The historical record mentions the culture of Brunei has existed since the 4th century. The area of Brunei used to be known as the temporary stopping port of the ships coming from Chinese, Arabian, and Indian. The merchant sailors usually stopped by and continued to sail at some areas that currently known and become the Republic of Indonesia.
Actually, the area known as Brunei previously had some terms to address. In Chinese historical record, this area used to be called by the name Po-li, Po-lo, or Pu-ni. In Arabian historical record, it was given the name Randj or Zabaj, while the Arabian merchant sailors called the area as "Brunei Sea” for the waters currently known as the South China Sea.
According to Chinese historical record, an area called Po-li once was mentioned in the reign of Liang Dynasty (502 AD-566 AD). Po-li is as an area located in southeast Canton, of approximately 60 days wind sailing, and ruled under 136 districts. In addition, Chiu Tang Shu’s book told that Po-li had sent their envoys to China in 630 AD.
The name Po-li was gradually changed its pronunciation to Po-lo in the middle of 7th century when the Tang Dynasty (618 AD-906 AD) ever mentioned that if making the sea traveling from Chih-tu to the southwest, we would arrive in an area called Po-lo. At that time, the King of Po-lo and Huan-Wang (Siam) had sent their envoys to China, precisely in 642 AD, 669 AD, and 711 AD.
In the beginning of 10th century, Sung Dynasty (960-1279 AD) has no longer using Po-lo but Pu-ni. Quoted from Hsin Tang Shu’s book "...after the disappearance of the name Po-lo, Po-ni is mentioned in Chinese literature first time in Chinese literature visthe Sung Shih". Charington said that the name Po-ni or Pu-ni is same name refers to Po-lo.
The term Pu-ni has continued to be used during the reign of Sung Dynasty. The terms of Po-li, Po-lo, and Pu-ni might be described as the Old Bruneian Empire.
In Chinese, since Ming dynasty replaced Sung Dynasty in 1368-1643 AD, Pu-ni articulation shifted into the name “Brunei”. This mention of "Brunei" was a new name in Chinese historical record indicated by the influence of the transferring the Old Bruneian Empire to Kota Batu. According to the historical records from Ming Dynasty, some messengers were sent from Annam, Siam, Java, Liu-Kiu, San-bo-tsai, Bruni (Brunei), Bangkok, Bali, and other states came to China, which the transfer period can be estimated had happened before 1397 AD.
In addition to the Chinese historical record, the source from Majapahit Kingdom found in the Book Negarakertagama by empu Prapanca in 1365 AD also mentions that Pu-ni or Brunei was the conquer of Majapahit empire. Mentioned in Negarakertagama pupuh 14, Majapahit empire had controlled some areas such as Sedu (Sarawak), Barune (Brunei), Saludung (Manila), Solot (Sulu), Terengganu, Johor, Tumasik (Singapore), and many others. Bruneian empire sent a tribute to Java every year, which such in the form of camphor and young nut water.
One of the historical notes tells that M Awang Alak Betatar was ascended the throne before the Government of Bruneian Empire moved to Kota Batu in 1362 AD. The empire has an opportunity to be independence from Majapahit Kingdom when Gadjah Mada died. Finally, the Old Bruneian Empire proclaimed as an independent in 1365 AD.
At the time the Old Bruneian Empire became independence, King Awang Alak Betatar made a relationship with the Sultanate of Johor. The relationship was marked with the marriage of King Awang Alak Betatar with the daughter of the Sultanate of Johor. Through this marriage, the King of Awang Alak Betatar eventually converted to Islam to gain a title “Sultan Muhammad Shah” from the Sultan of Johor. Thus, Islamic religion began to set as the state religion in Brunei.
Sultan Muhammad Shah led the Sultanate of Brunei to the year 1402 AD. In the lineage of the Kings of Brunei, Sultan Muhammad Shah only has one daughter named Princess Ratna Dewi. The evidence was obtained from the tomb of Rokayah binti Sultan Abdul Majid Hasan ibnu Muhammad Shah Al-Sultan found numerical year of 1422 AD and located in Islamic burial ground at Residency Street, Bandar Seri Begawan, and mentions that Sultan Muhammad Shah has only one son namely Sultan Abdul Majid Hasan, which mentioned as Ma-na-je-ka-na in Chinese historical record. However, the name of Sultan Abdul Majid Hasan cannot be found on the lineage of the Kings of Brunei. Sultan Abdul Majid Hasan died in 1408 when made a visit to Nanking, China. He was buried in China and written in His tomb says "Makam Raja Puni” (Tomb of the King of Puni).
The notes in the lineage of the Kings of Brunei mention that after Sultan Muhammad Shah died in 1402, He was continued by Sultan Abdul Majid Hasan’s brother namely Pateh Berbai or also known as Prince Bendahara, who ascended the throne entitled Sultan Ahmad in 1408 AD.
Sultan Ahmad died in 1425 AD and left no son. Therefore, the position of King of Brunei was given to His son in law, Sharif Ali. He was a disseminator of Islamic teachings who came from Taif in Arab, when the Sultanate of Brunei ruled by Sultan Abdul Majid Hasan or precisely since the year 1400 AD. Shari Ali who was entitled Sultan Sharif Ali was the one who strengthening Islamic foundation in the Sultanate applied since the reign of Sultan Muhammad Shah. He established mosques, straightened the Qiblah direction, and created the rules that prohibit the people of Brunei to eat pork, and the penalty of the violation was death.
Sultan Sharif Ali or also known as Paduka Seri Muda Berkat reigned until he died in 1432 and continued by His successor, Pengiran Muda Besar Sulaiman, entitled Sultan Sulaiman. Told in the stories of Hang Tuah, Sultan Sulaiman was called Adipati Agung (the Great Duke), while in the Malay History, He was called Sang Aji Brunei.
The next Sultan of the Sultanate of Brunei after Sultan Sharif Ali was Pengiran Muda Bolkiah, who was ascended in 1485 AD entitled Sultan Bolkiah. He was also known by the name Anakhuda Ragam or Nahkoda Ragam (ship captain) that refers to His habits in travelling abroad using ajung (jung or ship). In His journey, He was always accompanied by Nobat music and Royal Drum. Sultan Bolkiah was known as a fair figure made His territories to feel protected under the Sultanate of Brunei.
On July 11, 1524, Sultan Bolkiah died on His way back from overseas and continued by Pengiran Anak Cucu Besar Saiful Rijal entitled Sultan Abdul Kahar. Written in the Boxer Codex, Sultan Abdul Kahar was called Sultan Ari Lula or Sultan Adilullah, while Antonio Pigafeta on his report in 1521 AD mentions Him as the King Siripada.
Sultan Abdul Kahar reigned until 1530 AD and put the throne to His eldest son, Pengiran Muda Besar Ismail. However, His eldest son only lasted one year because He died and replaced by Pengiran Muda Tengah Othman who also reigned for not so long because of death and continued by Pengiran Muda Iring Ali Akbar. The same thing happened to Him, who also died shortly after ascended the throne.
Under such condition, Sultan Abdul Kahar realized that the throne of the Sultanate should indeed belong to the descendants of His big brother, Pengiran Bendahara Pengiran Muda Besar Tajuddin, who could not take the throne, which had been prepared as the next successor during their father's reign. Of these considerations, Sultan Abdul Kahar gave the throne to Pengiran Bendaraha Pengiran Muda Besar Tajuddin’s son, Pengiran Anak Chucu Besar Saiful Rijal, who ascended the throne in 1533 entitled Sultan Saiful Rijal. There the Castille War was happened.
Castille War was begun when the Spanish conquered the Philippines (Manila) in 1571 and offered a "protection" to the Sultanate of Brunei. Behind this offering of protection, the Sultanate must acknowledge the sovereignty of Spain in Manila, but this was rejected by Sultan Saiful Rijal.
The Spanish’s thought based on two things; the strong Brunei’s influence of Islamic teachings in the Philippines in the reign of Sultan Bolkiah, and the other intention of Spain that to spread Christianity in the Philippines was more difficult under the present of Islamic influence in Brunei. Therefore, the Spanish felt the need to conquer the Islamic center, which was the Sultanate of Brunei.
The first contact of war between the forces of the Sultanate of Brunei against Spanish occurred on April 14, 1578. The forces of Spanish contained of 40 warships led by Captain General of Spain in Manila, Dr. Fansisco de Sande. Meanwhile, the Bruneian forces contained of 50 warships. The first victory of the Spanish against the Bruneian made their mental up, so the Spanish forces entered the Palace, searching, seizing and taking various valuables things, occurred on 16th, 20th October, and 24th April 1578.
After losing from the Spanish, the forces of the Sultanate collected their strength under the leadership of Pengiran Bendahara Sakam ibnu Sultan Abdul Kahar and succeeded to force the Spanish force to retreat to Nausung (Sabah). On June 26, 1578, the Spanish was finally defeated and successfully evicted from the land of Brunei. Three days before leaving Brunei, Dr. Fansisco de Sande ordered the forces to burn the Jami’ Mosque of Brunei to release his anger, Precisely on June 23, 1578.
Pengiran Bendahara Sakam who served as the leader of Spanish expulsion got an award from Sultan Saiful Rijal to be entitled Raja Bendahara, which was a title considered as a possible successor of the next Sultan, but He died before ascended the throne. Sultan Saiful Rijal raised his son, Brunei Shah, as the Sultan of Brunei, but He also died shortly afterwards. The throne finally submitted to Sultan Saiful Rijal’s little brother, Pengiran Muda Muhammad Hasan, who ascended the throne in 1582 entitled Sultan Muhammad Hasan.
Sultan Muhammad Hasan reigned during 1598-1598 and continued by His successor, Pengiran Muda Besar Abdul Jalilul Akbar entitled Sultan Jalilul Akbar (1598-1659) and followed by Pengiran Muda Besar Sulong Abdul Jabbar entitled Sultan Abdul Jalilul Jabbar (1659-1660). When Sultan Abdul Jabbar Jalilul died in 1660 AD, the Crown Prince Pengiran Muda Besar Muhammad Shamsuddin was not on his age to take the throne given to Him, so the throne was given to His uncle, Pengiran Muda Bongsu Haji Muhammad Ali ibnu Sultan Muhammad Hasan entitled Sultan Haji Muhammad Ali.
At the time Sultan Haji Muhammad Ali ruled the Sultanate, an enmity occurred against Pengiran Bendahara Pengiran Abdul Hakkul Mubin, which started when the son of Sultan Haji Muhammad Ali namely Pengiran Muda Bongsu ibnu Sultan Muhammad Ali killed the son of Pengiran Bendahara Pengiran Abdul Hakkul Mubin in cockfight. Pengiran Bendahara Pengiran Abdul Hakkul Mubin came to the Palace to take revenge for the death of his son by killing Pengiran Muda Bongsu ibnu Sultan Muhammad Ali, but Sultan Haji Muhammad Ali did not allow His son to be murdered under the statement that the sentence of death was the right of Sultan. The unachieved purposes made Pengiran Bendahara Pengiran Abdul Hakkul Mubin to be angry and kill everyone in Palace at that time.
Sultan Muhammad Ali died on November 7, 1661, and succeeded by Pengiran Bendahara Pengiran Abdul Hakkul Mubin entitled Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin. During His reign, a conferment was given to Pengiran Bongsu Muhyiddin ibnu Sultan Abdul Jalilul Akbar entitled Pengiran Bendahara Seri Maharaja Permaisuara. He was no one else but His owns little brother from the same mother, Radin Mas Ungku Siti Kaisah, the daughter of Pengiran Temenggong Mancho Negoro from Java.
The murder case committed by Sultan Abdul Hakkul Mubin to Sultan Muhammad Ali was felt by Pengiran Bongsu Muhyiddin. He wanted to take revenge and try to seize the throne, which caused a civil war for 12 years (1661-1673). The war ended when Sultan Abdul Mubin Hakkul was successfully killed by Pengiran Bongsu Muhyiddin, as well as occupied the throne in 1673, to be entitled Sultan Muhyiddin.
Sultan Muhyiddin intended to return the throne back to the descendants of Sultan Muhammad Ali, Pengiran Muda Bongsu, who runaway to Sambas. Pengiran Muda Bongsu was asked to return to Brunei to be given a conferment entitled Raja Bendahara hoped to replace Him as the King of the Sultanate of Brunei, but before this intention has been realized by Sultan Muhyiddin, Raja Bendahara Pengiran Muda Bongsu died. Therefore, the throne was given to Raja Bendahara Pengiran Muda Bongsu’s son, namely Pengiran Anak Muhammad Alam, entitled Raja Bendahara Alam. During the reign of Raja Bendahara Alam, Sultan Muhyidin left to Kelaka to stay away from the Sultanate, but when Raja Bendahara Alam died, He was called again to run the administration again. However, even though Raja Bendahara Alam was appointed by Sultan Muhyidin to be the Sultan of Brunei, but He is not mentioned in the lineage of the Kings of Brunei.
Sultan Muhyiddin died in 1690 and continued by Pengiran Anak Chucu Nasruddin ibnu Pengiran Muda Besar Abdullah ibnu Sultan Abdul Jaliluk Akbar entitled Sultan Nasruddin. When Sultan Nasruddin died in 1670, the throne was continued by Pengiran Muda Husain Kamaluddin ibnu Sultan Haji Muhammad Ali entitled Sultan Husain Kamaluddin. Finally, the wish of the deceased Sultan Muhyiddin to restore the throne back to the descendants of Sultan Muhammad Ali was realized.
The reign of Sultan Kamaluddin Husain is mentioned as the reign of prosperity of the Sultanate of Brunei in last periods. It is indicated by issuing currency exchange called Pitis during His reign. He was also known as a fair and impartial King to His people. He did not condescend to marry women from nobility. Their children were also closed more likely to be the Sultan of Brunei as inherited from the blood of ordinary people. However, one of the daughters of Sultan Husain Kamaluddin had married with Sultan Muhyiddin’s son namely Pengiran Anak Chucu Besar Muhammad Alauddin ibnu Pengiran Di-Gadong Pengiran Muda Shah Mubin ibnu Sultan Muhyiddin. Under this marriage, Sultan Husain Kamaluddin has indeed an intention to return the throne back to the descendants of Sultan Muhyiddin.
Pengiran Anak Chucu Besar Muhammad Alauddin was finally crowned as the King of Brunei in 1730 entitled Sultan Muhammad Alauddin, but His reign only last in short time since he died in 1737. Because Sultan Muhammad Alauddin had no son, the throne was returned back to Sultan Kamaluddin Husain, who has resigned to be entitled Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan and left to Temburong. His second period to be the King of Brunei lasted until 1740, which He put the throne to His son in law, Pengiran Muda Tengah Omar Ali Saifuddin entitled Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin I, who married with Pengiran Anak Puteri Nur Alam binti Sultan Husain Kamaluddin.
The reign of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin I lasted until 1778 and continued by Pengiran Muda Besar Muhammad Tajuddin entitled called Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin. In 1804, the throne was given to Pengiran Muda Tengah Jamalul Alam entitled Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam I.
Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam I reigned only about seven months (April 26, 1804 – November 10, 1804). He died and replaced by His son, Pengiran Muda Besar Omar Ali Safiuddin II, but he has not come of age yet, so the throne was given Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Muhammad Tajuddin for a moment.
Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Tajuddin could only lead the Sultanate of Brunei until 1807, then put the throne to Pengiran Di-Gadong Ayah Pengiran Muda Tengah Muhammad Kanzul Alam ibnu Sultan Omar Saifuddin I entitled Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam.
Several events occurred in the Sultanate of Brunei during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam. Those events were the Sultanate of Brunei issued the currency exchange "Pitis" to Padian (1821) and the Sultanate of Brunei made a close relationship with the Spanish in Manila (1823). The decision to choose His own son, Pengiran Muda Muhammad Alam, to be the Throne heir was also made bid critical impact on His reign even His son was crowned in 1826 entitled Sultan Muhammad Alam.
Sultan Muhammad Alam was a dictator. In fact, the legitimate of Throne heir, Pengiran Muda Besar Omar Ali Safiuddin II, was also forced to flee to Keingaran Island to avoid the bloodshed on February 15, 1826. His reign only lasted for two years. In 1828 M, Sultan Muhammad Alam died and the throne of the Sultanate returned to Pengiran Muda Besar Omar Ali Safiuddin II entitled Sultan Omar Ali Safiuddin II.
On 15 August 1839, James Brooke on behalf of United Kingdom Ambassador came to Serawak to establish a relation with the old Sarawak authorities, which was held by Pengiran Indera Mahkota Pengiran Muhammad Salleh and accompanied by Pengiran Muda Hashim ibnu Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam. Both were the confidants of the Sultanate of Brunei in the reign of Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam.
James Brooke approached Pengiran Muda Hashim to establish a cooperation agreement. The agreement has been made between James Brooke with Pengiran Muda Hashim in 1841 containing the permission for James Brooke to build and stay in Sarawak. Furthermore, the agreement was renewed between James Brooke and Sultan Omar Ali Safiuddin II who represented by Pengiran Muda Hashim ibnu Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam on August 15, 1842 containing an agreement of appointing James Brooke as the ruler of Sarawak. Under this agreement, the authority of Pengiran Indera Mahkota Pengiran Muhammad Salleh was then replaced by James Brooke.
Based on the agreement of 1842, James Brooke began to rule in Sarawak and expand his territories even coming to the territories of the Sultanate of Brunei, such as Bintulu, Mukah, UYA, Miri, Sibuti, and Baram. The intention of James Brooke to take over the reign of the Sultanate was tried by persuading Pengiran Muda Hashim ibnu Sultan Muhammad Kanzul Alam to seize the throne of the Sultanate of Brunei. Pengiran Muda Hashim was opposed by most of the nobilities of the Sultanate of Brunei and this has lead to his death in 1846.
On July 8, 1846, James Brooke forces, which were supported by Admiral Sir Thomas Cochare, the British Far East Command, landed in Brunei. The war between the Sultan of Brunei and England could not be avoided and made Sultan Omar Ali Safiuddin II had to flee into Damuan. As a result, the war was ended with an agreement of friendship and trade in 1847.
Sultan Omar Ali Safiuddin II died on November 18, 1852 and succeeded by Pengiran Anak Abdul Momin ibnu Pengiran Shahbandar Pengiran Anak Abdul Wahab ibnu Sultan Omar Ali Safiuddin I entitled Sultan Abdul Momin. Sultan Abdul Momin has decided that when He resigns from the throne, He will be not succeeded by His descendants, but Sultan Omar Ali Safiuddin II’s sons, either Pengiran Anak Muhammad Salleh or Pengiran Anak Hashim.
In 1885 M, Sultan Abdul Momin died and succeeded by Pengiran Anak Hashim entitled Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin. The throne was given to Him because Pengiran Anak Muhammad Salleh has already passed away. In His reign, an agreement with Sir Hugh Low on behalf of British was created and stated that the Sultanate of Brunei stood under the British protection, but the British Government have no right to interfere in the election of the King of Brunei.
On December 3, 1905 and January 2, 1906, Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin signed an agreement again with Great Britain, represented by John Anderson. The agreement included that the Sultanate of Brunei received the appointment of a Resident in the territory of the Sultanate of Brunei. The Sultanate of Brunei must ensure his safety, provide a place to stay, and carry out his instructions except concerning the matters of Islamic religion.
In May 1906, Pengiran Muda Bongsu Muhammad Jamalul Alam ascended the throne entitled Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II to replace Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam Aqamaddin. Of His young age, the Sultanate was temporary held by Pengiran Bendahara Pengiran Anak Muhammad ibnu Pengiran Anak Muhammad Tajuddin and Pengiran Pemancha Pengiran Anak Muhammad Salleh II ibnu Pengiran Maharaja Lela Pengiran Anak Abdul Kahar until May 15, 1918. After Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II has grown up, he was then controlled the Sultanate of Brunei.
Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Alam II died on September 19, 1924. The throne was given to Pengiran Muda Besar Ahmad Tajuddin entitled Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin Akhazul Khairi Waddin who died on June 4, 1950 and continued by Pengiran Muda Tengah Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien entitled Sultan Omar ‘Ali Safiuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien or also known as Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien III. In this period, an agreement called Perjanjian Perlembagaan Bertulis Negeri Brunei was made with the England. This agreement was an effort to reach an Independence of Brunei.
On August 14, 1961, Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien III paraded His oldest son, Pengiran Muda Besar Hassanal Bolkiah, as the Crown Prince. Finally on October 5, 1967, Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien III gave the throne to His son entitled Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah.
The reign of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah is marked with Brunei Darussalam's declaration of independence on January 1, 1984. This declaration is essentially a continuation of the Brunei Darussalam's efforts towards the sovereign who has been pioneered by t Sultan Omar ‘Ali Safiuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien on September 29, 1959. Now the Sultanate of Brunei became the core of the state called Brunei Darussalam. Until today, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah has served as the head of state of Brunei Darussalam as well as the Sultan of The Sultanate of Brunei.