Recently we have been sifting through some ancient documents of Sikh literature to try to shed some light and direction on the issue of intoxicants and alcohol use and wether it is permitted or not.
Our first subject matter is Bhai Desa Singhs Rehitnama. Bhai Desa Singh lived in the late 1700’s and lived in one of the Bungas (towers) of Amritsar where Jassa Singh Alhuwalia used to live. You have probably heard quotes from this Prominent rehitnama such as
PRITHAM REHT YEH JAAN KHANDE KI PAHUL SHAKEY – Sikhs must consider khande ki pahul as the primary injunction (baptism via water sugar crystals mixed with double edged sword)
REHNI REHAI SOY SIKH MERAA, OH THAKUR MAI US KA CHERA
those who remain within the code of discipline Are the Guru’s Sikhs, The Guru considers them as masters and himself as their disciple
REHAT BINA NAH SIKH KAHAVAI, REHIT BINA DAR CHOTA KHAVAI
Without practicing the code of conduct, one cannot call himself a Sikh, without the rehat one will wander and suffer
If we look to this rehitnama which helped to form the basis of the main Akaal Takht Maryada of the Sikh Panth, what does it say about Intoxicants;
PAR NARI, JOOA, AST, CHORI, MADIRA JAAN
anothers woman, gambling, lies, stealing and alcohol
PANCH AIB YAI JAGAT MEH TAJAI SO SINGH SUJAAN
know these 5 vices in the world, a Singh who forsakes these is wise
RANN MEH CHALEY TE MADRA SEVE, AVAR DIVAS KHU NAAM NA LEVAI
when in battle alcohol can be used as medicine, but any other time its name must never be mentioned
So here we can see that even in the late 1700’s ( before Singh Sabha movement) when this Rehitnama was written by Bhai Desa Singh, we can see that Sikhs were meant to stay away from the 5 VICES which include sex outside marriage(Par Nari) and Alcohol(MADIRA).
In battle situations where the Sikhs were suffering with grave wounds and painful treatments such as amputations were necessary, it makes sense to use alcohol as an antisceptic and anesthetic, But at any other situation or time it must be avoided at all costs.
This is the same as morphine or nitrous oxide used in modern medicine.
“A wide variety of drugs are used in modern anesthetic practice. Many are rarely used outside of anesthesia”
Nidar singh will only quote half a verse saying “RANN MEH CHALEY TE MADRA SEVE” which makes it sound like warriors must go to battle and drink alcohol as it will make them better warriors. But if we look to the sentence before and after the whole story becomes evident.
Alcohol must be refrained from as it is one of the 5 AIB(vices), in times of battle its use as medicine or anasthetic is ok but at any other time its name must not even be mentioned.
If theres still any doubt in anyones mind here is another part of the rehitnama
KUTHA, HUKA, CHARAS, TAMAKU
halal meat, smoking pipe, hashish, tobacco
GANJA, TOPI, TARI, KHAKU
cannabis resin, snuff, distilled alcohol or ashes
INKI AUR NA KABHOO DEKHEY
those who never look towards these
REHATVANT SO SINGH VESEKHEY
is a singh who stays in absolute discipline
We hope that our young brothers and sisters will take heed of this message and refrain from alcohol and intoxicants as it is not befitting a Khalsa Sikh. We already have a high level of alcohol related illness within the punjabi population, an effort should be made to help our punjabi families rid themselves of the disease of alcoholism and not to encourage it in any way.
Of course during the 1700’s and 1800’s there probably were some Sikhs that drank alcohol, just as there are today, but in 200 years will our descendants say that in the 1980’s Sikhs in the UK used to have alcohol at all their wedding parties so it must be OK. Just because some people did it doesn’t mean that it was right. We should take example from the Chardi Klaa gursikhs and not the amlis from our history.