Respect from all quarters
A note-worthy feature of Sikhism is the welding of the spiritual and the temporal realms of human existence. In the integrated vision of the Gurus, politics without religious and moral backing is pure opportunism. Likewise, religion without socio-political responsibility is simply negativism.
A healthy socio-political environment cannot be created without the moral basis supplied by religion. According to the Gurus, a sane society is essentially a pluralistic one in which everyone gets the opportunity to realize his potential to its fullest. They were conscious that the role of the State in enforcing a particular faith on the people violates man’s inherent desire for freedom. But it was the conviction of the Gurus that a sound socio-political order could be built and preserved only through moral and ethical imperatives — the abiding values of tolerance, humility, charity and compassion that constitute Dharma. Such a philosophy sustains the concept of a State, not of a religious-communal nature, but of a welfare State with wide ranging obligations and the general good of all as the basis of political governance.
Ranjit Singh was the ruler of a powerful State extending from Tibet to Sindh and from the Khyber pass to the Sutlej. Kingdoms and empires have almost invariably been founded and maintained on the strength of arms. However, it goes to Ranjit Singh’s credit that while fulfilling his ambitions, he used bare minimum force. Barron Charles Hugel records: “Never perhaps was so large an empire founded by one man with so little criminality.” Unequalled for the daring and originality of his many-sided genius, Ranjit Singh gave to Punjab four decades of peace, prosperity and progress. Benefits of this were enjoyed equally by all communities — Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. To unite the three principal communities — Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs –in a common enterprise and reconcile them to the new political order through liberalism was no mean achievement
Recruitment to all posts in his state was to be made on merit. Some of his closest advisers were Muslims and yet they had an intense loyalty towards him and his Sikh’s. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the first Asian ruler to modernize his army to European standards and was well known for filling the leadership positions in his ‘Darbar'( Courtroom) with men of varied Religions. People were recognized and promoted on their ability and not their religion.
The respect shown by those who worked for the Maharaja is best highlighted, perhaps, by the Sikh Empire’s foreign minister, a Muslim named Fakir Azizuddin, who when meeting with the British Governor-General George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland was asked, which of the Maharaja’s eyes was missing, he replied, “the Maharaja is like the sun and the sun has only one eye. The splendor and luminosity of his single eye is so much that I have never dared to look at his other eye.” (The Maharaja had lost the sight of one eye from an attack of smallpox as a child. In a land and time when being blinded disqualified one from ruling, having the sight of only one eye was never a problem for Ranjit Singh, who remarked that it gave him the ability to see things more acutely or perhaps God intended him to look at all religions with one eye [equally], that is why he took away the light from the other)
The Governor General was so pleased with the reply that he gave his gold wrist-watch to the Maharaja’s Minister during their meeting at Simla.