When it comes to “conversion” and Sikhism, it’s a bit different from what one might typically think of when thinking of the act. No one who becomes a Sikh was proselytized to or persuaded to switch paths (unlike most of the major world religions); they come of their own conviction and decision. They being said, what is considered conversion within Sikhi?
Conversion is when someone from a non-Sikh background chooses to embrace the Sikh religion (meeting the qualifications of a Sikh as laid out by Sri Akal Takht Sahib). Here at Embracing Sikhism, we more specifically serve those Sikh converts who come from non-Sikh and as well as non-Indian backgrounds.
Why? Because conversion coming from a culture not generally associated with the Sikh faith is tough. In a way, you become a foreigner in your own community while also being a foreigner in the Sikh community. This is definitely not a path for the faint of heart or for those who give up easily.
For more on how to convert to Sikhism, read the following articles:
Converting into Sikhism
Phrases and Shabads New Sikhs Should Know
How to Raise Awareness of Sikhism
The Struggles of Non-Punjabi Sikhs
Adopting the Five Kakaars
Don't forget to stop by our resources page as well. In the meantime, check out these answers to common questions that new Sikhs typically have.
1. Can you be a Sikh and associate with another religion?
The quick answer is no, you can not be a Sikh and associate with another religion. Sikhism does acknowledge though that there are elements of truth in other faiths. So you can be a Sikh, but acknowledge if something rings true in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Paganism, etc.
2. Do you have to legally change your name?
No, you do not have to legally change your name. Some will just add Singh or Kaur the end of their name (Christopher Robins Singh). Some will just do like me, and adopt a Sikh name while also still going by their legal name (i.e. Jasmine Morris, Gurpreet Kaur). Some will do nothing to their name at all (Brian Harris). It's up to you in the end. But be warned. If you receive Amrit, they will most likely give you a Sikh name to go by. That still doesn't mean you have to change it legally. It just means you'll be no longer known in the Sikh community by your previous name.
3. Do I have to wear Punjabi clothing?
No. Inside the Gurdwara, the only requirement is that you dress modestly. If you want to wear a Punjabi suit, that's fine. But also, if you want to wear your own clothes (as long as it's modest), that's fine too.
4. Do I have to learn to speak Punjabi?
No, you do not have to learn to speak Punjabi. BUT it will put you at a great advantage if you did. Most Sikhs originate from Punjab, and for some, Punjabi is their only language. Therefore, a lot of the kathas (talks), So by learning Punjabi, you'll be able to communicate with a lot Sikhs (versus only those who speak English). I nor my co-founder know Punjabi, and even though it what be helpful, I have not found a dire need to.
5. Do I have to learn to read Gurmukhi?
Yes, you eventually must learn to read Gurmukhi. Keep in mind, Gurmukhi and Punjabi are different. Punjabi is a language while Gurmukhi is a script. The same way you can take alphabet letters and create words from different languages (cat, gato, chat), you can take Gurmukhi characters and spell out Punjabi words, English words, Spanish words, etc.
The Shri Guru Granth Sahib is completely written in Gurmukhi, so if you want to be able to read it, you must learn the alphabet, muharni, etc. Some people learn best online while others need in real-life instruction. Either way is fine.