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Hukam (Command)

Hukam (Punjabi: ਹੁਕਮਿ) is a Punjabi word derived from the Arabic hukam, meaning "command" or "divine order." In Sikhism, Hukam represents the goal of becoming in harmony with the will of God and thus attaining inner peace. It is by the command of Waheguru that we are born and pass away. In the Sikh Scripture, Guru Nanak says;

ਆਪੇ ਬੀਜਿ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਖਾਹੁ ॥
Aapae Beej Aapae Hee Khaahu ||
You shall harvest what you plant.

ਨਾਨਕ ਹੁਕਮੀ ਆਵਹੁ ਜਾਹੁ ॥੨੦॥
Naanak Hukamee Aavahu Jaahu ||20||
O Nanak, by the Hukam of God's Command, we come and go in reincarnation. ||20||

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Japji Sahib, Ang 4

Hukam is not an object or a thing as such, it's not just to follow God's orders. God is not sitting somewhere in space and writing fates of all human beings. According to, Guru Nanak when a person with the help of a word given by their divine master (known as Guru) the word which is regarded as name of God, dwells ones mind (Mann) with shabad (Word), continuous meditation on that word, one comes to know their reality in this Universe, their status in this world.

At this stage the person resonates with the cosmic waves, that is The Hukam. And person becomes a Hukami human, who follows the hukam, without any wish or desire, one can just follow. All the thought processes, all wishes and desires come to an end. One just resonates with hukam.

The whole of the Universe is subject to the Hukam of the Creator God. Nothing ever happens without the Will of God. This is accepted as one of the primary concepts of Sikhism. For the Sikh, the acceptance of God's Hukam is a concept that needs to be learnt and understood. Guru Nanak at the very beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy scriptures of the Sikhs asks;

ਕਿਵ ਸਚਿਆਰਾ ਹੋਈਐ ਕਿਵ ਕੂੜੈ ਤੁਟੈ ਪਾਲਿ ॥
Kiv Sachiaaraa Hoeeai Kiv Koorrai Thuttai Paal ||
How does one become truthful? How can falsehood be discarded?

The answer and reply follows on the next line;

ਹੁਕਮਿ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੧॥
Hukam Rajaaee Chalanaa Naanak Likhiaa Naal ||1||
By following the Hukam, Says Nanak, by accepting the Hukam, which is written for everyone! ||1||

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Japji Sahib, Ang 1

By living in harmony with the divine will or Hukam brings everlasting peace. This does not imply that a Sikh does not have 'free will' – All this means is that the Sikh must bring their will in line with the will of God.

What is God's Hukam? The Sikh Scriptures outline the ways in which one can bring their own thinking in line with the Hukam. If one engages in the service of God's creation, this is the best way of working in harmony with the divine will. Further, by remembering Waheguru one becomes aware of 'God desires' and 'divine essence' within the person is realised. By following these "divine values" that benefit God's Creation, one ends the cycle of Karma and transmigration.

ਹੁਕਮੁ ਪਛਾਣਿ ਤਾ ਖਸਮੈ ਮਿਲਣਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ਦੂਜਾ ॥
Hukam Pashhaan Thaa Khasamai Milanaa ||1|| Rehaao Dhoojaa ||
Recognizing the Hukam of God's Command, you shall meet with your God. ||1||Second Pause||

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 92

By submission to God's Hukam (Will), a sense of humility and self-negation is achieved – further one regards themselves as an instrument of God's will. One realizes that whatever comes from God is for their own good. Every misery that one faces is a sort of mercy. One is full of gratitude and prayer for all God has done. Those who have no regard for the Hukam, suffer in pain;

ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ਬਹੁਤਾ ਰੋਵੈ ॥
Hukam N Jaanai Bahuthaa Rovai ||
One who does not know the Hukam of the God's Command cries out in terrible pain.

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 85

The only antidote for egoism and vanity is complete surrender to God's will. Only by conquering the self, can one enter the realm of God's Grace.

The Concept of Hukam

Depending on the context, Hukam can have different meanings. Hukam, Bhaana, and Razaa are synonymous in Gurbani. Razaa also refers to God's pleasure or approval. In other words, a human doing actions that are pleasing to Waheguru results in a person living according to Razaa. Generally, there are three types of Hukam;

1. Hukam - Command

ਹੁਕਮੀ ਹੋਵਨਿ ਆਕਾਰ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਕਹਿਆ ਜਾਈ ॥
Hukmī hovan ākār hukam na kahi▫ā jā▫ī ||
By God's command, bodies are created; God's command cannot be described.

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Ang 1

The entire creation came into existence by Waheguru's Command. Gurbani says;

ਕੀਤਾ ਪਸਾਉ ਏਕੋ ਕਵਾਉ ॥
Kīṯā pasā▫o eko kavā▫o ||
You created the vast expanse of the universe with one word!

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Ang 463

This type of Hukam is also referred to as Furmaan of Waheguru. For example;

ਜੋ ਤੂੰ ਕਰਹਿ ਸੋਈ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ॥
Jo ṯūʼn karahi so▫ī parvāṇ ||
Whatever you do, is acceptable to me.

ਸਾਚੇ ਸਾਹਿਬ ਤੇਰਾ ਸਚੁ ਫੁਰਮਾਣੁ ॥੨॥
Sācẖe sāhib ṯerā sacẖ furmāṇ ||2||
O true God, true is your order.

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Ang 376

When Gurbani refers to God's written or verbal commands these are unique to God and do not relate to the commands known only to creatures.

2. Hukam - Creative Will

Creative Will refers to set of laws or orders in which the creation is created, sustained, managed, and operated, and destroyed. It is the Hukam of Waheguru that controls creation.

ਹੁਕਮੀ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਚਲਾਏ ਰਾਹੁ ॥
Hukmī hukam cẖalā▫e rāhu ||
God's command leads us to walk on the path.

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Ang 2

In the verse above, it is the Hukam of Waheguru, not Waheguru itself, that controls creation. The inference lays with the aunkad under the word Hukam. If there was no aunkad, the translation would be "Waheguru with its Hukam controls creation". In this case, Waheguru would've been delivering commands for each thing and creature which would've left no room for relative free will.

Consider the following;

ਹੁਕਮੈ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਹੁਕਮ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥
Hukmai anḏar sabẖ ko bāhar hukam na ko▫e ||
Everyone is subject to God's command; no one is beyond God's command

ਨਾਨਕ ਹੁਕਮੈ ਜੇ ਬੁਝੈ ਤ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਹੈ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥੨॥
Nānak hukmai je bujẖai ṯa ha▫umai kahai na ko▫e ||2||
O Nanak, one who understands God's command, does not speak in ego.

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Ang 376

Everything and everyone is under Hukam. The law of karma, transmigration, birth, death, gravity etc. all come under this type of Hukam. No one can change these orders and establish new ones. For example, everyone will be judged by their karma; no one can change this. No one can establish a new system. These systems have no limits and we can never understand these to the full extent.

It must be understood here that even when gravity is manipulated or karma is altered, it happens according to the same laws of God (Hukam). Whatever we understand about these systems so far, it is not the end of it and we will never be able to comprehend these fully. Because these are part of Hukam and since Hukam is one with Waheguru, it is infinite just like Waheguru.

2. Hukam - Prescriptive Will

This Hukam refers to what has been prescribed to creatures to follow in order to become one with God. In other words, these set of laws are commands or injunctions for us to follow.

ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਧਨੁ ਸਭੁ ਸਉਪਿ ਗੁਰ ਕਉ ਹੁਕਮਿ ਮੰਨਿਐ ਪਾਈਐ ॥
Ŧan man ḏẖan sabẖ sa▫up gur ka▫o hukam mani▫ai pā▫ī▫ai ||
Surrender body, mind and wealth to the Guru; obey the order of Guru's will and you will find God.

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Amar Das, Ang 918


ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਧਨੁ ਸਭੁ ਸਉਪਿ ਗੁਰ ਕਉ ਹੁਕਮਿ ਮੰਨਿਐ ਪਾਈਐ ॥
Ŧan man ḏẖan sabẖ sa▫up gur ka▫o hukam mani▫ai pā▫ī▫ai ||
Obeying the order of God's will, one becomes acceptable, and then, one obtains the mansion of the God's presence.

~ Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Guru Nanak, Ang 471

This Hukam refers to rehat prescribed to us by Waheguru through Satguru. We have the choice (free will) whether to follow (or not follow) the rehat. Taking Amrit, Naam Simran, Seva, Dasvandh, etc. are all part of this Hukam. If we decide to follow, we become Gursikhs otherwise we suffer the consequence by following manmat. Having a choice does not mean the rehat is optional or not required. It is absolutely required for humans to follow this Hukam to become good moral and ethical beings. Having a choice simply means that it is in our effort or power to exercise our free will to make right or wrong decisions.

So how does karma fit into this whole thing? In a nutshell, all our decisions, actions etc. are part of Prescriptive Will (Hukam). This is where we accumulate and live karma (good and bad). We make choices and decisions and then commit them to actions. So this is part of free will and Prescriptive Will. But it is not under our choice how we should be judged. So when Gurbani says we get judged according to the karma system, it is taking about the Creative Will which we cannot change.

The only way to escape karma system or transmigration is by meditating upon God's name (Gurmantar) because God's name like God itself is free from karma. Naam is obtained from Satguru only. The only way to obtain Naam is by taking Amrit administered by Panj Pyare. There is no other way. This is the only way that Gurbani prescribes.

Other Meaning - 'Hukamnama' also refers to a passage from Guru Granth Sahib, selected by randomly opening the Sikh scripture during a daily ceremony. The passage is considered by Sikhs as the divine "command of the Guru" for the day. Hukam's are taken as guidance in specific situations/answer to questions etc.

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