Let Compassion Be the Mosque

– Persian Voice in the Guru Granth Sahib

Sabad is Infinite; we are very finite. This is our understanding at the moment, which was different yesterday and may evolve tomorrow, as we deepen our relationship with the Sabad. In this transcreation, we have chosen to keep the repeating words in the Sabad the same. We aspire to learn and retain the Divine attribute as used in the original Sabad and avoid terms like God or Lord.
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ਸਲੋਕੁ ਮਃ ੧ ॥
Salok, First Embodiment.
ਮਿਹਰ ਮਸੀਤਿ ਸਿਦਕੁ ਮੁਸਲਾ ਹਕੁ ਹਲਾਲੁ ਕੁਰਾਣੁ ॥
mihar masīti sidaku musalā haku halālu kurāṇu.
Let compassion be the mosque, conviction the prayer space, pious truth the Quran.

ਸਰਮ ਸੁੰਨਤਿ ਸੀਲੁ ਰੋਜਾ ਹੋਹੁ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ॥
saram sunnati sīlu rojā hohu musalmāṇu.
With restraints the circumcision, good conduct the fast, then one becomes a [true] Muslim.

ਕਰਣੀ ਕਾਬਾ ਸਚੁ ਪੀਰੁ ਕਲਮਾ ਕਰਮ ਨਿਵਾਜ ॥
karṇī kābā sacu pīru kalmā karam nivāj.
Good deeds the Kaba, eternal Truth the spiritual guide, graceful words the prayer.

ਤਸਬੀ ਸਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਵਸੀ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਖੈ ਲਾਜ ॥੧॥
tasbī sā tisu bhāvasī nānak rakhai lāj.1.
Notions that the 1 likes are the rosary, Nanak says, by this rosary one’s honor is [truly] protected.

ਮਃ ੧ ॥
First Embodiment.
ਹਕੁ ਪਰਾਇਆ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਉਸੁ ਸੂਅਰ ਉਸੁ ਗਾਇ ॥
haku parāiā nānakā usu sūar usu gāi.
Nanak says, appropriating another’s legitimate rights is like pork [for Muslims] and beef [for Hindus].

ਗੁਰੁ ਪੀਰੁ ਹਾਮਾ ਤਾ ਭਰੇ ਜਾ ਮੁਰਦਾਰੁ ਨ ਖਾਇ ॥
guru pīru hāmā tā bhare jā murdāru na khāi.
The Guru or Pir provides support only if one doesn’t eat these carcasses.

ਗਲੀ ਭਿਸਤਿ ਨ ਜਾਈਐ ਛੁਟੈ ਸਚੁ ਕਮਾਇ ॥
galī bhisati na jāīai chuṭai sacu kamāi.
There is no going to heaven by talking, freedom is earned only through the Eternal Truth.

ਮਾਰਣ ਪਾਹਿ ਹਰਾਮ ਮਹਿ ਹੋਇ ਹਲਾਲੁ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥
māraṇ pāhi harām mahi hoi halālu na jāi.
There is no spinning the haram into the halal.

ਨਾਨਕ ਗਲੀ ਕੂੜੀਈ ਕੂੜੋ ਪਲੈ ਪਾਇ ॥੨॥
nānak galī kūṛīī kūṛo palai pāi.2.
Nanak says, only trash is received by trash talks.

ਮਃ ੧ ॥
First Embodiment.
ਪੰਜਿ ਨਿਵਾਜਾ ਵਖਤ ਪੰਜਿ ਪੰਜਾ ਪੰਜੇ ਨਾਉ ॥
pañji nivājā vakhat pañji pañjā pañje nāu.
Five prayers, five times, five with five names.

ਪਹਿਲਾ ਸਚੁ ਹਲਾਲ ਦੁਇ ਤੀਜਾ ਖੈਰ ਖੁਦਾਇ ॥
pahilā sacu halāl dui tījā khair khudhāi.
First truth, second ethics, third Khuda’s grace.

ਚਉਥੀ ਨੀਅਤਿ ਰਾਸਿ ਮਨੁ ਪੰਜਵੀ ਸਿਫਤਿ ਸਨਾਇ ॥
caüthī nīati rāsi mānu pañjavī siphati sanāi.
Fourth sincere intention in mind, fifth glory and praise [of the Divine].

ਕਰਣੀ ਕਲਮਾ ਆਖਿ ਕੈ ਤਾ ਮੁਸਲਮਾਣੁ ਸਦਾਇ ॥
karṇī kalmā ākhi kai tā musalmāṇu sadāi.
If your deeds match the prayers read, then you can be called a Muslim.

ਨਾਨਕ ਜੇਤੇ ਕੂੜਿਆਰ ਕੂੜੈ ਕੂੜੀ ਪਾਇ ॥੩॥
nānak jete kūṛiār kūṛai kūṛī pāi.3.
Nanak says, many are trashy, they are pretenders, and they receive trash and trash.

Guru Nanak Sahib in Rag Majh | Guru Granth Sahib 140-141

Reflections on this Transcreation:

Persian-based Sabad is difficult to read and understand for both native Panjabi speakers and native Persian speakers. Panjabi grammar is imported into Persian and vice versa, creating new deviations of standard pronunciations. The language of Gurbani takes influence from the languages of South Asia at the time (Panjabi, Persian, Sanskrit, Braj, and many more) that the bani was revealed, but often defies the rules of language and poetry to create new meaning. This Sabad employs Persian and Arabic vocabulary to create a hybridized form of language. The language of Gurbani stands alone, therefore the following commentary was written to help guide readers through the meaning of the Sabad and enrich understanding.

In the previous Sabad (Divine Word) of this series, we saw how Guru Nanak Sahib used Persian to communicate the Sikhi paradigm within an Islamic context. This Sabad builds upon the worldview Guru Nanak Sahib expressed in those Sabad. Guru Nanak Sahib does not use Persian grammar in this Sabad, but instead specific Persian and Arabic terminology, in order to reveal the ways in which we can live through principles of IkOankar (1-ness) in our daily lives. The Persian and Arabic vocabulary grounds the Sabad in an Islamic context. Guru Nanak Sahib’s messages do not live in the abstract, they are exhibited through mention of concrete practices intimately familiar to the common people of the era. This commentary focuses on these words and the messages they convey.  Spellings are listed for vocabulary of Persian and Arabic origin.  

The Salok here concretely calls upon physical objects used in daily Islamic prayer and practice. The mosque or masjid masīti, the prayer space musalā ( مصلا), the Quran kurāṇu (قران), circumcision sunati, fasting rojā ( روزه), the Kaaba to which Muslims pray towards kābā  ( کعبه), the daily prayer nivāj ( نماز), and the rosary tasbī (تسبیح ). Guru Nanak Sahib does not endorse or reject the validity of these physical objects of Islamic practice. Instead this Sabad reveals that each form of physical practice must be matched with internal practice. Compassion mihar (مهر ), conviction sidaku ( صدق), pious truth (halal) conduct haku halālu ( حق حلال), restraint saram, good conduct sīlu (سلوک), deeds karṇī (کاران ), Eternal Truth sacu, graceful words kalmā karam ( کلمه ها کرم), and finally, acting in 1-ness.

The society Guru Nanak spoke to through Sabad was deeply embedded with religious practices for Hindus and Muslims, particularly when it came to religious dietary restrictions. In many places Sabad questions whether restrictions regarding the purity and impurity of food truly mean anything if one does not live a pious or pure life through their actions. Guru Nanak Sahib reveals the way one may condemn the consumption of pork or beef, one should also strictly be against appropriating one’s legitimate rights or haku ( حق). The ritual practice that people find easier to execute is invoked in order to encourage reflection on principled living, which is often much harder for people to maintain. One should seek to be as far away from exploitative actions as they are from the carcass of the cow or pig that they do not believe in consuming.

The Creator is all-encompassing, and therefore using words to disguise our actions is meaningless. Only Eternal Truth will lead us to liberation. We cannot use our words to spin harām or impious (حرام) actions into halāl (حلال) or pious ones. If our words are untrue, if they are trash, we will receive only trash.

Guru Nanak Sahib then calls upon the number 5. There are five daily prayers in Islam, and five pillars in the religion. Guru Nanak Sahib acknowledges the legitimacy of Islam. The true intention of Divine connection in Islamic practice is valid, but simply acting out the external practices of Islam does not make you a “good” Muslim, as in one that is truly meeting with the Divine. Guru Nanak Sahib acknowledges that Muslims live out their faith through five daily prayers, but also does not uphold them as a requirement. They are an available means and a path one can choose to take. Likewise, if one chooses the path of a Sikh, the Gurus show us this way.

Regardless of whether one prays five times a day, if one lives life remembering these five principles, they can truly call themselves a person of faith (in this case, speaking with a certain audience in mind, a Muslim): truth sacu, ethics halāl ( حلال), Khuda’s grace khair khudhāi ( خیر خدایی), sincere intention nīati rāsi ( نیت راست), and Divine Praise siphati sanāi ( صفت ثنای). If one lives with these principles and one’s deeds match the prayers one reads, then one is able to truthfully call themselves a Muslim. Elsewhere in the Guru Granth Sahib, meeting the Divine intention of other faiths is likewise discussed. Guru Nanak Sahib leaves us with the reminder not to take those who claim to be pious at face-value, for many are in actuality trashy, they are pretenders and their words are as useful as trash.


The Persian Voice of the Guru is an unparalleled effort to elucidate the meaning of the Guru’s word as written in the Persian language in Gurmukhi script. I would like to thank the SikhRI team for their invaluable contributions in making this series possible. Thank you to Harinder Singh for helping transcreate complex hybridized language and to Inni Kaur for reflections on how to convey the true essence of these sabads. Much gratitude to Surenderpal Singh and Ebrahim Tahassoni for their insights in transcription, making it possible for this text to be read in multiple scripts. And most of all, thank you to my fellow staff members Jasleen Kaur, Damanpreet Singh, and Imroze Singh for their unwavering support, as well as Sean Holden for bringing our podcast series to life.

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Written By

Research Assistant

Asha Marie Kaur is a Research Assistant with SikhRI. She has a BA in Political Science and International Studies from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she was born and raised.

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