Sultanate of Sarawak
كسلطانن ملايو سراوق دارالهنا‎ (Jawi)
Kesultanan Sarawak Darul Hana (Malay)
Flag of Kesultanan Sarawak
The polity of western Borneo, 17th century, with Sarawak in Red. The kingdoms that established close relationship with Sarawak are illustrated in colour, while other neighbouring kingdoms are represented in light brown.
The polity of western Borneo, 17th century, with Sarawak in Red. The kingdoms that established close relationship with Sarawak are illustrated in colour, while other neighbouring kingdoms are represented in light brown.
Common languagesClassical Malay
Islam, local animism
• 1599–1641
Sultan Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah
• The foundation of Sarawak
• Assassination of Sultan Tengah
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Bruneian Empire
Bruneian Empire
Today part ofMalaysia

The Sultanate of Sarawak (Malay: كسلطانن ملايو سراوق دارالهنا, romanized: Kesultanan Sarawak) was a Malay kingdom, located in present-day Kuching Division, Sarawak. The kingdom was founded in 1599,[1] after the conquest of the preceding Santubong Kingdom and the later Sultanate of Brunei.[2]

The kingdom witnessed the reign of a sole sultan, Sultan Tengah, Prince of Brunei, known as Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah Ibni Sultan Muhammad Hassan of Sarawak.[3] The state established a close relationship with Brunei and Johor. It forged dynastic rules with the surrounding Malay kingdoms in western Borneo including the Sultanates of Sambas, Sukadana and Tanjungpura-Matan.[4]

The sultanate was dissolved following Sultan Tengah's assassination in 1641, at 42nd year of his rule.[5] The administration of the territory was then replaced by the local Malay governors appointed from Brunei, reunifying the area into Bruneian empire.

The historical significance of the Sarawak Sultanate, alongside neighboring Malay kingdoms such as Santubong (near Kuching), Sadong (near Samarahan), Saribas, Kalaka (both in Betong Division), Lingga and Banting (both in Sri Aman) collectively shaped the pre-Brooke Sarawakian history.[6][7]


Sultan Tengah named his Sultanate as Sarawak Darul Hana meaning "place of peace and tranquility".[8]



According to the Salahsilah Raja-Raja Brunei (Bruneian Royal Annals), the state was established following the demise of Sultan Muhammad Hassan, the monarch of the Bruneian Empire who ruled between 1582 and 1598. The death of the sultan witnessed the enthronement of Abdul Jalilul Akbar, the eldest prince of Muhammad Hassan as the Sultan of Brunei. However, the crowning of Abdul Jalil Akbar was objected by Pengiran Muda Tengah, claiming that the status of Abdul Jalilul was invalid as the elder prince was born before their father become the sultan, in contrast to the Pengiran who was born after his father's ascension to the throne, hence he believed that he had the superior right to inherit the kingdom.[9]

Already anticipating this dispute, the newly crowned Sultan of Brunei appointed the Pengiran Muda Tengah as the Sultan of Sarawak, a frontier territory far from the administrative centre of the Bruneian empire.[10][11]

Sultan Tengah was accompanied by more than 1,000 soldiers from the Sakai, Kedayan, and Bunut tribes, all of whom are natives of Borneo to Sarawak. A coterie of Bruneian nobility also followed him there.[10][11] Sultan Tengah constructed a fortified palace in Sungai Bedil, Santubong in 1599,[5] turning the area into the royal, judicial and administrate capital of the kingdom. He began to appoint his deputies and delegates, incorporating the position of Datu Seri Setia, Datu Shahbandar Indera Wangsa, Datu Amar Setia Diraja and Datuk Temenggong Laila Wangsa into the governance system. He was proclaimed sultan after completing the administration system of the new kingdom, bearing the regal name of Sultan Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah. According to the Sambas Royal records, Sultan Tengah Manga was known as Sultan Abdul Jalil.[12]

Sarawak–Sambas union

The Jamek Mosque of Sambas Sultanate. The arrival of Sultan Tengah in Sambas converted the ancient Hindu kingdom into a Malay Muslim Sultanate. The current ruling house of Sambas traced their lineage from the Sarawakian Sultan.

Located further up of the Sambas River, The sultan's arrival in Kota Lama was greatly celebrated by the Ratu Sapundak, the King of Kota Lama who welcomed the sultan as the royal guest of honour. The king allowed Sultan Tengah to perform his missionary activities to the local populace, despite himself being a Hindu ruler of Majapahit descent. The long stay in Sambas also witnessed the marriage of Sultan Tengah's prince, Radin Sulaiman to Puteri Mas Ayu Bongsu, the princess of Ratu Sapundak. The royal pair had a son named Radin Bima, who would later become the second Sultan of Sambas.[11][1]

Following the death of Ratu Sapundak, the throne of Sambas was succeeded by Pengiran Prabu Kenchana who appointed Radin Sulaiman as one of his advisers. Historical records narrated that Ratu Sapundak had desired to appoint Sultan Tengah as his successor due to his expertise in governance and administration, although his request was highly objected by the members of the Sambas aristocrats due to their religious differences, with the members of the then-Sambas nobility being predominantly Hindu. However, this would change in 1631, when Radin Sulaiman rose to the crown of Sambas, bearing the regal name of Sri Paduka al-Sultan Tuanku Muhammad Safiuddin I, the first Muslim ruler of the Sambas Kingdom.[12]

Sarawak–Matan union

By 1630, the sultan departed to Matan. There, he married a local princess that gave birth to a prince, Pengiran Mangku Negara, who later became the Sultan of Matan. It was after a few years in Matan that he decided to return to Sarawak.[11]

Diplomatic ties

Sarawak–Pahang relation

Sometime in the early 17th century, Sultan Tengah was on a trip to Pahang, (then an autonomous-kingdom in Johor) to visit his aunt, the Raja Bonda (Queen Creek of Pahang). Before he left, he elected four Datuks (nobleman) to administer his kingdom. His aunt was married to the sultan, Abdul Ghafur Muhiuddin Shah. While in Johor, he was invited to perform in a courtly dance. It was during the performance that one of the dancers almost hit the face of Sultan Tengah with a handkerchief by accident. The furious Sultan Tengah then slapped the dancer. This caused a disappointment in the Sultan of Pahang who then ordered the Sarawakian royal entourage to immediately leave his kingdom.[11]

Sarawak–Johor relation

Based on the narration of the Sultanate of Sambas, Sultan Tengah was ordered to leave Johor because of his refusal to marry Princess Cik Zohra upon the request of his aunt, The Queen Consort of Pahang.

Sarawak–Sukadana alliance

The royal entourage was hit by a major storm during their return voyage to Borneo. The vessel was then blew off course and arrived to the shores of the Sukadana Kingdom.[12] The polity of Sukadana was ruled by a Javanese Hindu King, Penambahan Giri Mustika, he was later known as Sultan Muhammad Saifuddin after his conversion to Islam by Sheikh Shamsuddin, a missionary from Mecca. It was also during his time in Sukadana that Sultan Tengah commenced his religious studies under the guidance of Sheikh Shamsuddin.[11][1]

The Sultan later wedded Princess Puteri Surya Kesuma, sister of the reigning monarch. He also briefly settled in Sukadana and requested permission to carry out missionary activities on the local populace. His request was permitted and he was granted land around the Sambas river to perform his duties. By 1600, he departed Sukadana to Sambas together with an entourage of 40 vessels consisting of armed men.

The royal entourage arrived and built a settlement around Kuala Bangun, near the Sambas river. It was during this time in Sambas that the Puteri gave birth to a prince, Radin Sulaiman. She later gave birth to: Pengiran Badaruddin (would later become Pengiran Bendahara Seri Maharaja) and Pengiran Abdul Wahab (Pengiran Temenggong Jaya Kesuma).

Reunion with the Bruneian empire

After staying a few years in Matan, the sultan decided to return to Sarawak. In 1641, he and his party settled in Batu Buaya, Santubong while en route to Sarawak.[13] It was during this time in Batu Buaya that he was assassinated by one of his escorts.[9][14] When the news of the death of the sultan arrived in Sarawak, Datu Patinggi, Datu Shahbandar, Datu Amar and Datu Temenggong departed to Santubong to complete the funeral rites of the sultan based on Bruneian royal customs. The Queen consort, Ratu Surya Kesuma decided to return to the Kingdom of Sukananda after his demise.[14]

According to official history, no new sultan was appointed after the death of Sultan Tengah. Instead, Sarawak was governed under the Sultan of Brunei, with the help of four semi-autonomous Datus.[1] It was only 300 years later in 1826, when Sultan Omar Ali of Brunei decided to establish a direct rule on Sarawak (Kuching region) by sending his nephew Pengiran Indera Mahkota there.[5]


Mausoleum of Sultan Ibrahim Ali Omar Shah (Sultan Tengah) in Santubong, Sarawak.

The final resting place of the sultan was discovered in 1993, located in Kampong Batu Buaya.[15][16] A royal mausoleum was constructed in May 1995 following the rediscovery of the tomb.[1] The monument was visited by Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei during his state visit to Sarawak in 2007.

Sultan Tengah reign has changed the sociopolitical framework of the western coast of Borneo. His capital at Sungai Bedil later became Kuching in the White Rajah era. He also had incorporated the position of Datu Patinggi, Shahbandar Datu, Datu Amar and Datu Temenggong into the Sarawak administration system as can be seen today. While his missionary activities transformed the native Hindu society into a Malay Muslim community in coastal Borneo, his political marriage and alliances established new dynastic houses to the kingdoms of Sambas and Matan.[4]

Today, some Kuching and the Sambas Malay community can trace their origin from these pioneers that followed Sultan Tengah to Sarawak.[11]

Darul Hana Mosque, was completed in 2016, as part of the Darul Hana township project located in Petra Jaya, Sarawak.[17] In 2017, a bridge named "Darul Hana" was built across the Sarawak river, connecting The Astana to the Kuching waterfront.[5] In 2018, Sultan Tengah musical charity was staged in Stadium Perpaduan (Unity stadium) in Petra Jaya which attracted 5,000 visitors.[18] In 2020, Sarawak Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) attempted to use Darul Hana to describe the state of Sarawak as part of the heritage for Sarawak Malays, arguing that the legacy of Sultan Tengah is continued through the Malay chiefs appointed by the Brooke government and later Crown Colony of Sarawak.[19][20] Chief minister of Sarawak, Abang Johari Openg later clarified that the state government had no intention to change the name from Sarawak Bumi Kenyalang (Sarawak Land of the Hornbills) to Sarawak Darul Hana.[21]


  1. ^ a b c d e Larsen 2012
  2. ^ Sahari, Suriani; McLaughlin, Tom. "History of the people from the Sarawak River Valley".
  3. ^ Porritt 2012
  4. ^ a b Bruneidesi 2017
  5. ^ a b c d Ritchie, James (11 August 2023). "Darul Hana making a great Sarawak Empire". New Sarawak Tribune. Archived from the original on 10 August 2023. Retrieved 19 December 2023.
  6. ^ Said, Sanib (2012). "Sejarah Awal Kepulauan Melayu: Lima Buah Negeri Warisan Sarawak yang Hilang (The Heritage if the Early History of Sarawak: The Five Lost Kingdom)" (PDF). Current Research in Malaysia. 1 (1): 21–50. Retrieved 19 December 2023.
  7. ^ [Sejarah kewujudan pentadbiran dua kerajaan dikaji]
  8. ^ Mohd, Roji Kawi (14 November 2017). "Opening of RM35m Darul Hana Bridge over Sungai Sarawak". New Straits Times. Archived from the original on 24 June 2021. Retrieved 22 December 2023.
  9. ^ a b Danielle Sendou Ringgit 2016
  10. ^ a b Sarawak State Secretary Office 2016
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Gregory 2015
  12. ^ a b c Kaffah 2017
  13. ^ Tunku Hilda 2015
  14. ^ a b Tomi 2014
  15. ^ Arkib Negara Malaysia 2016
  16. ^ Sygic 2017
  17. ^ "Darul Hana Mosque to be completed by next year". The Borneo Post. 16 November 2015. Archived from the original on 12 June 2021. Retrieved 19 December 2023.
  18. ^ Tugong, Agnes (25 September 2018). "Pementasan Amal Teater Muzikal Sultan Tengah dapat sambutan (Staging of Sultan Tengah musical charity welcomed by visitors)". Utusan Borneo. Archived from the original on 29 October 2020. Retrieved 22 December 2023.
  19. ^ Pei Pei, Goh (13 December 2020). "PAS creates furore by using 'Darul Hana' for Sarawak". Free Malaysia Today. Archived from the original on 13 December 2020. Retrieved 19 December 2023.
  20. ^ "'Sarawak Darul Hana': Hentikan manipulasi! ('Sarawak Darul Hana': Stop the manipulation!)". Harakah Daily. 10 December 2020. Archived from the original on 26 November 2023. Retrieved 19 December 2023.
  21. ^ "Abang Jo denies changing state's name to 'Sarawak Darul Hana', places blame on PAS". The Malay Mail. 14 December 2020. Archived from the original on 18 December 2020. Retrieved 19 December 2023.