Brunei’s current Sultan, 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 is the country’s 29th ruler, a descendent of a royal lineage spanning over 600 years ago to 1405, when the first Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Muhammad Shah, ascended to the throne and founded a dynasty. This renders Brunei’s monarchy as the world’s oldest.
Chinese, Javanese and local Brunei records have provided insight into Brunei’s early history, including the early days of the monarchy. It is believed that Sultan Muhammad Shah, also known as Awang Alak Betatar, introduced Islam to Brunei leading the nation to become the Islamic country that it is today.
Brunei gained independence in 1984, attaining self-government from the UK. The country’s Golden Age commenced in the 16th Century, reaching eminence when Brunei’s power was recognised throughout Borneo, the Sulu Archipelago and the Southern Philippines.
The Golden Age coincided with the rule of both Sultan Bolkiah and Sultan Hassan. These rulers were able to expand Brunei’s territory and extend its cultural influence. Additionally, the rulers pioneered Brunei’s Royal Court to its full grandeur and brilliance, rivalling other monarchies. Brunei’s resilience is evident from being the only monarchy in the Malay Archipelago to not only autonomously survive but also prosper into the late 20th Century.
However, with British arrival into the area, Brunei became a British protectorate and its land area was reduced to 5,765 square kilometres. When Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien acceded the throne, its geography was divided into two separate enclaves, the Brunei-Muara, Tutong and Belait districts on one side and the Temburong on the other as a result of the annexation of Limbang by Rajah Charles Brooke.
Brunei follows Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB), dubbed the national philosophy, which stresses the significance of the Malay culture, Islamic religion and a country reigned by the monarchy to Brunei. Taught in schools, MIB aims to guide the citizens’ way of life and preserve Brunei’s national identity.
Copyright 2019 Borneo Bulletin Yearbook 2019 All rights reserved.