the Execution of Guru Arjan in Early Sikh Sources". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 121 (1): 20–31. doi:10.2307/606726. 
  3. ^ Singh, Pashuara; Fenech, Louis E. "The Miri-Piri Doctrine and the Khalasa". The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. p. 236. ISBN 9780199699308. 
  4. ^ Khalsa, Sukhmandir (18 June 2015), "Shaheed Defined: Concept of Martyrdom in Sikhism",, retrieved 14 December 2016