Muhammad Shah of Brunei
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|Muhammad Shah / Awang Alak Betatar|
|1st Sultan of Brunei|
|Reign||1368 CE - 1402 CE|
|Successor||Abdul Majid Hassan|
Muhammad Shah (born Awang Alak Betatar) established the Sultanate of Brunei and was its first sultan. The genealogy of Muhammad Shah is unclear, and based on several historical sources and legends.
The early life of Muhammad Shah is unknown. The current Sultanate of Brunei was formed by Muhammad Shah, with the help of his brothers Awang Pateh Berbai (also known as Ahmad of Brunei, the third Sultan of Brunei) and Awang Semaun. He ruled from 1368 to his death in 1402. He ruled as Raja Awang Alak Betatar until the early 1360s, at which point he converted to Islam to marry the daughter of the King of Temasik (Old Singapore, known as that time in Brunei as Johor).
Muhammad Shah died in 1402, and was succeeded by Sultan Abdul Majid Hassan.
The earliest historical record of the Sultans of Brunei is not clearly known due to the poor early documentation of Brunei history. In addition there has been an effort to Islamise the history, with the "official history" not matching up with verifiable foreign sources  The Batu Tarsilah - the genealogical record of the kings of Brunei - was not started until 1807. Therefore, much of the intepretation on history relied on earlier Chinese sources and legends. It seems that the early Sultanate of Brunei was dependent on Chinese support, and perhaps early Sultans were of Chinese origin. Furthermore the earliest Sultans may have been practicing the Hindu or Buddhist religions, with early names indicating this origin .
It was noted that Muhammad Shah created the Sultanate. He sent a mission to China in 1371; the Ming Shih (Book 325), a contemperaneous Chinese reference book, noted that the King of Brunei in 1370 was Ma-ho-mo-sa. Local Brunei historians take this to refer to "Muhammad Shah" the first Islamic Sultan of Brunei, however others take it to read as "Mahmud Shah". Another viewpoint is that Ma-ho-mo-sa could be pronounced as "Maha Moksha", which means Great Eternity, a Buddhist name; this is in keeping by the Chinese record of his successor also having a Buddhist name.
His daughter, Princess Ratna Dewi, allegedly married a Chinese immigrant by the name of Huang Senping. For this he was conferred the nobility title of Pengiran Maharaja Lela and elected Chief of Kinabatangan. although the factual evidence for this is poor.
There is evidence that there was an Islamic presence in the current area of Brunei before the current Sultanate - there is evidence that there was also a pre-existing Muslim dynasty in the area.
- Elisseeff, Vadime (January 2000). "Chapter 8: A Brunei Sultan of the Early Fourteenth Century - A Study of an Arabic Gravestone". The Silk Roads: Highways of Culture and Commerce (in English). Berghahn Books. pp. 145–157. ISBN 978-1-57181-222-3. Retrieved 2013-12-26.
- Pusat Sejarah Brunei http://www.pusat-sejarah.gov.bn/sultanbrunei.htm
- Muhammad Jamil Al-Sufri.(1990). Tarsilah Brunei- Sejarah Awal dan Perkembangan Islam. Bandar Seri Begawan: Jabatan Pusat Sejarah