Sultanate of Sarawak

The Sultanate of Sarawak (Malay: Kesultanan Sarawak Darul Hana; Jawi:كسلطانن سراوق دارول هان) was a traditional Malay kingdom, precursor of the present-day Kuching Division, Sarawak. The kingdom was founded in 1599 and witnessed the reign of a sole Sultan, Sultan Tengah, Prince of Brunei, known as Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah of Sarawak.[1] The state established close relationship with Brunei, Johor and forged dynastic rules to the surrounding Malay kingdoms in western Borneo including Sambas, Sukadana and Tanjungpura-Matan.[2] The kingdom was dissolved following Sultan Tengah's assassination in 1641. The administration of the territory was then replaced by the local Malay governors appointed from Brunei, reunifying the area into Brunei prior to the White Rajah era.

Sultanate of Sarawak
Kesultanan Sarawak (ms)
كسلطانن سراوق (jawi)

Flag of Kesultanan Sarawak Darul Hana
The polity of western Borneo, 17th century, with Sarawak in Red. The kingdoms that established close relationship with Sarawak are illustrated in colour, while other neighbouring kingdoms are represented in light brown.
The polity of western Borneo, 17th century, with Sarawak in Red. The kingdoms that established close relationship with Sarawak are illustrated in colour, while other neighbouring kingdoms are represented in light brown.
Common languagesClassical Malay
Islam, local animism
• 1599–1641
Sultan Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah
• The foundation of Sarawak
• Assassination of Sultan Tengah
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Bruneian Empire
Bruneian Empire
Kingdom of Sarawak
Today part of Malaysia


Sultan Brunei in the Sarawakian Royal Mausoleum
Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei Darussalam during his state visit to the Royal Tomb of Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah in Sarawak. Both rulers are the direct descendants of Muhammad Hassan, the tenth sultan of Brunei.


According to the Salahsilah Raja-Raja Brunei (Bruneian Royal Annals), the state was established following the demise of Sultan Muhammad Hassan, the monarch of Bruneian Empire who ruled between 1582 and 1598. The death of the sultan witnessed the enthronement of Abdul Jalilul Akbar, the eldest prince of Muhammad Hassan as the Sultan of Brunei. However, the crowning of Abdul Jalil Akbar was objected by Pengiran Muda Tengah, claiming that the status of Abdul Jalilul was invalid as the elder prince was born before their father become the Sultan, in contrast to the Pengiran who was born after his father's ascension to the throne, hence he believed that he had the superior right to inherit the kingdom.[3]

Already anticipating this dispute, the newly crowned Sultan of Brunei appointed the Pengiran Muda Tengah as the Sultan of Sarawak, a frontier territory far from the central core of the Bruneian kingdom. The departure of the Pengiran was accompanied by more than 1000 soldiers from the Sakai, Kedayan, and Bunut tribes, natives of Borneo. A coterie of Bruneian nobility also followed him to develop the administration system in the new kingdom.[4] Today, a number of Kuching and Sambas Malay community can trace their origin from the pioneers.[5]

The new Sultan constructed a fortified palace in Sungai Bedil, Santubong, morphing the area into the royal, judicial and administrate capital of the kingdom. He began appoint his deputies and delegates, incorporating the position of Datu Seri Setia, Datu Shahbandar Indera Wangsa, Datu Amar Setia Diraja and Datuk Temenggong Laila Wangsa in the governance system. He proclaimed as the sultan after completing the administration system of the new kingdom, bearing the regal name of Sultan Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah. According to Sambas Royal records, Sultan Tengah Manga was known as Sultan Abdul Jalil.[6]

Sarawak–Johor diplomatic crisis

Sometime in the early 17th century, Sultan Tengah was on a trip to Pahang, (then an autonomous-kingdom in Johor) to visit his aunt The Raja Bonda or, Queen Creek of Pahang. Before he left, he elected four Datuks (nobleman) to administer his kingdom. His aunt was married to the sultan, Abdul Ghafur Muhiuddin Shah. While in Johor, he was invited to perform in a courtly dance. It was during the performance that one of the dancers almost hit the face of Sultan Tengah with a handkerchief totally, by accident. The furious Sultan Tengah then slapped the dancer. This caused a disappointmemt in the Sultan of Pahang who then ordered the Sarawakian Royal entourage to immediately leave his kingdom.[5]

However, based on the narration of Sultanate of Sambas, Sultan Tengah was ordered to leave Johorean soil because of his refusal to marry Princess Cik Zohra upon the request of his aunt, The Q Consort of Pahang.

Sarawak–Sukadana alliance

The royal entourage was hit by a major storm during their return voyage to Borneo. The vessel was then blew off course and arrived to the shores of the Sukadana Kingdom.[6] The polity of Sukanada was ruled by a Javanese Hindu King, Penambahan Giri Mustika, he was later known as Sultan Muhammad Saifuddin after his conversion to Islam by Sheikh Shamsuddin, a missionary from Mecca. It was also during his time in Sukadana that Sultan Tengah commenced his religious studies under the guidance of Sheikh Shamsuddin.[5][7]

The Sultan later wedded Princess Puteri Surya Kesuma, sister of the reigning monarch. He also briefly settled in Sukadana and requested permission to carry out missionary activities to the local populace. His request was permitted and granted the land around the Sambas river to perform his duties. By 1600, he departed Sukadana to Sambas together with an entourage of 40 vessels with armed men.

The royal entourage arrived and built a settlement around Kuala Bangun, near the Sambas river. It was during the time in Sambas that the Puteri gave birth to a prince, Radin Sulaiman. She later gave birth to following two children's, Pengiran Badaruddin (later become Pengiran Bendahara Seri Maharaja) and Pengiran Abdul Wahab (Pengiran Temenggong Jaya Kesuma).

Sarawak–Sambas union

Sambas Sultanate mosque, Indonesia
The Jamek Mosque of Sambas Sultanate. The arrival of Sultan Tengah in Sambas revolutionised the ancient Hindu kingdom into a Malay Muslim Sultanate. The current ruling house of Sambas traced their lineage from the Sarawakian Sultan.

Located further up of the Sambas River, The sultan's arrival in Kota Lama was greatly celebrated by the Ratu Sapundak, the King of Kota Lama who welcomed the Sultan as the royal guest of honour. The King allowed Sultan Tengah to perform his missionary activities to the local populace, despite himself being a Hindu ruler of Majapahit descent. The long stay in Sambas also witnessed the marriage of his Sultan Tengah's prince, Radin Sulaiman to Puteri Mas Ayu Bongsu, the princess of Ratu Sapundak. The royal pair had a son named Radin Bima, who would later become the 2nd Sultan of Sambas.[5][7]

Following the death of Ratu Sapundak, the throne of Sambas was succeeded by Pengiran Prabu Kenchana who appointed Radin Sulaiman as one of his advisers. Historical records narrated that Ratu Sapundak had desired to appoint Sultan Tengah as his successor due to his expertise in governance and administration, although his request was highly objected by the members of Sambas aristocrats due to their religious differences, with the members of the then-Sambas nobility was predominantly of Hindu faith. However, this would change in 1631, when Radin Sulaiman rise to the crown of Sambas, bearing the regal name of Sri Paduka al-Sultan Tuanku Muhammad Safiuddin I, the first Muslim ruler of the Sambas Kingdom.[6]


By 1630, the sultan departed to Matan. In Matan, he married a local princess. The marriage issued a prince, Pengiran Mangku Negara, who later become the Sultan of Matan. It was after a few years in Matan that he decided to return to Sarawak.[5]

Return and death

After staying a few years in Matan, the sultan decided to return to Sarawak. In 1641, he and his party settled in Batu Buaya, Santubong while en route to Sarawak.[8] It was during his time in Batu Buaya that he was assassinated by one of his escorts.[3][9] When the news of the death of the sultan arrived in Sarawak, Datu Patinggi, Shahbandar Datu, Datu Amar and Datu Temenggong departed to Santubong to complete the funeral rites of the sultan based on the Bruneian Royal customs. The Queen consort, Ratu Surya Kesuma decided to return to the Kingdom of Sukananda after his demise.[9]

The kingdom was then reunified with Brunei following the death of the popular sultan, marking the end of an era. The local Sarawakian administration was then succeeded to the local governors appointed by the Bruneian monarch.


The final resting place of the first and the final sultan of Sarawak was discovered in 1993, located in Kampong Batu Buaya.[10][11] A royal mausoleum was constructed in May 1995 following the rediscovery of the tomb.[7] The monument was visited by Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei during his state visit to Sarawak in 2007.

The death of the sultan witnessed the demise of the Sultanate of Sarawak. Nonetheless, his reign was instrumental to the sociopolitical framework of western shores of Borneo.[12] He established his capital in Sungai Bedil which then prospered into Kuching during the White Rajah era. He also had incorporated the position of Datu Patinggi, Shahbandar Datu, Datu Amar and Datu Temenggong in the Sarawak administration system that can be seen today. While his missionary activities also transformed the native Hindu society into a Malay Muslim community in coastal Borneo, while his political marriage and alliances established new dynastic houses to the kingdoms of Sambas and Matan.[2]


  1. ^ Porritt 2012
  2. ^ a b Bruneidesi 2017
  3. ^ a b Danielle Sendou Ringgit 2016
  4. ^ Sarawak State Secretary Office 2016
  5. ^ a b c d e Gregory 2015
  6. ^ a b c Kaffah 2017
  7. ^ a b c Larsen 2012
  8. ^ Tunku Hilda 2015
  9. ^ a b Tomi 2014
  10. ^ Arkib Negara Malaysia 2016
  11. ^ Sygic 2017
  12. ^ Utusan Borneo Online 2016


  • Arkib Negara Malaysia (2016), Penemuan Makan Sultan Sarawak Pertama, Pekhabar
  • Bruneidesi (2017), Sultans of Brunei
  • Danielle Sendou Ringgit (2016), A brush with royalty in Sambas, The Borneo Post
  • Gregory, Zayn (2015), The Maqam of Sultan Tengah, BinGreogory
  • Kaffah (2017), Istana Alwatzikhubillah, Kabupaten Sambas, Kalimantan barat
  • Larsen, Ib (2012), The First Sultan of Sarawak and His Links to Brunei and the Sambas Dynasty, 1599-1826: A Little known Pre-Brooke History, Malaysian Branch of Royal Asiatic Society
  • Porritt, Vernon L. (2012), Sarawak Proper: trading and trading patterns from earlier times to the registration of the Borneo Company in 1856., Borneo Research Council, Inc
  • Sarawak State Secretary Office (2016), Sarawak Before 1841, Official Website of Sarawak State Government
  • Sygic (2017), Tomb of Sultan Tengah
  • Tomi (2014), Pasak Negeri Kapuas 1616-1822, Feliz Books, ISBN 978-602-961-357-5
  • Tunku Hilda (2015), Kino Santubung Megalithic Mystery, KINO (Kuching In and Out)
  • Utusan Borneo Online (2016), Teater Kesultanan Sarawak
Bruneian Empire

The Bruneian Empire or Empire of Brunei ( brew-NYE), also known as Sultanate of Brunei, was a Malay sultanate, centred in Brunei on the northern coast of Borneo island in Southeast Asia. Bruneian rulers converted to Islam around the 15th century, when it grew substantially since the fall of Malacca to the Portuguese, extending throughout coastal areas of Borneo and the Philippines, before it declined in the 17th century. Scholars have theorised that the Bruneian population originated from the Mongols who settled in Northern Borneo sometime before or after their failed invasion of Java in the 13th century. Bruneians coincidentally share a lot of Mongoloid features to this day.

List of Sarawakian consorts

A consort of the Sarawak is a person married to a Sarawakian rajah during his reign. All spouses of the rajahs of Sarawak have been titled "Ranee of Sarawak" with the style Highness.

List of Sunni dynasties

The following is a list of Sunni Muslim dynasties.

List of state leaders in the 16th century

State leaders in the 15th century – State leaders in the 17th century – State leaders by yearThis is a list of state leaders in the 16th century (1501–1600) AD.

These polities are generally sovereign states, but excludes minor dependent territories, whose leaders can be found listed under territorial governors in the 16th century. For completeness, these lists can include colonies, protectorates, or other dependent territories that have since gained sovereignty.

List of state leaders in the 17th century

State leaders in the 16th century – State leaders in the 18th century – State leaders by yearThis is a list of state leaders in the 17th century (1601–1700) AD, such as the heads of state and heads of government.

These polities are generally sovereign states, but excludes minor dependent territories, whose leaders can be found listed under territorial governors in the 17th century. For completeness, these lists can include colonies, protectorates, or other dependent territories that have since gained sovereignty.

Raj of Sarawak

The Raj or Sarawak, also State of Sarawak, was an independent state, and later a British protectorate, located in the northwestern part of the island of Borneo. It was established as an independent state from a series of land concessions acquired by an Englishman, James Brooke, from the Sultanate of Brunei. Sarawak received recognition as an independent state from the United States in 1850, and from the United Kingdom in 1864.

Following recognition, Brooke expanded the Raj's territory at the expense of Brunei. Several major rebellions occurred against his rule, causing him to be plagued by debt incurred in countering the rebellions, and the sluggish economic situation at the time. His nephew, Charles Brooke, succeeded James and normalised the situation by improving the economy, reducing government debts and establishing public infrastructure. The kingdom was made a British protectorate in 1888.

To gear up economic growth, the second Rajah encouraged the migration of Chinese workers from China and Singapore to work in the agricultural fields. With proper economic planning and stability, Sarawak prospered and emerged as one of the world's major producers of black pepper, in addition to oil and the introduction of rubber plantations. He was succeeded by his son Charles Vyner Brooke but World War II and the arrival of Japanese forces ultimately brought an end to the Raj and the Protectorate administration, with the territory placed under a military administration on the Japanese capitulation in 1945, and ceded to Britain as its last acquisition as Crown Colony in 1946, against the Atlantic Charter. The area now forms the Malaysian state of Sarawak.


Sarawak (; Malay: [saˈrawaʔ]) is a state of Malaysia. The largest among the 13 states, with an area almost equal to that of Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak is located in northwest Borneo Island, and is bordered by the Malaysian state of Sabah to the northeast, Kalimantan (the Indonesian portion of Borneo) to the south, and Brunei in the north. The capital city, Kuching, is the largest city in Sarawak, the economic centre of the state, and the seat of the Sarawak state government. Other cities and towns in Sarawak include Miri, Sibu, and Bintulu. As of the 2015 census, the population of Sarawak was 2,636,000. Sarawak has an equatorial climate with tropical rainforests and abundant animal and plant species. It has several prominent cave systems at Gunung Mulu National Park. Rajang River is the longest river in Malaysia; Bakun Dam, one of the largest dams in Southeast Asia, is located on one of its tributaries, the Balui River. Mount Murud is the highest point in Sarawak.

The earliest known human settlement in Sarawak at the Niah Caves dates back 40,000 years. A series of Chinese ceramics dated from the 8th to 13th century AD was uncovered at the archaeological site of Santubong. The coastal regions of Sarawak came under the influence of the Bruneian Empire in the 16th century. In 1839, James Brooke, a British explorer, arrived in Sarawak. He, and his descendants, governed the state from 1841 to 1946. During World War II, it was occupied by the Japanese for three years. After the war, the last White Rajah, Charles Vyner Brooke, ceded Sarawak to Britain, and in 1946 it became a British Crown Colony. On 22 July 1963, Sarawak was granted self-government by the British and subsequently became one of the founding members of the Federation of Malaysia, established on 16 September 1963. However, the federation was opposed by Indonesia leading to a three-year confrontation. The creation of the Federation also resulted in a communist insurgency that lasted until 1990.

The head of state is the Governor, also known as the Yang di-Pertua Negeri, while the head of government is the Chief Minister. Sarawak is divided into administrative divisions and districts, governed by a system that is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and was the earliest state legislature system in Malaysia.

Because of its natural resources, Sarawak specialises in the export of oil and gas, timber and oil palms, but also possesses strong manufacturing, energy and tourism sectors. It is ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse; major ethnic groups including Iban, Malay, Chinese, Melanau, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu. English and Malay are the two official languages of the state; there is no official religion.

Sultan Tengah

Sultan Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah or known as Sultan Tengah, (died in 1641), born with the title of Pengiran Raja Tengah (Middle Prince), was the first and only Sultan of Sarawak.

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