Thursday, November 24, 2016

Brunei's Golden Period of Expansion - (MIB Series)

Part of Brunei's Canons from the 16th Century

Illustration of Ancient Brunei

Brunei’s golden period of expansion
on: October 24, 2016
| Dr Muhammad Hadi bin Md Melayong, Secretariat Office, MIB Supreme Council |

SULTAN Muhammad Shah adopted the Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) as a governmental and authoritative foundation in the Brunei Empire in the 1360s. With MIB as the bedrock of the country’s philosophical and spiritual values, combined with his skilled leadership and the loyal support of his followers, it became the driving force in Brunei’s glorious expansion from the early 15th Century to the 17th Century.

Brunei continued its regional prominence during the reign of the third Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Sharif Ali (1425-1432). He was an Islamic scholar from Ta’if (Hejaz, South Arabia) and it was believed that he was a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), through the lineage of Sayyidina Hassan, the Prophet’s grandson.

Brunei’s geographical location was an added advantage, being in the epicentre of the Southeast Asian trade route, allowing her to build ties with Chinese, Arabian and Indian traders, thus further exposing Brunei to commercial trade and Islamic influence. This allowed Brunei to strengthen her Islamic values, which was then adapted into the people’s traditional way of life.

With the loyal support of ethnic Chinese communities, Sultan Sharif Ali was able to establish an administrative base in Kota Batu. He was also the first Sultan to build a mosque, and his tireless dedication towards the country and the Islamic faith earned him great respect.

Loved and admired by his subjects, he became known later as ‘Sultan Berkat’ (the Blessed Sultan). As Brunei’s regional strength grew, so did the concept of MIB, which became the moral compass guiding the country’s administrative and management policies.

During the reign of Sultan Bolkiah, the fifth Sultan of Brunei (1485-1524), Brunei expanded her sphere of influence to the entire Borneo Island. The collapse of the Malaccan Empire in 1511 by the Portuguese, gave Brunei the opportunity to strengthen her trade relations, and consecutively the spread of Islam beyond her borders, namely to Palawan Island, Sulu, Belayan, Mindoro, Bonbon, Belabak, Belambangan, Bangi, Mentanai and Saludang (today known as the Philippines).

The growing influence of the Brunei Empire in these parts posed a challenge for the Portuguese and Spaniards, who at the time, were attempting to spread Christianity and restrict Brunei’s Islamic influence. This touched off 50 years of rivalry between the Spaniards and the Brunei Empire (the Castilian War), but driven by the principles of Malay Islamic Monarchy and with the protection of Allah the Almighty, the Brunei Sultans drove off the invading forces and continued to rule the kingdom as a Malay Islamic Sultanate.

Such leadership qualities, as exhibited by Brunei’s rulers, were based on their faith and the values of Islam.

They led the way in providing an exemplary set of standards, which further reinforced Brunei’s position during her golden age. Islamic values became a routine part of the people’s daily lives, and guided the administrative and ceremonial policies of state.

This in turn led to the establishment of the ‘Hukum Kanun Brunei’ (Brunei’s Code of Laws), the policies that dictated ethical processes, together with the structural development of royal and state customs. These days, it has become a philosophical legacy, protecting and providing stability to our monarchial institution.

It constituted broad legal aspects of the country’s legal system, which eventually gave way to the implementation of Syariah Law. The inscription of ‘Hukum Kanun’ became the mainstay of state governance, based on the principles of Malay Islamic Monarchy, as stated in the titah of Al-Marhum Sultan Muhammad Hasan:

“…maka inilah suatu risalah pada menyatakan Hukum al-Kanun di dalam negeri yang besar-besar dan segala adat yang takluknya dan dusunnya supaya manfaat atau negerinya dan segala Raja-Raja dan Manteri-manteri bahawa memeliharakan ia akan segala rakyatnya.”

The above titah describes the application of the ‘Hukum Kanun’ in the governing of state, administration of resources and state customs.

The Hukum Kanun Brunei constituted 47 aspects, including those upholding the rights of the ruler; criminal law and order; and laws on theft, marital rights, adultery, apostasy, commercial trade and usury.

All aspects of the Hukum Kanun Brunei contain Islamic legal and Malay traditions. The implementation of the legal system based on Syariah Law had already been in place, long before the reign of Sultan Muhammad Hasan, as evident from Spanish records on Brunei in 1588-1589, which clearly show that convicted criminals were given the death penalty.

While many tend to view the implementation of Syariah Law as a recent occurrence, historical sources suggest that it has been deeply rooted in Brunei since the 14th Century. Records of Hukum Kanun Brunei inscribed in Jawi can be found in the National Brunei Archives and the Brunei History Centre, as well as in many Western academic Institutions and libraries, which point to the existence of a MIB in Brunei since 1400 AD.

MIB has influence the values in the state administration and the daily life of the people in Brunei for hundreds of years. The strong stand for Islam in carrying the values of MIB has been the main factor behind the success and prominence of the Brunei Empire since the 15th Century. It is interesting to know why even western power are willing to invest their time to explore and appreciate the establishment of MIB and the success and prominence of the Brunei Empire.

There is no denying that the effects of globalisation has helped Brunei to achieve her present status, beginning with the British Residential System, but too much globalisation would mean losing our cultural heritage and identity.

MIB provides a counterbalance to Brunei’s rapid industrialisation, while protecting the country from losing her core values, which has helped to shape Bruneian society and bring prosperity to the people. MIB is a compulsory subject in Brunei’s education system, and a way of life that should be practised both in the workplace and at home.

You don’t have to be Malay or Muslim to understand that theft, falsehoods, rape and murder are moral crimes. As Bruneians, we are fortunate to have MIB which complements the Islamic way of life. It is our duty to uphold those principles, because by doing so, we can unite the country’s people, regardless of their ethnicity, race and religion.

MIB brings harmony, mutual respect and a better understanding between one another, and as Muslims, we should be grateful towards Allah the Almighty. As stated in a titah by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam:

“Dengan izin dan rahmat Allah serta berkat pegangan kita terhadap dasar-dasar MIB selama ini, maka Negara Brunei Darussalam terus meni’mati keamanan, ma’amur dan bahagia, di bawah perlindungan dan ínayah Allah Subhanahu Wata’ala.”

In this regard, the people have always strongly supported the policies that are in line with the teaching of Islam under the leadership of His Majesty. In the face of the many challenges besetting the country and its people, His Majesty demonstrated devotion and piety to Allah the Almighty by declaring May 1, 2014 as the official commencement of the Syariah Penal Code Order 2013.

This was a historical move to continue the development of Islamic Syariah that began centuries ago, under the reigns of previous Sultans, and has since remained as part of the governing system.

We should learn to trust ourselves to preserve and strengthen the values of MIB towards achieving the goals of Brunei Vision 2035; and to have better a quality of life, that goes with stable economic progress and a well-educated populace.

The success of the Brunei people is not limited to this world, but also extends into the next. Insya Allah.

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