Sultans of Brunei Series - Sultan Abdul Momin

[For my Golden Legacy column on Brunei Times, I am currently writing about the Sultans of Brunei. This is what I wrote about Sultan Abdul Momin, Brunei's 25th Sultan last week on BT.]

On the 5th Safar 1269 (November 18, 1852), Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II passed away. On his death, to decide who the heir to the throne shall be, the Keris Si Naga (Dragon Dagger) was first passed to Pengiran Anak Muhammad Tajuddin ibnu Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam I because it was felt generally that he was the best qualified to be the next Sultan. However he turned it down.

The next to be offered the Dragon Dagger was Pengiran Anak Abdul Momin ibnu Pengiran Shabandar Pengiran Anak Haji Abdul Wahab ibnu Sultan Omar Saifuddin I. He was also the son-in-law of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II.

Pengiran Anak Muhammad Tajuddin thought that by rejecting the dagger, it might be offered to his son, Pengiran Muda Mohamad Jamalul Alam who was the son-in-law of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuiddin II and is more senior as his son was a "Pengiran Muda" as compared to "Pengiran Anak" Abdul Momin.

The rejection embarrassed Pengiran Anak Muhammad Tajuddin that he took the decision to "melabur" which was to burn himself with gun powder.

However when Sultan Abdul Momin took the throne, he astutely took a decision that the heirs to the throne will not be his own children but that of the sons of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II (then it was Pengiran Anak Muhammad Salleh and Pengiran Anak Hashim) and prayed that his wishes will be fulfilled.

His wishes were fulfilled. It was Pengiran Anak Hashim who became Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqmadin when he died. Sultan Abdul Momin also adopted the sons of Pengiran Anak Muhammad Tajuddin.

As the 24th Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Abdul Momin's reign was during the tumultuous period of Brunei's history. Sultan Abdul Momin was well respected and was able to restore peace and order in Brunei.

He succeeded in setting longstanding enmities within the Royal Family by bringing together the descendants of Sultan Omar Ali Safiduddin II and the late Pengiran Muda Hashim through marriage.

He also encouraged the detailed study of teachings of Islam, in which he personally participated. He also sent some Ulama to the Holy City of Mekah.

It was also during his reign that the Brookes in Sarawak obtained more land and concessions from Brunei as well as the loss of North Borneo.

When Sultan Abdul Momin took the throne, Brooke made an agreement with him that not only he confirmed James Brooke as an independent Raja, but also gave up the Batang Lupar area.

In 1853, another treaty was concluded between the two of them. The 1855 treaty extended Sarawak's territories to the Rajang River which included all the seven districts of Rajang, Kalakah, Saribas, Sekrang, Lingga, Sadong and Samarahan. In exchange for the sizeable loss of territory, Sultan Abdul Momin received $1,500 annually.

James Brooke also agreed to share any extra revenue from these districts with the Sultan.

Although James Brooke failed in his quest to make Sarawak, a British protectorate in 1857, he was able to gain more land from Brunei.

In Mukah, a profitable sago trading area, the Brunei government's representative was hunted by the British navy assisted by Charles Johnson (who later became known as Charles Brooke, the nephew of James Brooke) who was then the Tuan Muda of Sarawak.

In 1861, James Brooke returned to Brunei to persuade Sultan Abdul Momin to cede the third division of Sarawak.

Britain also helped to pressure Brunei and as a result, Sultan Abdul Momin ceded territories from Rajang to the Bintulu River including Mukah and Oya.

He was paid $4,500 annually for this concession but Brunei had lost a valuable territory that produced sago.

Sultan Abdul Momin could do little to discourage James Brooke's plans to acquire more land for Sarawak from Brunei. James Brooke had the British government behind him and the British Royal Navy which backed him up.

Even the British Governor of Labuan, GW Edwardes was instructed by the British Government not to interfere in Brunei's affairs. Sultan Abdul Momin had no choice and he agreed to the demand for more territories.

Charles Brooke, becoming the new Rajah in 1868 on the death of James Brooke, wanted to get more territory including that of Baram River.

Sultan Abdul Momin refused to do so and implored the British to assist Brunei. Charles Brooke put pressure by withholding parts of the annual payments that the British Government placed a ban on Sarawak from acquiring any territory for the next 10 years.

However in 1874, the Kayans of Baram rebelled against Brunei's rule and Charles Brooke used that as an excuse to seize Baram. In 1884, the people of Limbang also rebelled for the same reasons — they believed that they would be better off under the western administration led by the Brookes.

At the same time, in North Borneo (Sabah), Sultan Abdul Momin very impressed made by an American, Charles Lee Moses of the economic benefits, that he leased out North Borneo to Moses in 1865. Moses however sold his rights to Torrey, an American businessman who formed the American Trading Company of Borneo.

Torrey himself went back to Brunei to renegotiate the lease. However his venture failed. In 1875, the Austrian Consul General in Hong Kong, Baron Overbeck bought over Torrey's rights and renegotiated the lease. He later sold the lease to a British businessman, Alfred Dent.

It was Dent and his associates who formed a company in 1881 to develop North Borneo. The British North Borneo Chartered Company obtained a Royal Charter from the Queen and gradually established its rule there. In providing that charter, the British has assumed a responsibility in North Borneo.

The British Government could not adopt different policies — stopping Rajah Brooke from expansion but supporting the Company. The company and Rajah Brooke began a contest to gain more of Brunei's remaining territories. By 1884, the company was seeking to gain further Brunei territories not included in the original lease.

Sultan Abdul Momin realised that with the expansionist policies of both Rajah Brooke and the North Borneo Company, it was only a matter of time before Brunei was wiped out from existence. He called for a meeting of his chiefs whereby he made them take an oath.

This oath became known as the "Amanat" and it was declared on 20th February 1885. It was an agreement between the Sultan, Wazirs, Manteris and the holders of Tulin rights not to cede or lease any of the remaining territories of Brunei to foreign powers. Sultan Abdul Momin died later that year.

Even though the "Amanat" was in place, Brunei was unable to reclaim Limbang nor to prevent further loss of Brunei's territory. Brunei did not have the ability to enforce the "Amanat" while Brooke and the Company could use steam warships and more powerful guns. As a result, Brunei was divided into two groups of small territories with no land link with each other. Sultan Abdul Momin tried to the very end to stop Brunei from being wiped out from existence. At least he succeeded in doing that.


Jewelle Tan said…
What about the part of Sultan Sulu in North Borneo history?
Rozan Yunos said…
Hi Jewelle. The focus of the article was on the Sultan and I did not include Sultan Sulu's role. But in an earlier article about Sabah, I wrote about the entire history of the acquisition of Sabah including Sultan Sulu's role. I posted the article in September. You can read it here.
KH said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
KH said…
BR, I find it very interesting that a number of names and different combinations thereof, often appear in the names of Sultans and within the nobility throughout Brunei's history. From this post alone, I note several: Omar Ali Saifuddin, Jamalul Alam, Abdul Momin (or Mubin) and Tajuddin. Other examples are such as: Bolkiah, Puteh, Alam and Salleh (as well as the female variant of "Saleha"). Moreover some (but not all) of these names are not common either in Brunei or in other parts of the Malay Archipalego. I wonder if there will be future opportunities to be enlightened on this question.
Anonymous said…
salam, just to congratulate you that youve spoken out the truth about Sultan Abdul Momin, because some of us here in Brunei were misinformed that his majesty,s father was Pg Anak Sabtu and not Pg Shahbandar Abdul Wahab, and this concerns me that they were informed wrongly.
once again congratulate for clearing this up and thank you.
Anonymous said…
Salam.. Where is The Dragon Dagger?, as you can see the Photo of Sultan Abdul Momin with the Keris..
Anonymous said…
To whom it may concern,

I wondered if you get every details of Sultan Abdul Momin,right?
I am trying to sort out my Family Trees and if Im not mistaken Sultan Abdul Momin was my ancestor.
Anonymous said…
I am direct descendent (7th generation) of Sultan Omar Ali I. Somehow my ancestor is the eldest son of Sultan Omar Ali I, who refused to become the next Sultan. Can you help and tell me the details of this; Some people recognised us as decendent of "Keturunan Raja Basar Basar" but we're lack of knowledge in our history, furthermore present Brunei history as we know it was manipulated. Sadly we have no strong evidence to prove it, except knowledge from elders or some present official. Thank you.
Anonymous said…
Sorry.. do you think that " Keris Si Naga" will be found at serawak..the last story from brunei legendary history
Anonymous said…
Para 7 of the above text mentioned Pg Anak Muhammad Tajuddin is actually referring to Pg Anak Muhammad Tajuddin Ibn Sultan Muhammad Khanzul Alam who married Sultan Abdul Mumin's sister, Pg Anak Khatijah bearing Pg Bendahara Muhammad and Pg Digadong Muhammad Hassan, both are adopted sons of Sultan Abdul Mumin. Whereas, Pg Anak Muhammad Tajuddin who is reported to die by the act of "melabur" herein referred is the son of Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam 1. His son from his wife, Pg Anak Fatimah Binti Sultan Khanzul Alam, Pg Muda Besar Muhammad Jamalul Alam was not heard after his father died. Some says he moved to Karambunai/Mengkabong. The interesting part is that Pg Anak Siti Khatijah Binti Pg Muda Besar Muhammad Jamalul Alam was co- incidentally the signatory of the secession of Mengkabong.
Anonymous said…
Im so interested to know the sons of Pg Anak Muhammad Tajuddin. I was told by my grandfather that my ancestor was Pengiran. His father's name was Pg Tajuddin. It is believed that he came from Kg Ujong Bukit. But he changed his name and married a Dusun woman somewhere in Tutong District. So I am the sixth decendents of my ancestors name Pg Tajuddin.
Anonymous said…
Salam sejahtera..maaf bertanya?apa betul al marhum sultan abdul momin(mobin) moyang awak?awak berasal dari sabah atau sarawak?
Anonymous said…
Sultan Momin (dipercayai) mempunyai 3 orang anak, 2 lelaki dan 1 perempuan. Anak perempuannya beribukan gadis Iban dan keturunannya menetap di Kuching, Anak lelaki 1, beribukan Pg Petima (dipercayai menghilangkan diri ke sebelah utara) dan anak lelaki ke 2, seorang yang (dikatakan) tidak berapa siuman. Dia dikatakan sebagai tidak berzuriat.
Awmosa Pesysh said…
Kris Si Naga is in our possession. Intact and without Sarong. We believe kept at Roysl Gallery.
Awmosa Pesysh said…
Kris Si Naga is in our possession. Intact and without Sarong. We believe kept at Roysl Gallery.

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