Brunei, the first Southeast Asian Muslim kingdom?

WHEN did Islam come to Brunei? Most western historians argued that Brunei Darussalam only began to accept Islam in the 16th century, that is, after the fall of the Malacca sultanate in 1511.

A number of historians such as K G Tregonning in his book “From Earliest Time to 1511” (1957), D G E Hall in his book “Sejarah Asia Tenggara” (1979), J F Cady in his book ‘”South East Asia: Its Historical Development” (1963) and Nicholas Tarling in his book “South East Asia: Past and Present”’ (1966) all wrote that Brunei replaced Malacca as the new centre to spread the teachings of Islam.

Robert Nicholl in his book published by the Brunei Museums entitled “European Sources for the History of the Sultanate of Brunei in the 16th century” (1975) compiled a number of European sources, which also suggested that the Brunei sultanate was still not a Muslim nation during the early 16th century.

Pg Dato Seri Setia Hj Mohammad Pg Hj Abd Rahman, the former Minister of Religious Affairs, in his book entitled “Islam di Brunei Darussalam” (1992) noted that western historians did not seem to take into account that Islam had spread widely in Southeast Asia even before the 16th century. Gravestones found in Brunei indicated that Muslims had been buried in the cemeteries with the stones dating a few centuries earlier than the 16th century.

One of the earliest known was a Chinese Muslim by the name of Pu Kung Chihmu, who died in 1276 A D. Therefore, there must be a Muslim community in Brunei which enabled him to be buried as a Muslim when he died. This, according to Pg Dato Hj Mohammad, was not impossible.

He noted that evidences in a number of places in Southeast Asia showed that Islam was already being accepted much earlier. In Leran, East Java a gravestone bearing the name of Fatimah Maimon Hibatullah was found dated 1082 AD; in Champa, Vietnam, a gravestone belonging to Abu Kamil Ahmad was dated 1039 AD; and in Pasai, it was a gravestone belonging to Sultan al-Malik al-Saleh dated 1297 AD.

An article, which recently came to light in support of this, was found in a book published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2000 entitled “The Silk Roads Highways of Culture and Commerce”, which contained a small selection of papers from the international seminars organised during UNESCO Silk Road expeditions.

One of the articles was written by a Chinese scholar by the name of Chen Da-sheng entitled ‘”A Brunei Sultan of the Early Fourteenth Century: A Study of an Arabic Gravestone”, which comprised Chapter Eight of the book.

We are very fortunate that the paper was included, as Brunei at that point in time was not a member of UNESCO. Chen Da-sheng sailed on the expedition ship, the Fulk-al-Salamah, visiting several countries including Brunei. He was from Quanzhou and was interested in the gravestone of Pu Kung Chihmu, who was also from Quanzhou. During his visit, he visited various cemeteries in Brunei.

In his research, Chen Da-sheng was attracted to an article in the Brunei Museums Journal (1987), where two former senior Museum officials, Metassim Hi Jibah and Suhaili Hj Hassan wrote about “Tomb of Maharaja Brunei”, which was found at the Dagang Cemetery at Jalan Residency. He was very surprised that the undated gravestone was very similar to the gravestones that had been found in Quanzhou.

Quanzhou was an important trading harbour during the Song Dynasty. The Ashab Mosque or the Qingjing Mosque is a mosque found in Quanzhou constructed in 1009 AD, and this remained as the oldest Arab-style mosque in China.

In the city, there is also the Yisalangjiao Sheng Mu or Islamic Holy Graves built on the Ling Shan, the mountain of spirits on the East of Quanzhou city. The Yisalangjiao Sheng Mu graves are the resting places of early Islamic missionaries of the 7th century.

Chen Da-sheng immediately recognised that the gravestone belonging to the Emperor of Brunei was similar to the Muslim gravestones that were once used in Quanzhou, and he deduced that the gravestone in Brunei was made in Quanzhou as the material for the gravestone which was ‘diabase’ was not found in Brunei. Diabase or also known as dolerite is a subvolcanic rock similar to volcanic basalt.



The front of the gravestone had Arabic inscriptions and these were translated to read:

This tomb belongs to the late martyr

Sultan, a learned and just man

a protector and conqueror. He was called

Maharaja Bruni. Forgive him

Allah with His grace and Pleasure

May Allah bless Muhammad

and all his descendants



The back of the stone had this engraving:

Every soul must taste of death,

and ye shall only be paid your hire

upon the resurrection day

But he who is forced away from the fire

This stone was not dated, and neither was the king who died identified other than as the Maharaja Brunei. As such, this king could not be cross referenced to the royal genealogy of the Sultans of Brunei; and the genealogy began with Sultan Muhammad said to reign from 1363 AD.

Chen Da-sheng noted that in Quanzhou, when excavations were made of these ancient Muslim graves, the majority of gravestones were made from diabase. In the 1920s and 1930s, a great number of these gravestones were excavated when the ancient wall of Quanzhou was demolished. The current collection of Arabic and Persian stones inscriptions of the Quanzhou Foreign Maritime Museum is the richest of all museums in China.

After studying and cross referencing with the gravestones that had been recovered in Quanzhou, Chen Da-sheng discovered that the inscriptions on the Brunei gravestone were very similar to another gravestone belonging to Fatimat Naina Ahmad, who died in Quanzhou in 1301 AD.

Chen Da-sheng believed that the two stones were inscribed by the same people as the writings were identical. No other similar stone has been found in Brunei. Upon discussion with the Brunei Museum officials, it was also confirmed that all the inscriptions for subsequent sultans were written in Jawi with the exception of this gravestone, which was written in Arabic.

With regard to the age, Chen Da-sheng explained that the Muslims in Quanzhou were massacred after they lost a war known as the Ispah Rebellion in 1366 AD, and the winning army killed all the Muslim population they could find. After 1366, it was very hard to find any Arabic inscriptions on any gravestones in Quanzhou. The few that could be found in the outlying villages are different in style, shape and paleography.

Chen Da-sheng argued that based on the facts above, this provided evidence that the Muslim kingdom established in Brunei was certainly during the late 13th and early 14th century. In Chen Da-sheng words, “the Arabic gravestone of Sultan Maharaja Brunei presented evidence that a Muslim kingdom already existed in Brunei about AH 700 (1301 AD). It sheds new light on the study of the early history of the Muslim kingdoms established in Brunei and even in Sumatra.”

If this is true, and supported with the written records of the Boxer Codex, this means that the official date of the first Brunei Muslim sultanate of 1376 AD needs to be adjusted, and that Brunei could be one of the early Malay Muslim kingdoms, or there is even the possibility that Brunei could even be the earliest in the Southeast Asian region.

Currently, Pasai in Sumatra is considered to be the earliest Muslim kingdom because a gravestone belonging to Sultan al-Malik al-Salleh dated 1297 AD was found there. Who knows when exactly did the Brunei Muslim sultanate began? It could be earlier than that of Sultan al-Malik al-Salleh.

The Brunei Times

Sun, 18 September 2016



Muslim figure appeals for screening of the film on the betrayal of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI)



MUSLIM figure K.H. Cholil Ridwan has put forth a request to screen a film depicting the failed coup attempt by the Communist Party (PKI) in 1965 by national television stations every year on September 30.

KH Kholil Ridwan

         KH Kholil Ridwan

G30S/PKI film must always be broadcast by national television stations in the country in the years to come,” he stated at the commemoration of the G30S/PKI treason at Lubang Buaya in East Jakarta on Thursday.
He affirmed that the government must encourage the screening of the film to remind the younger generation about the cruelties inflicted by the PKI.

Cholil, who is also one of the board members of the Indonesian Council of Ulemas, said he had also appealed to include the stories about PKI’s cruelties in the school curriculum, starting from the elementary level.

He noted that the stories had so far been excluded from the books used in elementary and junior high schools.

“We must denounce the emergence of armed farmers, which are the fifth generation of the PKI. The symbol of armed farmers must be rejected,” he stated.

President Joko Widodo led the commemoration of Pancasila Sanctity Day, which falls on October 1, at the Lubang Buaya Pancasila Sanctity complex in East Jakarta on Thursday morning.

The Pancasila Sanctity Day commemoration is held annually to honor the sanctity of the state ideology against the revolt of the PKI on September 30, 1965, marked among other events, by the kidnapping of the seven army generals including General Ahmad Yani, Major General Sutoyo, Lieutenant General M.T. Haryono, Major General D.E. Pandjaitan, and Lieutenant General S. Parman.

The aforementioned high commissioned officers were killed and their bodies dumped into the well-known Lubang Buaya pit on which the Pancasila Sakti Monument now stands.

On the following day, October 1, 1965, the National Armed Forces (TNI) succeeded in crushing the PKI revolt and recovered the bodies of the generals.


Thu, October 2, 2015

Brunei builds $120m Islamic gallery

bru galeri shb
Waqiuddin Rajak

HIS Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam laid the foundation for the construction of the new Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Islamic Exhibition Gallery (BPIS) at Jalan Pengiran Babu Raja yesterday.

Costing around $120 million, the building will be able to house nine galleries with 29 themes compared to old temporary venue in the State Mufti’s Office where it can only house four themed exhibitions.

The building, which will also serve to become one of the country’s landmarks, is slated to be completed by March 2017.

Accompanying His Majesty were His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and His Royal Highness Prince Hj Jefri Bolkiah as well as His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Malik and His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Wakeel.

The ceremony began with the recital of Surah Al-Fatihah by State Mufti YB Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Hj Awang Abdul Aziz Juned followed by a video presentation showing the interior and exterior concepts of the building.

His Majesty then consented to pour concrete into one of the building’s main pillars, marking the start of the construction followed by a Takbir lauded by the State Mufti.

The monarch then consented to tour around an exhibition showing pictures of the exterior and interior concepts of the new building after signing the memorial plaque for the foundation laying ceremony.

Briefing His Majesty on the exterior concept as he toured along was the Permanent Secretary (Technical and Professional) at the Ministry of Development, Dato Paduka Hj Suhaimi Hj Gafar who was also helped by Toh Tsun Lim, an architect from Pei Partnership Architects, New York.

Explaining the interior concepts of the building to the Sultan was the Co-Secretary of the ceremony, director of administration at the State Mufti’s Office Dato Paduka Ahmad Bukhari Pehin Siraja Khatib Hj Abu Hanifah and Jasper Jacobs from Jasper Jacobs Associates from the United Kingdom.

Besides being able to house 1,000 Islamic manuscripts and hundreds of artefacts, the building will also allow the Islamic gallery to extend its intellectual agenda to conduct research on the exhibits and spread the findings to the general public.

His Majesty was then invited to sign the memorial parchment, before receiving a pesambah and concluding the ceremony with a group photo session with the executive committee of the ceremony and members of the management of the project.

The Brunei Times
Thursday, May 28, 2015

bru galeri

Governors-General of the Dutch East Indies (1610-1949)

Mr C. Pijnacker Hordijk

Mr C. Pijnacker Hordijk

Jhr C.H.A van der Wijk

Jhr C.H.A van der Wijk

This is a list of the Governors-General of the Dutch east Indies. From 1610-1796 it was under control of the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
NO Name In Office Notes
1 Pieter Both 1610-1614 First Governor-General of the East Indies, after relenquishing his position he drowned on his way back to the Netherlands.
2 Gerard Reynst 1614-1615 Died from dysentery
3 Laurens Reael 1615-1619 Reael resigned following a dispute with the VOC’s leadership.
4 and 6 Jan Pieterszoon Coen 1619-1623, 1627-1629 Returned to the Netherlands in 1623, but was reapointed a few years later. He died in 1629.
5 Pieter de Carpentier 1623-1627 Left after being named head of the VOC. The Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia is named after him.
7 Jacques Specx 1629-1632
8 Hendrik Brouwer 1632-1636
9 Anthony van Diemen 1636-1645
10 Cornelis van der Lijn 1645-1650
11 Carel Reyniersz 1650-1653
12 Joan Maetsuycker 1653-1678
13 Rijkloff van Goens 1678-1681
14 Cornelis Speelman 1681-1684
15 Johannes Camphuys 1684-1691
16 Willem van Outhoorn 1691-1704
17 Joan van Hoorn 1704-1709
18 Abraham van Riebeeck 1709-1713 From 1709 until his death in 1713, he was the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies. He was a keen explorer, who undertook several smaller and a few larger voyages in the Indies.
19 Christoffel van Swoll 1713-1718
20 Hendrick Zwaardecroon 1718-1725
21 Mattheus de Haan 1725-1729
22 Diederik Durven 1729-1732
23 Dirk van Cloon 1732-1735
24 Abraham Patras 1735-1737
25 Adriaan Valckenier 1737-1741
26 Johannes Thedens 1741-1743
27 Gustaaf Willem baron van Imhoff 1742-1750
28 Jacob Mossel 1750-1761
29 Petrus Albertus van der Parra 1761-1775
30 Jeremias van Riemsdijk 1775-1777
31 Reinier de Klerk 1777-1780
32 Willem Alting 1780-1796
33 Pieter Gerardus van Overstraten 1796-1801
34 Johannes Siberg 1801-1805
35 Albertus Wiese 1805-1808
36 Herman Willem Daendels 1808-1811
37 Jan Willem Janssens 1811
Under British rule 1811-1816
38 G.A.G.Ph. Baron van der Capellen 1816-1826
39 L.P.J. Burggraaf du Bus de Gisignies / Hendrik Merkus de Kock 1826-1830
40 Graaf van den Bosch 1830-1833
41 J.C. Baud 1833-1836
42 D.J. de Eerens 1836-1840
43 C.S.W. Graaf van Hogendorp 1840-1841
44 P. Merkus 1841-1844
45 jhr J.C. Reijnst 1844-1845
46 J.J. Rochussen 1845-1851
47 A.J. Duijmaer van Twist 1851-1856
48 C.F. Pahud 1856-1861
49 L.A.J.W. Baron Sloet van de Beele 1861-1866
50 P. Mijer 1866-1872
51 J. Loudon 1872-1875
52 J.W. van Lansberge 1875-1881
53 F. s’Jacob 1881-1883
54 O. van Rees 1883-1888
55 C. Pijnacker Hordijk 1888-1893
56 jhr. C.H.A. van Wijck 1893-1899
57 W. Rooseboom 1899-1904
58 Johannes Benedictus van Heutsz 1904-1909
59 A.F.W. Idenburg 1909-1916
60 J.P. Graaf van Limburg Stirum 1916-1921
61 D. Fock 1921-1926
62 jhr. A.C.D. de Graeff 1926-1931
63 jhr. B.C. de Jonge 1931-1936
64 Alidius Warmoldus Lambertus Tjarda van Starkenborgh Stachouwer 1936-1942 On September 16, 1936, he became Governor-General of the Netherlands East Indies. When the Netherlands surrendered to Germany on May 10, 1940, Jhr. van Starkenborgh declared martial law in the East Indies. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese after their conquest.
65 Hubertus Johannes van Mook 1942, 1945-1948
66 Louis Beel 1948-1949 Went on to become the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
67 A.H.J. Lovink 1949 Source:

“Oeroeg”, The best movie of Indonesia Independence War




THERE were some movies which took Indonesia Independence War (1945-1949) as their setting. Most of them fell into two categories, propaganda and rubbish. Only few movies which were really good, such as Nagabonar and Soerabaja’45, although the latter sometimes fell into propaganda. Oeroeg was the best movie which took the era as it sets and ironically made by Netherland, which were Indonesia’s enemy.
oeroeg_childhoodWhen the other movies only talk about the war, this movie took a deeper approaching. It pulled us to understand the reason behind the war. Why the Indonesian refused to be controlled by the Dutch. It showed the discrimination experienced by Indonesian as third class citizen in the Dutch rule.

Oeroeg_sceneThe movie also showed a empathized-to-Indonesia-movement Dutch teacher which help Indonesia fighter degrading the fighting spirit of Dutch soldiers. It was more realistic role for foreigner in Indonesia at the time instead the irrational role which sometimes appeared in this genre (such as a dutch soldier in Indonesia line in “Singa Karawang” which was impossible due to high risk of being falsely recognized as enemy by the Indonesia people itself).

oeroeg-last sceneThe dialog was also interesting. In the last scene, Johan, as the main character ask Oeroeg whether they have already in the same degree. Oeroeg’s cynical reply is still relevant today. When the developed countries often call the other countries as the Third world, isn’t it another form of humiliation in modern world?

Hella S. Haasse

Hella S. Haasse



The Constitution of Madina:  The Beginning of Muslim-Jewish Relations

The Constitution of Madina: The Beginning of Muslim-Jewish Relations

Hamid Mahmood

The City of Madinah - Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)'s final resting place and where the 'Constitution of Madinah' was written. The City of Madinah – Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)’s final resting place and where the ‘Constitution of Madinah’ was written.

By Hamid Mahmood

The Constitution of Madina:  The Beginning of Muslim-Jewish Relations

ھذا کتاب من محمد النبی [رسول اللٰہ] ۔ انھم امۃ واحدۃ من دون الناس ۔[1]

This is a prescript (kitāb) of Muḥammad [2]…. Verily they constitute an ‘ummah’ (political unit) as distinct from all the people (of the world).[3]

و ان یھود بنی عوف امۃ مع المومنین ۔ للیھود دینھم و للمسلمین دینھم۔۔۔[4]

And verily the Jews of Banū ’Auf shall be considered as an ummah (community) along with the Believers, for the Jews being their religion and for the Muslims their religion…[5]




In contemporary society one is bewildered and bemused at the arguments and sources presented by Islamists and puritans in order to justify their hate for the ‘other’.  I always…

View original post 3,719 more words

Director Ridley Scott gets biblical in his epic “Exodus: Gods and Kings” retelling of Moses leading his people to ‘the promised land’

exodusPeter Travers

BANISH all memories of a hambone, harrumphing Old Testament Charlton Heston as Moses in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, the 1956 campfest that TV shoves at us during religious holidays. DeMille’s once-thrilling parting of the Red Sea plays today like CG primitivism.

Ridley Scott directing Sigourney Weaver in 'Exodus: Gods and Kings'.

Ridley Scott directing Sigourney Weaver in’Exodus: Gods and Kings’.

Director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) is determined not to make his Exodus: Gods and Kings old-hat. But he’s after way more than FX pow – although wait until you see that Red Sea heave in 3D and the damage done by those 10 deadly plagues, from crocodiles, frogs and locusts to the death of every first-born in Egypt.

Shooting on location, mostly in Spain, with thousands of non-digital extras, the ferociously cinematic Scott aims to keep things real and raw. He gets that and more from Christian Bale, in rousing form, as a hot-blooded warrior Moses ready to question all comers, including the gods and kings of the title. After learning of his Hebrew identity, Moses rises up against a childhood pal, the pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton), and builds the mettle he needs to lead 600,000 Israelite slaves out of Egypt.

excodus1Like Darren Aronofsky in Noah, Scott, who crafted the script with four other writers, departs from Scripture enough to raise hackles. For example, this Moses sees God in the person of an insolent schoolboy (Isaac Andrews), who takes guff from Moses for waiting 400 years to get around to freeing the slaves. In the large cast, including Aaron Paul, Ben Kingsley and John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver stands out as the mother of Ramses. “I don’t want Moses exiled,” she snaps. “I want him dead.” You get the picture. Exodus is a biblical epic that comes at you at maximum velocity but stays stirringly, inspiringly human.

From The Archives Issue 1224: December 18, 2014


Rolling Stones
December 11, 2014

Christian Bale as Moses in ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings.'  Photo; 20th Century Fox

Christian Bale as Moses in ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings.’ Photo; 20th Century Fox