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Slipping through fingers # 1 – The first Sikh Martyr

Sikhs have done a very poor job in preserving the history of our Gurus.  The book project Taajudin’s Diary has been launched ahead of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev Ji to present some little known episodes from history.  Hopefully, this book will encourage interest and research to stop the last remnants of evidence from slipping through our fingers.

Who is the first Sikh Martyr?

a)      Bhai Tara Popat

b)      Bhai Rukan-ud-din

The Sikh literature identifies Bhai Tara as the first Sikh martyr.  However, new evidence suggests that Bhai Rukan-ud-din sacrificed his life roughly a decade and a half before Bhai Tara.  According to Taajudin Bhai Rukan-ud-din became a Sikh of Guru Nanak after taking charanamrit on Friday night of the Shawaal month of 916 Hijri (The Shawaal month in 916 Hijri started on December 22, 1511 AD).

Bhai Tara (also known as Taru) was martyred by Babur’s soldiers in 1526 AD.  Babur was angered by resistance to his invasion of Lahore and ordered the city burned.  Bhai Tara from a nearby village came to the rescue and refused to relent even when people told him that Babur had ordered that nobody is allowed to put out the fires.  Bhai Tara sacrificed his life to stand up to tyranny.  Bhai Gurdas Ji has listed Bhai Tara in Sikh Namavali, “qwrU poptu qwirAw gurmuiK bwl suBwie audwsI[ From the very childhood [Guru Nanak] liberated detached natured Taru, a Sikh of Popat clan.

Mushtaq Hussein (later became Sant Syed Prithipal Singh) while in the Middle East came across a manuscript Twarikhe Arab written by Khawaja Zayn Al-Abedin a witness to Rukan-ud-din’s martyrdom.  The following is an excerpt:

Khawaja Zayn Al-Abedin wrote that, after bidding farewell to the Guru, Rukan-ud-din didn’t go home.  Instead, he went to a nearby cave in the mountains and started meditating.

Meanwhile, mullahs in Makkah had complained to the Amir that Rukan-ud-din had turned into a kafir. They told the Amir that Rukan-ud-din has taken spiritual guidance from Nanak, the Indian saint, and has turned his back on Islam.  The mullahs complained that Rukan-ud-din has forsaken the rules of sharia and is sitting in caverns of Umra reciting false kalma.  The Amir sent a legal complaint to the Qazis, and the mullahs started issuing fatwas against Rukan-ud-din, which included:

  • Rukan-ud-din is a kafir (infidel) as he followed Nanak Shah, a kafir whose teachings are blasphemous

  • Confiscate all of his property

  • Order his kin to leave the country

  • Give him thirty lashes and then lock him in a dark box without food for eleven days

  • Paint his face black and parade him through the streets of Makkah mounted on a camel

  • Hang him upside down

  • Bury him in hot sand.  The historian writes, “When Rukan-ud-din was dug out of hot burning sand, he was calm, and one could hear Allah’s name from every pore of his body.”


According to the last fatwa, Rukan-ud-din was to be buried up to his chest in sand and then stoned to death.  The masses of Makkah stood around Rukan-ud-din with the skirts of their robes full of stones ready to rain death to please the Amir. 

Rukan-ud-din, buried in sand up to his chest, was absorbed in simran and had his eyes closed.  Instead of sadness, his face glowed in peace. 

As per the tradition, the Amir asked two qazis to document Rukan-ud-din’s last testament.  The two men approached him and shouted,

By the sharia law, you are about to be put to death.  Give us your last statement.”   Rukan-ud-din opened his eyes looked at the two men and smiled.  He remembered his Guru’s last words, “Whatever you saw just now, share that with your countrymen.  You must bear the unbearable.  Kartar will remain with you always.” The time to share with his countrymen had arrived.  

In front of everybody, he stated his last testament:

ربي الإمام حضرة ناناك، اكلمه ان فيها مسلم  Rubanian khatiba el imame hazrat Nanak ma, akallamehu ina feehay musle mun.”

This meant that “my religion and my god is Guru Nanak.  He brings the greatest sacred message and the book.  I believe in him.  If you wish for redemption, then seek Nanak’s shelter.  Whoever reflects on this, will go to heaven.” 

Upon saying this, his neck slumped, and he left his body.


Sadness fell all around, stones fell on people’s own feet, and the guilt-ridden crowd went home.  Half of the people in the crowd turned their faith to Nanak, started simran and absorbed themselves in Kartar.

You can get a PDF version of the book Taajudin’s Diary by emailing to ijSingh6002@gmail.com  or by downloading from the link below:


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On 8/13/2018 at 3:04 AM, TejS said:

Also the transliteration and translation for the Arabic quote is wrong. It transliterates as "rabiy al'imam hadrat nanak, aklmuh 'ana fiha muslim" meaning that even in Imam Hazrat Nanak, one can see a Muslim. Things like this make me even more doubtful. 

Sincere thanks for pointing out the inconsistency between the Arabic quote and the translation.  This mistake was introduced during the translation of Sant Ji’s Punjabi manuscript into English.  Sant Ji, in his manuscript, only included Punjabi transliteration and the Punjabi translation, and not the Arabic quotes (there were one or two exceptions).  The translation team felt that the transliteration from Arabic to Punjabi (done by Sant Ji) and then from Punjabi to English (done by the translation team) may result in indecipherable Arabic phrases.  As a result, an Arabic translator was hired to validate the transliteration and to supply quotes in Arabic script.  This translator had only limited success, she mentioned that transliteration was poor and the language was old and had a mix of Persian in some places.  In hindsight, including Arabic script was a mistake, instead of removing potential transliteration mistakes, it introduced new ones.  The fact that the Arabic script quotes were added later is acknowledged by the editor’s footnote #12 on page 32 of the book:Most of the phrases in the Arabic script in this book were not copied from Taajudin’s original manuscript.  Saving just a few exceptions, Sant ji transliterated Arabic/Persian phrases into Punjabi in his handwritten manuscript.  I used services of an Arabic translator to produce Arabic script from my English transliterations.  It’s possible that some mistakes may have been introduced in these series of conversions from Arabic to Punjabi, Punjabi to English and then finally from English transliteration to Arabic script. 

On 8/13/2018 at 3:04 AM, TejS said:

This is good and all. However, I would be wary of things like this. If what is mentioned did happen, wouldn't there by other sources, such as Meccan and Arabian sources. The Arabs were very good at documenting whatever took place, and they even documented many individuals they personally deemed as "false prophets." I am unable to find any mentioning of this story in any other non-Sikh source.

I agree that we should be skeptical, and validate any historical claims.  Unfortunately, Sikhs have done a poor job in validating and preserving our history.  The purpose of this book is to document these claims so that further research could be carried out.  It’s encouraging that you have researched Arabian sources, we need to do more work in this area. 

The book references over thirty pieces of evidence including monuments, buildings, and literature going back to Bhai Gurdas Ji which corroborates many of Sant Ji’s claims (please see table below from Appendix A of the book). 

There are multiple monuments and buildings built in memory of Guru Ji, referenced by Sant Syed, which still stood until 1930, which were documented and visited by several other Sikhs and non-Sikhs.   Also, there is a much photographed stone slab, from 1511 in Baghdad, with an inscription related to Guru ji  (the slab was destroyed in 2003).   


For example, in addition to other sources, many of the building described by Sant Ji have been cooroborated by Giani Gian Singh, based on interviews with Hajjis, in Twareekh Guru Khalsa, Volume 1, p. 182 (authored in 1892): “Five very famous houses built in the memory of Guru Nanak in Aden, Jeddah, Makkah, Medina, and Baghdad.  Four of these places were under the sponsorship of the Ottoman Empire.  The priests and caretakers of these houses were employees of the Turkish ruler.   Except for Aden, the other four served langar (free kitchen) paid for by the ruler.  All the houses were shaped like a mosque with a golden dome.  Inside each, there was a platform.  The priests wore a blue kachh which covered the knee but not the calf.” 


The Giani based his account on descriptions provided by many Hajj travelers from Punjab which included Hajji Gulam Ali of Rangpura, Hajji Gulam Muhayudin Maulvi, Hajji Gulam Mohammad son of Ilahi Baksh of Sialkot, Hajji Fateh Khan, shipbroker from Bombay, Shahbaz Khan from Kabul, Hajji Kutab Din of Lahore and Hajji Imam Baksh of Delhi.

We must look at Mushtaq Hussein’s (Sant Syed’s) credibility before we accept or discount his testimony.   Mushtaq Hussein belonged to a very well-to-do and influential Syed family of Jammu Kashmir (Syeds are respected in Islam for being direct descendents of Prophet Mohammad).  His grandfather was a cabinet minister, and his father was the highest religious leader (Pir) of Jammu.  Mushtaq’s decision to adopt Sikhism came at a lot of peril and personal sacrifice for him.  He lost his family and a comfortable lifestyle.  As a Sikh, for decades he lived in abject poverty with people constantly making attempts on his life.   Sikhism doesn’t quite encourage conversions.  Mushtaq had to beg and cajole before he was initiated a Sikh.  Mushtaq didn’t come up with these stories to justify his conversion after the fact.    Before he became a Sikh, he shared his documented findings in the Middle East with Jathedar Achhar Singh and others in Lahore to convince them that he be initiated a Khalsa.  While in the the Middle East, Mushtaq was in a much stronger position than most to research the Guru’s history.  He was well educated.  He spoke the local language.  As a Muslim, he had access to people, places, and documents which people from other religions didn’t have.  Above all, he was driven to seek out all and any information related to Guru ji in the Middle East.


Important towns on Guru’s Route

Monuments and Literature References Related to Guru’s Visit

Talwandi, Sultanpur, Multan, Lakhpat, Karachi

Meharban Janamsakhi, Historical Gurudwara at Lakhpat


Puratan Janamsakhi, Meharban, Bhai Bala Janamsakhi, Historical monument at Hinglaj


Historical monument outside the fort


Monument of Nanak Shah Qalandar near the Tomb of Eve


Taajudin – Sihayato Baba Nanak Shah Fakir , Zainul Abidin – Twarikhe Arab, Varan Bhai Gurdas, Puratan, Meharban, Bhai Bala, Makkahy Medina Di Gost, Dwelling of Nanak Shah – Guru’s Kharav (wooden shoe) was kept here (this dwelling is close to the Dwelling of Baba Farid),  Another Memorial with a dome built in the middle of the city – Guru’s aasa (walking staff) was kept here


Taajudin, Bhai Gurdas, Meharban, Bhai Bala, Makkahy Medina Di Gost.  A house where Guruji’s Kharav and Japuji Sahib pothi is kept.  According to Mushtaq Hussein, he visited this house and talked to the owner Mehboob Ibne Jaffer who still followed Guruji.

Amara, Kufa, Kai Kai

Taajudin, Masjide Wali Hind in Amara, Memorial of Nanak Wali Hind outside Kufa in a cemetery near Karbala, Platform of Nanak Wali Hind in Kai Kai by Furat Canal – Karoon’s needle was kept here


Taajudin, Pir Abdul Rehman - Guniya-Ut-Salehin, Bhai Gurdas, Janamsakhi Bhai Mani Singh, Guru’s shrine in the cemetery, Guru’s well in the same cemetery, Stone slab with inscription (destroyed in 2003), Another stone slab with inscription about the Guru and Pir Behlol (seen by Swami Ananda Acharya)


Taajudin wrote that he separated from Guruji in Baghdad and went back to Medina as Guruji and Mardana left for Khorram


Bhai Bala

Kabul, Jalalabad, Peshawar, Tila Bal Nath, Talwandi

Puratan, Meharban, Guru’s shrines in Kabul and Jalalabad


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