Overcoming challenges of Westernisation, Globalisation (MIB Series)

The Castille War in Brunei

Model of Brunei's Mosque in 15th Century

Map Showing Pigafetta's Trip Around the World

Overcoming challenges of Westernisation, Globalisation
on: November 07, 2016
| Dr Muhammad Hadi Bin Md Melayong, Secretariat Office, MIB Supreme Council |

IN AN increasingly globalised world, it is next to impossible to overlook the challenges posed by external forces, especially in a borderless stream of modernisation.

These challenges to our national consciousness began after the arrival of Western powers to the East in the 16th Century. Our forefathers managed to preserve their cultural and national iden-tity, while a host of unwelcome elements brought by the Western colonisers spread throughout the region.

In Brunei Darussalam, the main defences that were used to safeguard our culture and national identity have been the values enshrined in our national philosophy of Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB).

The matter was 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, delivered during the National Day celebrations on February 23 ,2014:

“Di samping untuk mencapai Wawasan 2035 dalam bidang fizikal, kita juga ingin meraih rahmat dan keberkatan dalam semua aspek kehidupan. Kita turut menginginkan sebuah negara yang benar-benar memenuhi ciri-ciri ‘Baldatun Tayyibatun Warabbun Ghafur’, yang sejahtera lagi bahagia dibawah pemeliharaan Allah.

“Kerana itu, cara kita mengisi kemerdekaan ini sangatlah istimewa. Kita tidak lupa bersyukur dan berzikir kepada Allah dengan cara sembahyang berjama’ah dan sama-sama mengaminkan do’a. Inilah amalan Negara Melayu Islam Beraja, negara kita.

“Atas landasan unik inilah, kita terus berusaha memantapkan jati diri kita selaku orang Brunei. Perkara ini sangatlah kritikal bagi kelangsungan hidup kita dan proses ‘nation-building’.

“Malahan, pada hemat Beta, MIB adalah merupakan satu-satunya pendinding atau ‘Firewall’ yang kukuh lagi berkesan untuk menangani pelbagai isu dan cabaran globalisasi.”

Globalisation can contribute towards positive changes in human civilisation, especially with the advent of new forms media that enable distribution of unregulated information with an even faster delivery. Unfortunately, globalisation is also a double-edged sword with devastating effects to our culture unless it is properly regulated. At this stage of human civilisation, we need to be more prudent in embracing of globalisation, and able to recognise its destructive aspects. However, we can ensure that MIB values will serve as a guide in assisting us to face up to challenges in this age of globalisation.

We need to look into the lessons of history, to understand how Brunei was able to defend her national dignity and sovereignty. Access to unlimited information and unfiltered networks has enabled us to follow in our forefathers’ footsteps in ensuring the continuity of Brunei’s survival. Present-day challenges are outwardly different, but the risks often involve losing the MIB values that have been our country’s foundation, and the essence of our societal solidarity and harmony.

Out forefathers’ struggle to defend the nation’s sovereignty is a lesson how destructive forces brought about by foreign invasions impacted Brunei’s religion, culture, economy and political administration.

The result was a steady decline of Brunei’s rule over lands beyond present-day borders, followed by a period of political instability within the country.

The decline also caused a stagnation of the ruling political systems in the Malay world. In view of the sacrifices made by our forefathers to preserve their national identity, we cannot afford to have history repeating itself. The deterioration of the Brunei Empire occurred as a result of Western intervention that was also threatening the traditional trade system and weakening Brunei’s political sway over the entire Borneo Island. The arrival of the Spaniards in 1521 presented further challenges to the great Brunei Empire in terms of trade, religion and the socio-political system. The Sultanate was then threatened and attacked, to curb the spread of Islamic influence across Borneo.

Despite those encounters, the people of Brunei were willing to lay down their lives and possessions to defend the independence and dignity of their country, religion and ruler. The Castilian War of 1578 marked the beginning of a struggle in which the Spaniards attempted to bring Brunei under Christian rule. It is a historical event that deserves more exposure among members of the current generation, in their pursuit of modern life in a globalised world.

The arrival of the Spaniards was initially welcomed by the Brunei people in 1521. However, half a century later, what appeared to be friendly intentions was actually a planned conquest in disguise. The Spaniards wanted to spread Christianity across Brunei, and they demanded a cease to Islamic teachings (Dakwah) in the Philippines and the surrounding region.

This enraged Begawan Sultan Abdul Kahar (the Old Ruler), as evident from the contents of a letter sent from the Spanish Governor in Manila, General Dr Francisco de Sande, that read:

“Perkara yang seharusnya Duli Tuanku lakukan ialah menerima paderi-paderi Kristian ke negeri Duli Tuanku serta memberi jaminan keselamatan sepenuhnya kepada mereka menyebarkan ajaran Kristian dan begitu juga sesiapa sahaja di antara rakyat Duli Tuanku hendaklah diberi kebebasan dan kebenaran menghadiri syarahan-syarahan ajaran Kristian, dan sesiapa juga berharsat memeluk ugama Kristian bolehlah berbuat demikian tanpa sebarang gangguan ke atasnya.

“Seterusnya, patik menghendaki supaya Duli Tuanku jangan menghantar mubaligh-mubaligh ajaran Muhammad (Islam) ke mana mana bahagian kepulauan ini atau kepada orang Tingues (orang bukit) yang masih Jahiliah itu, bahkan lebih-lebih lagi tidak juga menghantar ke kawasan-kawasan pulau Duli Tuanku sendiri.”

In the interests of the nation and defending the moral dignity of the Malay Islamic Monarchy, Begawan Sultan Abdul Kahar and the reigning Sultan Saiful Rijal refused to accede to the demands. It was thus on April 14 1578, that the conquistador, De Sande, declared war on Brunei.

Thanks to Allah the Almighty, the Spanish invasion of Brunei only lasted three months, with the Spaniards and their followers retreating to Manila after setting fire to the grand mosque on June 23, 1578, as recorded in ‘Myth and Legends in Brunei History’, by R Nicholl:

“Pada senja hari Isnin (1578) Doktor (Francisco de Sande) telah membakar bangunan besar (masjid) itu. Ia terbakar sepanjang malam, dan pagi esoknya tidak ada apa-apa yang tinggal; tiga hari kemudian dia pun belayar…”

Historical accounts illustrate the firm resolve of the people of Brunei when it came to defending the dignity and sovereignty of their nation. It is the lessons derived from these accounts that we should bear in mind in an ever-changing world of globalisation, where we are constantly exposed to external influences. The main bastion of our religion, people and our country are the values of MIB, combined with the identity and self-respect of the people of Brunei.

We believe and are confident that our experiences under the national philosophy of Malay Islamic Monarchy are a source of harmony and happiness both in this world and in the hereafter.


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