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Story of Islam in Brunei & Malaysia

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Muslim State of Brunei

Brunei is a small country with a total landmass of 5,766 sq. kilometers (2,226 sq. miles). It is located on the northern coast of the island of Borneo, in the Southeast Asia. Apart from its coastline with the South China Sea, it is completely surrounded by the state of Sarawak, Malaysia. The ratio of Muslim population there is 76%.

A small Islamic kingdom was founded early in Brunei when its king Awang Alak Betatar traveled in 828 AH to meet with Sultan Muhammad Shah where he accepted Islam there. Also some Arab Muslims came to Brunei to propagate Islam and were encouraged by the king of Brunei at that time. This led to the spread of Islam in Brunei as well as the islands of Solo and Philippine. [1]
Brunei was a British protectorate from 1888 to 1984, and was occupied by Japan from 1941 to 1945 during World War II. [2]
In 1383 AH – 1963 AC, Brunei received an offer to be a member in the Malay Federation, but it refused and preferred to be a separate country that is ruled by `Umar `Ali (famously known as the Sword of Islam). Malaysia views that Brunei should join the federation, the matter that will widen the Federation to contain the whole northern coast of the island of Borneo and also will allow the Federation to benefit from the petrol and natural gas of Brunei. Moreover, joining the Federation will save Brunei from the danger of possible occupation by bigger countries in the area or outside the area.
In 1983 the sultan of Brunei Hasan Baliqya Mu`iz-ud-Din made an agreement with the British, which states that the British forces are retreat from Brunei and only the civil British administration remains. The sultan of Brunei still refuses joining the Malaysian Federation, due to the richness of Brunei’s natural resources, especially the petroleum one. [3]

Malaysia … a story of struggle

Malaysia --Malaysia is one of the biggest Islamic countries, in terms of Muslim population, in South East Asia. The ratio of Muslims in Malaysia is 60%. It is located in the Indian Ocean and borders Thailand and Indonesia. [4]
Islam reached Malaysia in the 7th hijri century. However, the exact year can not be decided. Malaysia had good ties with Sumatra, which is located on the west. The Muslim ships sailed in the Indian Ocean freely moving from one port to another, the matter that allowed the Muslim merchants to sell their products and speared their Islam doctrine, such doctrine that copes with pure instinct. Also, the noble manners of the Muslim merchants urged the people of this area to embrace Islam.
In 676 AH, the king of Malacca accepted Islam [6] at the hands of Muslim merchants who came from Jeddah. He named himself “Muhammad Shah” and his people followed him and accepted Islam too. This first Islamic kingdom worked on spreading Islam in the neighboring islands. Within half century Malacca became a center from which Islam spread in the neighboring areas such as the island of Panhang and the West Malay. [7]

Portuguese occupation of Malacca

Malacca mapMoving from their Indian base “Goa”, the Portuguese directed to Malacca in order to invade it, but they failed. After two years, they started their second attack. Before the attack, their leader Albuquerque gave a speech, saying: “First of all, we offer a great service to God by driving the Muslims out of these countries and abolish those Mohammedans so that they all become extinct. If we managed to invade Malacca, Muslims would leave the whole areas of India. Majority of Muslims, if not all of them, are earning their living through the trade they run in these countries. Muslims became rich and they own huge fortunes. Malacca is their main center. For, it is the port from which they carry the spices and medicine to their countries. If we managed to deprive them from this old market (Malacca), then they will have no proper port or place in this area to continue their trade. I assure you that if we managed to get Malacca from them, then Cairo will fall and Mecca too.” After they took Malacca, the bells of the churches of Rome rang out of cheerfulness. The Portuguese prosecuted the Muslims there by all means; they tortured and killed some of them. [8]

Dutch Occupation of Malacca

In 1051AH – 1641 AC the Dutch occupation replaced the Portuguese one. The policy of prosecuting and killing Muslims continued. [9] The Dutch used to give usurious loans to people there and take peoples’ properties and lands if they failed to pay back. When the people showed some resistance to such practices, they were encountered by force. The economy system of Malacca failed and people there experienced poverty and humiliation. [10]
The colonial countries held some treaties with each other in order to distribute the occupied areas among themselves. Malacca was part of the share of Britain since 1201AH – 1786 AC. The British East-India Company hired the island of Penang from the sultan of Kedah. Britain allowed many of the Chinese and Indians to work in Malaysia in an attempt to decrease the ratio of Muslim population in Malaysia. [11]

English occupation of Malay

In 1824 a treaty was held between England and Holland. According to this treaty Holland handed to England the colony of Malay and in return England handed to Holland the English colonies in Java and all other Indonesian islands. Britain gave more care to its naval and commercial activities in Singapore. Then Britain occupied the eastern part of the island of Borneo and divided it into three areas: Sarawak, Sabah, and Badni. These areas became important British commercial and military centers. Later, the eastern part of Malaysia was formed from these areas. [12]
There was a public resistance directed towards the English in many areas of the Malay. This was like a warning to Britain. Some of the sultans of the Malay supported these acts of resistances. The beginning of the twentieth century witnessed a big revolution headed by a striver who is famously known by Sheikh al-Hadi. He studied in Egypt under Sheikh Muhammad`Abdu. When he came back to Malay, al-Hadi issued a magazine carries the name “al-Imam”, which he named after Imam Muhammad `Abdu. Such magazine was of great importance as it linked the movements of independence in Malay with the Islamic awaking in the Arab East. Such movements continuously resisted the English occupiers. [13]

English & Japanese occupation of Malay

Japanese occupation Borneo and Malay Peninsula were among the areas, of South East Asia, occupied by Japan in 1360 AH – 1914 AC. Malay was run by the Japanese military administration. Many Japanese were appointed as heads of the governmental institutions of the country, but they were only monitors. The employees were Malaysians, the matter that gave such national employees experience and self-confidence. [14]
The Japanese occupation was even worse than the English one. The Japanese mistreated the Malaysians. Moreover, the Japanese forced the people there to speak Japanese language. It worth mentioning that before surrendering to the Japanese, the English destroyed many bridges, buildings, and lands of Malaysia.[15]
World War II ended with the defeat of Japan, which had to retreat from the areas it occupied including the countries of the Malay. Britain came back to its previous bases in Malay to take the place of the Japanese who left the area. [16]
After the return of the Britain, it suggested the formation of a federation of the nine British protectorates in Malay. Accordingly, the national federation of the Malay was formed in 1367 AH – 1948 AC in the light of this British proposal. Each state in the federation has its own self-governance under the supervision of a central government. The national governors governed these states except the states of Malacca and Penang, as they both remained British colonies. [17]

Independence & Federation

Malaysia InddependenceIn 1376 AH – 1956 AC Malay launched a new constitution, where most of the tasks of the federal government were entrusted to people’s representative council. Also, there was a general election which the Federation of Malay, headed by Tunku Abdul Rahman, won. [18]
In London conference (1376 AH – 1955 AC) the Malay Federation got its independence and got the full right to run the internal affairs. Also, Singapore got its internal independence and later joined the Malay Federation after some negotiations. Finally, in 1963 the federation consisted of Malay, Singapore, and North Borneo. However, Borneo preferred, after that, to be independent country. In the beginning this federation faced a strong objection from Indonesia and Philippine, but with the passing of time they both accepted it. In 1385 AH – 1965 AC Singapore left the federation and Malaysia became an independent country. [19]

External link: www.history-centre.gov.bn/eng-exhibition.htm

 

Footnotes:

[1] Mustafa Ramadan: al-Islam wa al-Muslimun fi Janûb Sharq Asia (Islam and Muslims in South East Asia), page 57.

[2] Isma`il Ahmad Yaghî & Mahmoud Shaker: Tarîkh al-`Alam al-Islâmî al-Hadîth wa al-Mu`âser (The Modern History of Muslim world), 1/312.

[3] Mustafa Ramadan: al-Islam wa al-Muslimun fi Janûb Sharq Asia (Islam and Muslims in South East Asia), page 57-58.

[4] Malaysia consists of thirteen states and three Federal Territories.

[5] Mahmoud Shaker: at-Tarîkh al-Islamî (Islamic History), 20/293-294.

[6] Malacca is located on the western side of the Malay.

[7] Mahmoud Shaker: at-Tarîkh al-Islamî (Islamic History), 20/294.

[8] Ibid: 20/300-301.

[9] Isma`il Ahmad Yaghî & Mahmoud Shaker: Tarîkh al-`Alam al-Islâmî al-Hadîth wa al-Mu`âser (The Modern History of Muslim world), 1/282.

[10] Mustafa Ramadan: al-Islam wa al-Muslimun fi Janûb Sharq Asia (Islam and Muslims in South East Asia), page 51.

[11] Isma`il Ahmad Yaghî & Mahmoud Shaker: Tarîkh al-`Alam al-Islâmî al-Hadîth wa al-Mu`âser (The Modern History of Muslim world), 1/282-283.

[12] Mustafa Ramadan: al-Islam wa al-Muslimun fi Janûb Sharq Asia (Islam and Muslims in South East Asia), page 52.

[13] Ibid

[14] Mahmoud Shaker: at-Tarîkh al-Islamî (Islamic History), 20/310-311.

[15] Mustafa Ramadan: al-Islam wa al-Muslimun fi Janûb Sharq Asia (Islam and Muslims in South East Asia), page 52-53.

[16] Mahmoud Shaker: at-Tarîkh al-Islamî (Islamic History), 20/312.

[17] Isma`il Ahmad Yaghî & Mahmoud Shaker: Tarîkh al-`Alam al-Islâmî al-Hadîth wa al-Mu`âser (The Modern History of Muslim world), 1/384.

[18] Mahmoud Shaker: at-Tarîkh al-Islamî (Islamic History), 20/315.

[19] Isma`il Ahmad Yaghî & Mahmoud Shaker: Tarîkh al-`Alam al-Islâmî al-Hadîth wa al-Mu`âser (The Modern History of Muslim world), 1/285.

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