Malay Islamic Monarchy: Brunei’s tradition

Dr Muhammad Hadi bin Muhammad Melayong, Assistant Secretary of PESEBAR

The Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) has been practised for over 651 years. It’s our government system, where Islam is the pillar of the state philosophy (MIB). It is also stated in the Brunei Constitution the MIB concept as the State Philosophy.

The beginning of Brunei’s journey to be a Malay Islamic State started when Sultan Muhammad Shah embraced Islam. Islam as the axis of MIB is grasped by the Muslims of this country who seek the blessings and favours of Allah the Almighty.

For 651 years, the leaders and people of this country have preserved MIB to ensure that the identity, prosperity and peace are not lost. Sultan Muhammad Hassan (ninth Sultan of Brunei) introduced the Brunei Law (Hukum Kanun) as his effort to maintain Brunei’s sovereignty. And in 1885, Sultan Abdul Momin and his Wazirs, Menteris, and Tulin pledged the sacred oath, where no land and territory of the country would be given to foreigners. It is an oath (amanah) that was hoped to preserve the sovereignty of Brunei as an Islamic state.

This oath that was entrusted to the people of Brunei came with heavy challenges from within and outside the country since the advent of the Western powers in the 16th Century until the present day.

The roots of Brunei’s Islamic history needed to be understood to avoid misinterpretations of MIB, as mentioned by 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, during His Majesty’s visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on January 23, 2016, recommending that as representatives of the country, it is our duty to give a clear picture of Brunei as an Islamic state when participating as a member of global associations such as the United Nations (UN), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Commonwealth, ASEAN and others.

It is our collective responsibility to cultivate trust that has been entrusted to the people and the citizens of this country. As His Majesty said:

‘’Berkaitan MIB kita perlu merancang dan bertindak tanpa bercanggah dengannya, kita tuju sasaran dan meluruskan cara sehingga kelihatan benar-benar sesuai dan tidak janggal misalnya siapa yang benar-benar sesuai untuk kita pilih mewakili Brunei ke Pertubuhan-Pertubuhan Dunia di dalam persidangan-persidangan. Kita mesti pilih mereka yang benar-benar berkemampuan dan berpengalaman yang dapat memberikan gambaran tepat siapa kita dan Brunei ini yang sebenarnya di mata dunia.”

The identity of MIB is visible as Brunei Darussalam extend its hands to support other nations. This has been our trait for hundreds of years – to open our door to outsiders to form and strengthen relationships.

The people of Brunei Darussalam are obliged to stand firmly behind His Majesty as a symbol of obedience to the Ulil-Amri; a leader who cares for the welfare and well-being of his people based on the teachings of Islam.

The Brunei Constitution 1959 signed by the Queen’s Government on September 29, 1959, began the process of restoring Brunei’s sovereignty until January 1, 1984, declared by His Majesty that Brunei was an independent and sovereign state.

Infused with MIB values, the younger generation will have an understanding and awareness of the importance of living together and respecting one another in order to create peace and prosperity for the nation.
The writer and judges with participants of a Malay Language Oratory Competition titled ‘Beraja Asas Perpaduan’. PHOTOS: DR MUHAMMAD HADI BIN MUHAMMAD MELAYONG
The writer with the PESEBAR delegation in Sedanau Island to visit Bruneians.

The practice of MIB can be used as a catalyst in dealing with social problems that are being eradicated in the country. Alhamdulillah, we wish to congratulate the Brunei Hokkien Association for their efforts to nurture and instil MIB values among the younger generation regardless of religion, ethnic and racial differences.

In collaboration with the Brunei Historical Society (PESEBAR), Radio Television Brunei (RTB) and Chung Hwa Middle School, the Brunei Hokkien Association organised a Malay Language Oratory Competition.

Infused with MIB values, the organiser hoped that it will give the younger generation an understanding and awareness of the importance of living together and respecting one another to create peace and prosperity for the nation.

The speech competition was a continuation of a programme organised last year that opened its doors to all Chinese communities in Brunei Darussalam.

The screening stage to select the contestants who will compete in the finals was held on September 21. The final competition will be held at the RTB Hall in Bandar Seri Begawan on November 16.

The effort to promote and acknowledge MIB to the outside world is the responsibility of every Bruneians. Aligned with His Majesty’s vision to disseminate history, tradition and culture to the people of Brunei, PESEBAR and Universiti Brunei Darussalam (through the Academy of Brunei Studies and Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences) worked together to launch two books in English to enrich His Majesty’s vision.

The first book was entitled The Malay Islamic Monarchy in Brunei Darussalam Prior to 1906: A Historical Study. It has 199 pages describing the monarchy system in Brunei that was practised based on MIB dated back during the reign of Awang Alak Betatar to the time of the Residential System in 1906. The book was authored by UBD lecturers.

As a supporter to the establishment of the Brunei History Centre, PESEBAR does not hesitate to conduct research, study, publicise and disseminate information on Brunei’s upbringing in upholding the Islamic Monarchy system.

As a result of PESEBAR’s research and visits to Singapore and Sedanau Island, it was discovered that Brunei already practised the MIB system since 1368. It has become Brunei’s national identity as a

nation that forms friendship with their international counterpart.

Brunei continues to exist as an independent and sovereign state with other countries. Relationship that was formed and held since the beginning of Brunei, through the British colonial period until her independence, Brunei has preserved its relationship with Singapore.

This relationship has benefitted both countries, especially in the field of cooperation in all sectors especially education.

This was shown based on the launch of the book entitled Junjung Kasih as a sign of gratitude. It was launched on August 9, 2019 and it illustrates the relationship that existed between Singapore and Brunei.

The book highlighted the youth in 1950 who were sponsored by the government to further their studies in Singapore as an effort to prepare Brunei with knowledgeable resources when it achieved independence.

The book launch was held at the Digadong Hall, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin officiated the event as the guest of honour. The High Commissioner of Singapore to Brunei Darussalam Lim Hong Huai was also present.

The Junjung Kasih book is a tribute for the past students who spent their youth studying in Singapore. The book is made up of several articles and poems. It was produced in conjunction with the Golden Jubilee Celebration of His Majesty’s Accession to the Throne. The production of the book also symbolised the past students’ gratitude and thanks to His Majesty’s Government for giving them the opportunity to study in Singapore.

May Allah the Almighty bless all Bruneians in the country, whose endless patriotism stood firmly with the monarchy.

The endless relationship between Brunei and Singapore has granted each other privileges and benefits such as the education sector, where in 1950 the government sent several youth to Singapore to be educated and groomed to be the future leaders of an independent Brunei.

Our experienced leaders backed by the monarchical system became the root of Brunei’s success and its continuity became our tradition.