TURK, a word standing in Sikh tradition usually for a Muslim, is really the name of a race of people which originating probably in Central Asia established itself in Asia Minor and southeastern Europe in the west and in India in the east. The earliest references to Turks connect them historically and linguistically with Tu-kiu, the name given by the Chinese to a group of nomad tribes who in the sixth century of the Christian era ruled over a vast tract stretching from Black Sea to the borders of China. They were later divided into two main groups separated by the Caspian Sea and Iran which was inhabited by people of Āryan extraction. The western group settled in parts of Europe, Turkey and northwestern part of Iran, while the eastern group remained in Central Asia comprising the present republics of Kazākhstān, Turkmenistān, Uzbekistān and Kirghizīā, and the Sinkiāṅg province and Altāī regions of China. They accepted Islam as their religion during the seventh and the eighth centuries. It was some of the Central Asian Turks, IIbārīs and Khaljīs, branches of Guzz Turks, who pressed southwards by the advance of Mongols, settled in parts of Afghanistan and later established the first Muslim empire in India.

        The Turks were a handsome and ferocious people. These two characteristics earned for the term turk many different derivative meanings in Indo-Persian literature. For example, Steingass, A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary, defines Turk thus : "A turk, comprehending likewise those numerous nations of Tartars between Khwarzam and China, who all claim descent from Turk, son of Japhet; Turkistan; a Scythian, Barbarian, robber, plunderer, vagabond ; (met.) a beautiful boy or girl, the beloved..." For the Indians, Turk became a synonym of Muslim as distinguished from Hindu. The word in this sense occurs in several verses in Gurū Granth Sāhib. Bhāī Gurdās who uses the word in the same sense, in Vārāṅ, I.26, and the term turkmān for the racial stock known as Turkoman in Vārāṅ, VIII. 16. As persecution of the Sikhs commenced in the seventeenth century and became severer in the eighteenth, the word came to signify for them the tyrannical ruler and the dreaded invader, coincidentally Muslim in both cases. While in Gurū Gobind Siṅgh's baṇī, the word continues to be used in the ordinary sense of a Muhammadan, it comes to take on sharper connotations in the Rahitnāmās or codes of conduct for the Sikhs. The Rahitnāmās enjoin on the Sikhs not to trust or befriend a Turk.


    Rose, H.A., ed., A Glossary of the Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. Lahore, 1911-19

B. J. Hasrat