In the story of Guru Nanak at Mecca we are told the tale of a man shrouded in anonymity who, upon breaking a holy law based on tradition rather than reason, produces a miracle in his defense. It is a tale that carries a powerful message and as well as evoking strong archetypical ideas. Both the general theme of the tale, the mystic stranger, and the message, the universality of God, are recurring messages throughout global religious scripture.
The story of the mystic stranger is one that occurs multiple times throughout Abrahamic scripture, both in the form of visitations by angels and also personified in many ways by Jesus. The theme is also prevalent in eastern culture, i.e. The Story of He Xiangu, a Female Immortal or in The Legend of The Crane Wife, and also throughout most indigenous religions.
The idea of a spiritual visionary questioning the accepted religious norms is an even more common theme, and many of these “prophets” carry the message of a universal religion coupled with a desire to unite all people. These examples can be seen from Muhammad to Jesus and John the Baptist to the Buddha and carry similarities not only in their philosophies on standing religious traditions, but also in their auspicious births and the fact that they all receive revelations during periods of isolation in the wild. Many of these prophets carry with them similar stories in which the general theme and the aim of the story are identical; that being to show that while this current prophet understands and respects the current religious teachings, their personal relationship with God has far superseded these bounds.
Though the exact facts of the story are disputable, it hardly seems possible for one stationary object to move around another the symbolism in this is apparent, and made clearer by Guru Nanak himself, who says “Truth remains truth. It is the colored lens of the self that reflects it in various colors.”
To me this reads that there is one God, one truth, and that everything else is just custom. Though, keeping this in mind, it is strange that Guru Nanak along with almost every prophet or religious founder has gone on to establish their own spiritual customs, case-in-point; the five K’s.
A person could argue that such customs are necessary to establish a lasting cultural identity, especially for the Sikhs who originate from an area of high religious concentration, were founded during times of religious strife, and were singled out and persecuted soon after their conception. Regardless of this fact the modern incarnation of Sikhism is steeped in just as much ritual, mysticism, and tradition as the religions it was started in protest of. In the end it seems that Guru Nanak’s contribution to the world may not be a religion of pure truth and pure God, but another set of “sacred” traditions. This leaves the ultimate question being; are these superstitions necessary for belief or identity on a personal level?