Muhammad Shah of Brunei

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Paduka Sultan Muhammad Shah
1st Sultan of Brunei
Reign 1368 CE – 1402 CE[1]
Predecessor Position Established
Successor Abdul Majid Hassan
Died 1402 CE[1]
Religion Sunni Islam

Muhammad Shah (born Awang Alak Betatar, 1368–1402)[1] established the Sultanate of Brunei and was its first sultan. The genealogy of Muhammad Shah is unclear,[2][3][4] and based on several historical sources and legends.

He was known as Mohamo Sha by the Chinese of Mainland.


The early life of Muhammad Shah is unknown.[5] 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.[2] He ruled from 1368[4] to his death in 1402.[1] He ruled as Raja Awang Alak Betatar until the early 1360s,[4] 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).[4][1]

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's history. Many elder members of the House of Bolkiah claim that their ancestors were the BaHassan and BaAlawi Saadah from Tarim and Hadhramawt in Yemen. In addition there has been an effort to Islamise the history, with the "official history" not matching up with verifiable foreign sources.[6] The Batu Tarsilah, the genealogical record of the kings of Brunei, was not started until 1807 CE. Therefore, much of the intepretation on history relied on earlier Chinese sources and legends.[4] It seems that the early Sultanate of Brunei was dependent on Chinese support,[4][2][3] and perhaps early Sultans were of Chinese origin.[4] Furthermore the earliest Sultans may have been practising the Hindu or Buddhist religions, with early names indicating this origin.[6]

It is unclear who Muhammad Shah married, but it is reported either as the daughter of Iskandar Shah, or the daughter of Sang Nila Utama, both of the House of Sang Sapurba.[4]

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".[3] 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.[3]

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.[7][8]

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.[2][3][4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Jatswan S. Sidhu (22 December 2009). Historical Dictionary of Brunei Darussalam. Scarecrow Press. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-8108-7078-9. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Malay History: What's Missing in Malaysian History Books". Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "The golden history of Islam in Brunei". The Brunei Times. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i 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. Berghahn Books. pp. 145–157. ISBN 978-1-57181-222-3. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Royal Ark
  6. ^ a b "Brunei". Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  7. ^ Pusat Sejarah Brunei
  8. ^ Muhammad Jamil Al-Sufri.(1990). Tarsilah Brunei- Sejarah Awal dan Perkembangan Islam. Bandar Seri Begawan: Jabatan Pusat Sejarah

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