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The Mausoleum of Sultan Sharif Ali

The Mausoleum of Sultan Sharif Ali
The Mausoleum of Sultan Sharif Ali

The Biography of Sultan Sharif Ali

Sultan Sharif Ali was the 3rd Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, a scholar who came from Taif, Saudi Arabia. Sultan Sharif Ali or later famously known by the name Sultan Berkat came to Brunei around the year 1400 when the sovereign of Sultanate ruled by Sultan Muhammad Shah (1362-1402).

Genealogically, Sharif Ali was a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad SAW traced from the line of Sayidina Hasan (the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad SAW). This is proven from the lineage of the Kings of Brunei, which written in Tarsilah Brunei mentions that “Sharif Ali adalah anak cucu Sayidina Hasan (cucu Rasulullah Saw yang datang dari Taif membawa sebilah pedang (Pedang Si Bongkok)…” (Sharif Ali is the grandson of Sayidina Hasan (the grandson of Rasulullah SAW), came from Taif bringing a sword (the sword of Bongkok).

In addition to being a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad SAW, Sharif Ali has also served as the Emir of Mecca entitled Al Amir Sharif ‘Ali bin Sharif ‘Ajlan bin Sharif Rumaithah bin Sharif Muhammad Abu Numaie Al Awwal. This position was proven by His sword called the Sword of Bongkok brought himself from Taif to the Sultanate of Brunei.

The sword’s shape is similar to the one belong to the Emir of Egypt, which now stored in the Islamic Museum, Egypt. Some historical facts mentioned that the sword of Bongkok is gift from the Turkish Government to the two-Emir, who were Emir of Egypt and Mecca. This sword used during the 14th to 15th century. The sword is now become one of the Royal Heirloom of the Sultanate of Brunei and passed down hereditarily to the sovereign Sultan of Brunei Darussalam.

The well-mannered attitude as a disseminator of Islam and good genealogical side made the Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Ahmad (1408-1425 M) arranged to married of Sharif Ali with His daughter, Princess Ratna Kesuma. Sharif Ali ascended the throne when Sultan Ahmad died and left no son but a daughter. The reign of Sultan Sharif Ali was known as the reinforcement of Islamic foundation in the Sultanate applied since the reign of Sultan Muhammad Shah (1362-1402).

Sultan Sharif Ali made several changes closely linked to Islamic law, including: compiling the administration rule based on Islamic law, straightening the direction of Qiblah, and creating the rule of prohibiting the people to eat pork, which its penalty was death. He also built three-storey mosque located in Kampong Sengkurong, about 16 km from Bandar Seri Begawan.

Besides religious affairs, His administration was also made several legacies, such as made an emblem, banner, and symbol of dignity of Brunei “Tunggul Alam Bernaga” as well as the Crown of Sultan. These regalia are stored safely and some are still being used in the Sultanate.

In defense, Sultan Sharif Ali built a city located between Chermin Island and Keingaran Island by sinking 40 ships filled with stones. That is the reason this historic city is known as Kota Batu (the Town of Stone).

The reign of Sultan Sharif Ali lasted until 1432. He died and buried in Islamic burial ground located in Kota Batu, Bandar Seri Begawan. The mausoleum of Sultan Sharif Ali is located near from Brunei Museum and the mausoleum of the 5th Sultan of Brunei Darussalam, Sultan Bolkiah (1485-1524).

The mausoleum of Sultan Sharif Ali was built beautifully as a tribute to Him, who has strengthened the Islamic foundation in the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam. In addition to perfecting the mausoleum, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (the 29th Sultan of Brunei) also built a grand mosque named Sultan Sharif Ali Mosque as an appreciation for His contributions, which inaugurated in 1986. The mosque is located in Kampong Sengkurong about 16 km from Bandar Seri Begawan. In addition to the mosque, the name of Sultan Sharif Ali was also given as the name of several educational institutions, which are the Sultan Sharif Ali Secondary School in Kampong Salambigar and Muara Street, and Sharif Ali Islamic University (UNISSA) founded on January 1, 2007. 

The Mausoleum Description

The gravestone of Sultan Sharif Ali depicts the year of His death, 836 AH or 1432 AD. There is also written Arabic-Malay alphabet translated into "Oh God. From the migration of the Prophet Sallallahu 'Alaihi wa Sallam Eight Hundred Thirty-Six Years in the month of Jamadilawal on Thursday night at night prayer time is the day of Ali moved from the world to the Hereafter, Peace be upon Him".

The name of Sultan Sharif Ali Himself is not mentioned in the gravestone, but written only the word "Ali". According to the oral tradition, He gave a message before He died concerning His gravestone to be not written His titles, but only “Ali” was enough. This is what has been believed by Him that the position of the Sultan was merely carrying out the command of God.

Sharif or Syarif is basically not a name, but a title of Arabian culture used to address someone and has meaning of “honorable” or “very generous”. Therefore, the original name of Sultan Sharif Ali was likely only Ali. This would be the reason of the name engraved on the gravestone is Ali, without any title of "honorable" or "noble", as He thought all people are equal in front of God.

The mausoleum of Sultan Sharif Ali has experienced some renovations. The gravestone has ever changed from Bulian wood (Euxideroxilon zwagery) to stone, which the time is unknown. Accidentally in 1951, Awang Haji Bakir found wooden gravestone written the name “Ali” on it, which similar to the one in the Mausoleum of Sultan Sharif Ali.  

The second renovation was done by replacing the tomb of Sultan Sharif Ali from the mound into a magnificent and beautiful mausoleum. A beautiful gazebo made of carving wood was also built before entering the mausoleum. Generally, the mausoleum of Sultan Sharif Ali was built according to Arabic architecture with a golden dome and surrounded by fence. The path to the mausoleum is made of white tile base material make it seems clean and beautiful. 

Image source: http://melayuonline.com/ind/history/dig/428/makam-sultan-sharif-ali

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