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The Sultanate of Sulu (Jawi: سلطنة سولك, Malay: Kesultanan Sulu, Arabic: سلطنة سولك‎‎) was a Muslim state that ruled the islands in the Sulu Archipelago, parts of Mindanao, certain portions of Palawan and north-eastern Borneo (present-day the certain parts of Sabah and North Kalimantan).

 

The sultanate was founded on 17 November 1405 by a Johore-born explorer and religious scholar Sharif ul-Hashim. Paduka Mahasari Maulana al Sultan Sharif ul-Hashim became his full regnal name, Sharif-ul Hashim is his abbreviated name. He settled in Buansa, Sulu. After the marriage of Abu Bakr and a local dayang-dayang (princess) Paramisuli, he founded the sultanate. The Sultanate gained its independence from the Bruneian Empire in 1578.

 

At its peak, it stretched over the islands that bordered the western peninsula of Mindanao in the east to Palawan in the north. It also covers the area in northeastern side of Borneo, stretching from Marudu Bay to Tepian Durian (in present-day Kalimantan). While another source stated the area stretching from Kimanis Bay which also overlaps with the boundaries of the Bruneian Sultanate. Due to the arrival of western powers such as the Spanish, British, Dutch, French, German and American, the Sultan thalassocracy and sovereignty was relinquished by 1915 through an agreement that was signed with the last colonialist, the United States. In 1962, Philippine Government under the leadership of President Diosdado Macapagal officially recognised the continued existence of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu. On 24 May 1974 Sultan Mohammad Mahakuttah Kiram (reigned 1974–1986), under Memo Order 427, which was issued by Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos. Memo Order 427 states that "The Government has always recognised the Sultanate of Sulu as the legitimate claimant to the historical territories of the Republic of Philippines". The Memo Order 427 states that Mahakuttah A. Kiram (reigned 1974–1986) is officially the recognised Sultan of Sulu.

 

The present area of the Sultanate of Sulu was once under the influence of the Bruneian Empire before it gained its own independence in 1578. Later, the earliest known settlement in this areas soon to be occupied by the sultanate who was in Maimbung, Jolo. During these times, Sulu was called Lupah Sug. The Principality of Maimbung, populated by Buranun people (or Budanon, literally means "mountain-dwellers"), was first ruled by a certain rajah who assumed the title Rajah Sipad the Older. According to Majul, the origins of the title rajah sipad originated from the Hindu sri pada, which symbolises authority. The Principality was instituted and governed using the system of rajahs. Sipad the Older was succeeded by Sipad the Younger.

 

During the reign of Sipad the Younger, a mystic named Tuan Mashā′ikha arrived in Jolo in 1280 AD. Little is known to the origins and early biography of Tuan Mashā′ikha, except that he is a Muslim "who came from foreign lands" at the head of a fleet of Muslim traders, or he was issued from a stalk of bamboo and was considered a prophet, thus well respected by the people. Other reports, however, insisted that Tuan Mashā′ikha together with his parents, Jamiyun Kulisa and Indra Suga, were sent to Sulu by Alexander the Great (who is known as Iskandar Zulkarnain in Malay Annals). However, Saleeby dismisses this claim by concluding that Jamiyun Kulisa and Indra Suga were mythical names. According to tarsila, during the coming of Tuan Mashā′ikha, the people of Maimbung worshipped tombs and stones of any kind. After he preached Islam in the area, he married Sipad the Younger's daughter, Idda Indira Suga and bore three children: Tuan Hakim, Tuan Pam and 'Aisha. Tuan Hakim, in turn, begot five children. From the genealogy of Tuan Mashā′ikha, another titular system of aristocracy called "tuanship" started in Sulu. Apart from the Idda Indira Suga, Tuan Mashā′ikha also married into another "unidentified woman" and begot Moumin. Tuan Mashā′ikha died in 710 A.H. (equivalent to 1310 AD), and was buried in Bud Dato near Jolo, with an inscription of Tuan Maqbālū.

 

A descendant of Tuan Mashā′ikha named Tuan May also begot a son named Datu Tka. The descendants of Tuan May did not assume the title tuan, instead, they started to use datu. It is the first time datu was used as a political institution. During the coming of Tuan Mashā′ikha, the Tagimaha people (literally means "the party of the people") coming from Basilan and several places in Mindanao, also arrived and settled in Buansa. After the Tagimaha came the Baklaya people (which means "seashore dwellers"), believed to be originated from Sulawesi, and settled in Patikul. After these came the Bajau people (or Samal) from Johor. The Bajau were accidentally driven towards Sulu by a heavy monsoon, some of them to the shores of Brunei and others to Mindanao. The population of Buranun, Tagimaha, and Baklaya in Sulu created three parties with distinct system of government and subjects. In 1369, the Sulus attacked Majapahit and it's province Po-ni (Brunei), looting it of treasure and gold. A fleet from Majapahit succeeded in driving away the Sulus, but Po-ni was left weaker after the attack. By 1390 AD, Rajah Baguinda Ali, a prince of the Pagaruyung Kingdom arrived at Sulu and married into the local nobility. At least in 1417, according to Chinese annals, three kings (or monarchs) ruled three civilised kingdoms in the island. Patuka Pahala (Paduka Batara) ruled the eastern kingdom, he was the most powerful; the west kingdom was ruled by Mahalachi (Maharajah Kamal ud-Din); and the kingdom near the cave (or Cave King) was Paduka Patulapok. The Bajau settlers were distributed among the three kingdoms.

 

Moumin's descendants, the son of Tuan Mashā′ikha populated Sulu. After some time, a certain Timway Orangkaya Su'il was mentioned by the second page of tarsila, that he received four Bisaya slaves (People from the Kedatuan of Madja-as) from Manila (presumably Kingdom of Maynila) as a sign of friendship between the two countries. The descendants of Timway Orangkaya Su'il then inherited the title timway, which means "chief". On tarsila's third page, it accounts the fact that the slaves were the ancestors of the inhabitants in the island to Parang, Lati, Gi'tung, and Lu'uk respectively.

 

The fourth page then narrates the coming of the Buranun (addressed in the tarsila as "the Maimbung people") Tagimaha, Baklaya, then the drifted Bajau immigrants from Johor. The condition of Sulu before the arrival of Islam can be summarised as such: The island was inhabited by several cultures, and was reigned over by three independent kingdoms ruled by the Buranun, Tagimaha, and Baklaya peoples. Likewise, the socio-political systems of these kingdoms were characterised by several distinct institutions: rajahship, datuship, tuanship and timwayship. The arrival of Tuan Mashā′ikha afterwards established a core Islamic community in the island.

 

At the end of the 14th century, a notable Arab judge and religious scholar named Karim ul-Makhdum from Mecca arrived in the Malacca Sultanate. He preached Islam to the people, and thus many citizens, including the ruler of Malacca, converted to Islam. Chinese Muslims, Arabs, Persians, Malays, and Indian Muslims introduced Sulu and other Muslim sultanates to Islam. Chinese Muslim merchants participated in the local commerce, and the Sultanate had diplomatic relations with China during the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), being involved in the tribute system. The Sulu leader Paduka Pahala and his sons moved to China, where he died, and Chinese Muslims brought up his sons in Dezhou, where their descendants live and have the surnames An and Wen.

 

In 1380 AD, Karim ul-Makhdum arrived in Simunul island from Malacca, again with Arab traders. Apart from being a scholar, he operated as a trader, some see him as a Sufi missionary originating from Mecca. He preached Islam in the area, and was thus accepted by the core Muslim community. He was the second person who preached Islam in the area, following after Tuan Mashā′ikha. To facilitate easy conversion of nonbelievers, he established a mosque in Tubig-Indagan, Simunul, which became the first Islamic temple to be constructed in the area, as well as the first in the Philippines. This later became known as Sheik Karimal Makdum Mosque. He died in Sulu, though the exact location of his grave is unknown. In Buansa, he was known as Tuan Sharif Awliyā. On his alleged grave in Bud Agad, Jolo, an inscription was written as "Mohadum Aminullah Al-Nikad". In Lugus, he is referred to Abdurrahman. In Sibutu, he is known to as his name.

 

The different of beliefs on his grave locations came about due to the fact that Karim ul-Makhdum traveled to several islands in Sulu Sea to preach Islam. In many places in the archipelago, he was beloved. It is said that the people of Tapul built a mosque honouring him and that they claim descent from Karim ul-Makhdum. Thus, the success of Karim ul-Makhdum of spreading Islam in Sulu threw a new light in Islamic history in the Philippines. The customs, beliefs and political laws of the people changed and customised to adopt the Islamic tradition.

 

Spanish and British annexations

In the 18th century, Sulu's dominion covered most of northeastern part of Borneo. However areas like Tempasuk and Abai had never really shown much allegiance to its earlier ruler, Brunei, subsequently similar treatment was given to Sulu. Dalrymple who made a treaty of allegiance in 1761 with Sulu, had to make a similar agreement with the rulers of Tempasuk and Abai on the north Borneo coast in 1762. Sultanate of Sulu totally gave up its rule over Palawan to Spain in 1705 and Basilan to Spain in 1762. The territory ceded to Sulu by Brunei initially stretched south to Tapean Durian (now Tanjong Mangkalihat) (another source mentioned the southern most boundary is at Dumaring), near the Straits of Macassar (now Kalimantan). However, by 1800–1850, these area had been effectively controlled by the Sultanate of Bulungan in Kalimantan, reducing the boundary of Sulu to a cape named Batu Tinagat and Tawau River.

 

In 1848 and 1851, the Spanish launched attacks on Balangingi and Jolo respectively. A peace treaty was signed on 30 April 1851 in which the sultan could only regain its capital if Sulu and its dependencies became a part of the Philippine Islands under the sovereignty of Spain. There were different understandings of this treaty, in which although the Spanish interpreted it as the Sultan accepted Spanish sovereignty over Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, however the Sultan took it as a friendly treaty amongst equals. These areas were only partially controlled by the Spanish and their power was limited to only military stations and garrisons and pockets of civilian settlements. This lasted until they had to abandon the region as a consequence of their defeat in the Spanish–American War. On 22 January 1878, an agreement was signed between the Sultanate of Sulu and British commercial syndicate (Alfred Dent and Baron de Overbeck), which stipulated that North Borneo was either ceded or leased (depending on translation used) to the British syndicate in return for payment of 5,000 Malayan Dollar per year.

 

British version

… hereby grant and cede of our own free and sovereign will to Gustavus Baron de Overbeck of Hong Kong and Alfred Dent Esquire of London...and assigns for ever and in perpetuity all the rights and powers belonging to us over all the territories and lands being tritutary to us on the mainland of the island of Borneo commencing from the Pandassan River on the north-west coast and extending along the whole east coast as far as the Sibuco River in the south and comprising amongst other the States of Paitan, Sugut, Bangaya, Labuk, Sandakan, Kina Batangan, Mumiang, and all the other territories and states to the southward thereof bordering on Darvel Bay and as far as the Sibuco river with all the islands within three marine leagues of the coast.

 

Sulu version

… do hereby lease of our own freewill and satisfaction to...all the territories and lands being tributary to [us] together with their heirs, associates, successors and assigns forever and until the end of time, all rights and powers which we possess over all territories and lands tributary to us on the mainland of the Island of Borneo, commencing from the Pandassan River on the west coast to Maludu Bay, and extending along the whole east coast as far as Sibuco River on the south,..., and all the other territories and states to the southward thereof bordering on Darvel Bay and as far as the Sibuco River, … [nautical miles] of the coast.

On 22 April 1903, Sultan Jamalul Kiram signed a document known as "Confirmation of cession of certain islands", in which he granted and ceded additional islands in the neighbourhood of the mainland of North Borneo from Banggi Island to Sibuku Bay to British North Borneo Company. The sum 5,000 dollars a year payable every year increased to 5,300 dollars a year payable every year.

 

Madrid Protocol

The Sulu Sultanate later came under the control of Spain in Manila. In 1885, Great Britain, Germany and Spain signed the Madrid Protocol to cement Spanish influence over the islands of the Philippines. In the same agreement, Spain relinquished all claim to North Borneo which had belonged to the Sultanate in the past to the British Government.

The Spanish Government renounces, as far as regards the British Government, all claims of sovereignty over the territories of the continent of Borneo, which belong, or which have belonged in the past to the Sultan of Sulu (Jolo), and which comprise the neighbouring islands of Balambangan, Banguey, and Malawali, as well as all those comprised within a zone of three maritime leagues from the coast, and which form part of the territories administered by the Company styled the "British North Borneo Company".

Datu Amil, an influential leader of the Tausūgs in discussion with Captain W.O. Reed, US 6th Cavalry Regiment during the American Moro Campaigns. Amil was later killed by the Americans which marking the starting end of the sovereignty of the Sulu Sultanate when the Americans relinquished their powers until the end of the last battle with the Moros in which their region fell under the American rules.

 

The Sultanate's political power was relinquished in March 1915 after American commanders negotiated with Sultan Jamalul Kiram on behalf of then-Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison. An agreement was subsequently signed and was called as the "Carpenter Agreement". By this agreement, the Sultan relinquished all political power over territory within the Philippines (except for certain specific land granted to Sultan Jamalul Kiram and his heirs), with the religious authority as head of Islam in Sulu. However, the United States based government refused to intervene in the North Borneo dispute (see below), officially maintaining a neutral stance on the matter and continuing to recognise Sabah as part of Malaysia. On 24 May 1974 Mohammad Mahakuttah Kiram, under Memo Order 427, which was issued by Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos. Memo Order 427 states that "The Government has always recognised the Sultanate of Sulu as the legitimate claimant to the historical territories of the Republic of Philippines".

 

North Borneo dispute

The dispute is based on a territorial claim by the Philippines since the era of President Diosdado Macapagal over much of the eastern part of Sabah in Malaysia. Sabah was known as North Borneo prior to the formation of the Malaysian federation in 1963. The Philippines, via the heritage of the Sultanate of Sulu, claim Sabah on the basis that Sabah was only leased to the British North Borneo Company with the sultanate's sovereignty never being relinquished. The dispute stems from the difference in the interpretation used on an agreement signed between Sultanate of Sulu and the British commercial syndicate (Alfred Dent and Baron von Overbeck) in 1878, which stipulated that North Borneo was either ceded or leased (depending on translation used) to the British chartered company in return for payment of 5,000 dollars per year. Malaysia views the dispute as a "non-issue", as it not only considers the agreement in 1878 as one of cession, but it also deems that the residents had exercised their act of self-determination when they joined to form the Malaysian federation in 1963. As reported by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the independence of North Borneo was brought about as the result of the expressed wish of the majority of the people of the territory as supported by the findings of the Cobbold Commission.

 

Moreover, a later 1903 agreement between Sultan of Sulu and the British government, has provided reaffirmation regarding the understanding of the Sultan of Sulu on the treaty in 1878, i.e. it is of the form of a cession. However, it is acknowledged that the British never paid such compensation to the Sultanate of Sulu but during a meeting of Maphilindo between the Philippine, Malayan and Indonesian governments in 1963, the Philippine government said the Sultan of Sulu wanted the payment of 5,000 from the Malaysian government. The first Malaysian Prime Minister at the time, Tunku Abdul Rahman said he would go back to Kuala Lumpur and get on the request. Since then, the Malaysian Embassy in the Philippines issues a cheque in the amount of RM5,300 (approx. ₱77,000 or US$1,710) to the legal counsel of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu. Malaysia considers the settlement an annual "cession payment" for the disputed state, while the sultan's descendants consider it "rent".

 

The Sulu Archipelago (Tausug: Sūg, Malay: Kepulauan Sulu, Filipino: Kapuluan ng Sulu) …

is a chain of islands in the Pacific Ocean, in the southwestern Philippines. The archipelago forms the northern limit of the Celebes Sea and southern limit of the Sulu Sea. The Sulu Archipelago islands are within the Mindanao island group, consisting of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

 

The archipelago is not, as is often supposed, the remains of a land bridge between Borneo and the Philippines. Rather, it is the exposed edge of small submarine ridges produced by tectonic tilting of the sea bottom Basilan, Jolo, and other islands in the group are extinct volcanic cones rising from the southernmost ridge. Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost island of the group, has a serpentine basement-complex core with a limestone covering. This island chain is an important migration route for birds.

 

The largest municipalities in the area are on Maimbung and Jolo. The larger island of Palawan to its north, the coastal regions of the westward-extending Zamboanga Peninsula of Mindanao, and the north-eastern part of the island of Borneo were formerly parts of the thalassocratic of the Sultanate of Sulu.

 

The archipelago is the home of the indigenous Tausug people; various group of Samal (or Sama) people including the semi-nomadic Badjaw; the land-based Sama; the related Yakan people; and the Jama Mapun people. The Tausug language is spoken widely in the Sulu Archipelago as both first and second languages throughout these islands. The Yakan language is spoken mainly in Basilan Island. Numerous dialects of Sinama are spoken throughout the archipelago, from the Tawi-Tawi Island group, to the Mapun island group (Mapun), to the coast of Mindanao and beyond.

 

 

 

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