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Sulu Sultanate: The unconquered nation

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The Sulu tarsila accounts that with the arrival of Islam to Sulu archipelago in 1138, it brought about a new Socio-political structure that profoundly influenced the life style of the natives in Sulu. The foundation of Sulu Sultanate was on November 17, 1405 (24th of Jumadil Awwal, 808 A.H), by an Arab Missionary and a direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad S.A.W., named Syed  Abubakar, married to a native Princess named Paramisuli, who was the daughter of Rajah Baginda. He became the first Sultan of Sulu and established the Sultanate Islamic government, the first centralized system of government in Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and Sulu. Syed Abubakar was given the regal title of Sultan Paduka Masahari Maulana Al Sultan Sharif-ul Hashim. The reigning Sultan of Sulu Sultanate is not the absolute ruler. The members of the “Ruma Bechara” which composed of the principal royal Datus and prominent traditional leaders are charged with the functions of formulating laws and policies in accordance with the Islamic principles.

While Spanish forces conquered Luzon, Visayas, and partly Mindanao, the Bangsa Sug People of Sulu Sultanate tenaciously resisted the invasion of the Spanish forces in their homeland, until Spain yielded by pulling out their forces in Sulu archipelago without winning the 332 years of war against the Sultanate of Sulu. During this long period of war, Spain continuously recognized the reigning Sultan as head of state.

For centuries that followed, this powerful Sultanate government existed as a viable nation-state, sovereign in itself and recognized by powerful nations, among them China, Great Britain, United States of America and Spain, to mention those with whom trade and commerce were carried thru the ages.

As defined in the International Law, a state is a community of persons more or less numerous, permanently occupying a definite portion of territory, having a government of their own to which the great body inhabitants render obedience, and enjoying freedom from external control. The definition provides four (4) requisites, namely: People, Territory, Government, and Sovereignty (both internal and external). The Sultanate of Sulu complied with all these requisites.

The Sultanate of Sulu has its people to govern and protect, that render obedience and enjoying freedom, civil liberties and social justice. At the heights of its peak authority and power, the Sultanate of Sulu held sway over the inhabitants of Basilan called the Yakan tribe, the Bangingi tribe of Zamboanga Peninsula, the Tausug tribe of Sulu archipelago, the inhabitants of Tawi-Tawi called the Sama tribe and Badjao tribe, the Jama Mapun tribe of Cagayan de Tawi-Tawi, the Molbog or Malebugenon tribe of Balabac island, the Palawani or Pinalawan of South Palawan, and the native inhabitants of North Borneo or Sabah. All these tribes composed the nationality of Sulu Sultanate called Bangsa Sug People and Bahasa Sug is their national language.

The monarchial domain of Sulu Sultanate covers the territorial jurisdiction of the entire Sulu Archipelago and also covered the old Palawan, Spratly Island and North Borneo or Sabah. These places are the ancestral domain of Sulu Sultanate and it has been recognized by Spain, United States of America, Great Britain, China and other foreign countries.

The government of Sulu Sultanate observed and implemented Islamic Law or Shariah Law, “Adat” law or Muslim customs and traditions in accordance with Islamic principles. The Sultan is the highest official of the state who exercises both religious and political duties.

It maybe asked that if Sulu Sultanate state was unconquered nation, how come that it became part of the Philippine Republic? This has been explained with my series of published articles entitled “A look back into the root cause of confliction in Sulu”.

By Datu Albi Ahmad Julkarnain




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