The Sultanate of Ternate: Origins, Structure, and Legacy

The Sultanate of Ternate, also known as the Kingdom of Gapi, is one of the four Islamic kingdoms in the Maluku Islands and is one of the oldest Islamic kingdoms in the archipelago. Founded by Baab Mashur Malamo in 1257. The Sultanate of Ternate played an important role in the eastern region of the archipelago between the 13th and 19th centuries.

The Sultanate of Ternate enjoyed its heyday in the second half of the 16th century thanks to its spice trade and military strength. In the heyday of his power stretched to cover the Maluku region, northern, eastern and central Sulawesi, the southern part of the Philippine archipelago as far as the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Currently, the throne of the empire is held by Sultan Syarifuddin Bin Iskandar Muhammad Djabir Sjah who has served since 2016 to replace Sultan Mudaffar Syah II.

The Origins of the Sultanate of Ternate

The territory of the Sultanate of Ternate in the 16th century (Uli Lima).

Gapi Island (now Ternate) started to get crowded in the early 13th century. The early residents of Ternate were exodus residents from Halmahera. Initially in Ternate there were four villages, each headed by a momole (head of clan). They were the first to establish contact with traders who came from all over looking for spices.

The population of Ternate is increasingly heterogeneous with the settlement of Arab, Javanese, Malay and Chinese traders. Due to the increasingly bustling trading activities coupled with the frequent threats from pirates, on the initiative of Momole Guna, Tobona leaders held deliberations to form a stronger organization and appoint a single leader as king.

In 1257 Momole Ciko the leader of Sampalu was elected and appointed as the first kolano (king) with the title Baab Mashur Malamo (1257-1272). The Gapi kingdom was centered in the village of Ternate, which in subsequent developments grew bigger and busier, so that residents also called it Gam Lamo or big village (later people called Gam Lamo Gamalama).

The bigger and more popular the city of Ternate, so that people prefer to say the kingdom of Ternate rather than the kingdom of Gapi. Under the leadership of the next several generations of rulers, Ternate developed from a kingdom that only consisted of a small island to become the most influential and largest kingdom in eastern Indonesia, especially Maluku.

Structure of the Sultanate of Ternate

In the early days the Ternate tribe was led by the momoles . After forming the kingdom, the leadership position was held by a king called Kolano . Beginning in the mid-15th century, Islam was totally adopted by the kingdom and the application of Islamic law was enforced. Sultan Zainal Abidin left the kolano title and replaced it with the sultan title. The scholars became important figures in the kingdom.

After the sultan as supreme leader, there are the positions of jogugu (prime minister) and fala raha as advisers. Fala raha or four houses are the four noble clans that became the backbone of the empire as a representation of the momoles in the past, each headed by a kimalaha . They are Marasaoli, Tomagola, Tomaito and Tamadi. High-ranking officials of the empire generally came from these clans. If a sultan has no heir, his successor is chosen from one of the clans. Furthermore, there are other positions Bobato Nyagimoi se Tufkange (Council 18), Sabua Raha, Kapita Lau, Salahakan, Sangaji , and others.

The Kings of the Sultanate of Ternate

Kolano and the Sultan of Ternate Length of service
Baab Mashur Malamo 1257 – 1277
Guarantee Qadrat 1277 – 1284
Komala Abu Said 1284 – 1298
Bakuku (Kalabata) 1298 – 1304
Ngara Malamo (Komala) 1304 – 1317
Patrasanga Malamo 1317 – 1322
Cili Aiya (Arif Malamo Session) 1322 – 1331
Panji Malamo 1331 – 1332
Shah Alam 1332 – 1343
Tulu Malamo 1343 – 1347
Kie Mabiji (Abu Hayat I) 1347 – 1350
Ngolo Macahaya 1350 – 1357
Momole 1357 – 1359
Gapi Malamo I 1359 – 1372
Gapi Baguna I 1372 – 1377
Komala Island 1377 – 1432
Marhum (Gapi Baguna II) 1432 – 1486
Zainal Abidin 1486 – 1500
Sultan Bayanullah 1500 – 1522
Hidayatullah 1522 – 1529
Abu Hayat II 1529 – 1533
Tabariji 1533 – 1534
Khairun Jamil 1535 – 1570
Babullah Datu Shah 1570 – 1583
Said Barakat Syah 1583 – 1606
Mudaffar Shah I 1607 – 1627
Hamzah 1627 – 1648
Mandarsyah 1648 – 1650 (first period)
manila 1650 – 1655
Mandarsyah 1655 – 1675 (second period)
Sibori 1675 – 1689
Said Fatahullah 1689 – 1714
Amir Iskandar Zulkarnain Syaifuddin 1714 – 1751
Ayan Shah 1751 – 1754
Shah Mardan 1755 – 1763
Jalaluddin 1763 – 1774
Harunsyah 1774 – 1781
Acral 1781 – 1796
Muhammad Yasin 1796 – 1801
Muhammad Ali 1807 – 1821
Muhammad Sarmol 1821 – 1823
Muhammad Zayn 1823 – 1859
Muhammad Arshad 1859 – 1876
Ayanhar 1879 – 1900
Muhammad Ilham (Kolano Ara Rimoi) 1900 – 1902
Hajj Muhammad Usman Shah 1902 – 1915
Iskandar Muhammad Jabir Shah 1929 – 1975
Haji Mudaffar Shah (Mudaffar Shah II) 1975–2015

Arrival of Islam in Ternate

There is no clear source regarding when the first arrival of Islam in North Maluku, especially Ternate. However, it is estimated that since the beginning of the establishment of the Ternate kingdom, the people of Ternate have known Islam, considering that there were many Arab traders who had settled in Ternate at that time. Some of the early kings of Ternate already used names with Islamic nuances, but the certainty that they and the royal family embraced Islam is still being debated. It can only be ascertained that the royal family of Ternate officially embraced Islam in the mid-15th century.

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Kolano Marhum (1465-1486), the 18th ruler of Ternate, was the first known king to embrace Islam along with all his relatives and palace officials. Kolano Marhum’s replacement was his son, Zainal Abidin (1486-1500). Some of the steps taken by Sultan Zainal Abidin were to leave the title kolano and replace it with sultan, Islam was recognized as the official religion of the kingdom, Islamic law was enforced, and forming royal institutions according to Islamic law by involving the clergy.

These steps were then followed by other kingdoms in Maluku in total, almost without change. He also founded the first madrasa in Ternate. Sultan Zainal Abidin once deepened Islamic teachings by studying with Sunan Giri on the island of Java. There he was known as the Sultan of Bualawa (Sultan of Cloves).

The Arrival of Portugal and the Civil War

Earliest map of the North Maluku Islands by a Dutch cartographer, Willem Janszoon Blaeu, in 1630. North is on the right, with the island of Ternate at the far right, followed by the islands of Tidore, Mare, Moti and the Makian Islands. At the bottom is Gilolo (Jailolo or Halmahera). The inset above shows Bacan Island.

During the reign of Sultan Bayanullah (1500-1521), Ternate was growing, its people were required to dress Islamically, boat-building techniques and weapons obtained from Arabs and Turks were used to strengthen Ternate’s troops. It was also during this time that the first European came to Maluku, Loedwijk de Bartomo (Ludovico Varthema) in 1506.

In 1512 Portugal for the first time set foot in Ternate under the leadership of Francisco Serrao, with the approval of the sultan, Portugal was allowed to establish a trading post in Ternate. Portugal came not solely to trade but to dominate the trade in spices, nutmeg and cloves in Maluku. For that first they have to conquer Ternate.

Sultan Bayanullah died leaving heirs who were still very young. The sultan’s widow, Empress Nukila and Prince Taruwese, the late sultan’s younger brother, acted as regents. Empress Nukila, who is from Tidore, intends to unite Ternate and Tidore under one crown, namely one of her two sons, Prince Hidayat (later Sultan Dayalu) and prince Abu Hayat (later Sultan Abu Hayat II). Meanwhile, Prince Tarruwese wants the throne for himself.

Portugal took advantage of this opportunity and pitted the two against each other until a civil war broke out. Empress Nukila’s camp was supported by Tidore while Prince Taruwese was supported by Portugal. After winning the victory, Prince Taruwese was betrayed and killed by Portugal. The governor of Portugal acted as royal adviser and with influence he had succeeded in persuading the royal council to appoint prince Tabariji as sultan. However, when Sultan Tabariji began to show hostility, he was slandered and exiled to Goa, India. There he was forced by Portugal to sign an agreement making Ternate a Catholic kingdom and a royal vassal of Portugal, but the agreement was flatly rejected by Sultan Khairun (1534-1570).

Expulsion of Portugal from Ternate

Portugal’s treatment of his brothers made Sultan Khairun furious and determined to expel Portugal from Maluku. This behavior of the Western nation also caused the anger of the people who eventually stood behind Sultan Khairun. Since the time of the sultan Bayanullah, Ternate has become one of the three most powerful sultanates and the main Islamic center in the 16th century archipelago besides Aceh and Demak after the fall of Malacca in 1511. The three of them formed the Triple Alliance to stem the attacks of Portugal in the archipelago.

Not wanting to become the second Malacca, sultan Khairun waged a war to expel the Portuguese. Portugal’s position at that time was already very strong, apart from having strongholds and pockets of power throughout Maluku they also had indigenous tribal allies who could be deployed to confront Ternate. With Aceh and Demak continuing to threaten Portugal’s position in Malacca, Portugal in Maluku had difficulty getting reinforcements so they had to beg for peace from Sultan Khairun. The governor of Portugal, López de Mesquita, cunningly invited Sultan Khairun to the negotiating table and finally cruelly killed the sultan who came without his bodyguards.

The assassination of Sultan Khairun further encouraged the people of Ternate to expel Portugal, even all of Maluku now supported the leadership and struggle of Sultan Baabullah (1570-1583), Portuguese posts throughout Maluku and eastern Indonesia were battered. After 5 years of war, Portugal finally left Maluku forever in 1575. Under the leadership of Sultan Baabullah, Ternate reached the peak of its glory, the territory stretching from North and Central Sulawesi in the west to the Marshall Islands in the east, from the South Philippines in the north to the Nusa Tenggara islands in the south.

Sultan Baabullah was nicknamed the ruler of 72 islands, all of which were inhabited, making the Sultanate of Ternate the largest Islamic empire in eastern Indonesia, besides Aceh and Demak which controlled the western and central regions of the archipelago at that time. The golden period of these three sultanates during the 14th and 15th centuries was either deliberately or not neglected in the history of this nation even though they were the first pillars to stem Western colonialism.

Arrival of the Dutch in Ternate

After Sultan Baabullah died, Ternate began to weaken. The Kingdom of Spain, which had been united with Portugal in 1580, tried to reconquer Maluku by attacking Ternate. With Spain’s new strength strengthening its position in the Philippines, Ternate also formed an alliance with Mindanao to drive the Spanish out but failed, even Sultan Said Barakati was captured by the Spanish and exiled to Manila.

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Defeat after defeat suffered forced Ternate to ask for Dutch help in 1603. Ternate finally succeeded in holding off the Spanish but with very expensive rewards. The Dutch finally slowly took control of Ternate. On 26 June 1607 the Sultan of Ternate signed a VOC monopoly contract in Maluku in exchange for Dutch aid against Spain. In 1607 the Dutch also built the Oranje fort in Ternate which was their first fort in the archipelago.

From the beginning, the unhealthy and unequal relationship between the Netherlands and Ternate caused dissatisfaction with the rulers and nobles of Ternate. Among them was Prince Hidayat (15??-1624), the viceroy of Ambon who was also the former regent of the king of Ternate, who led the opposition against the position of the sultan and the Dutch. He ignored the Dutch trade monopoly agreement by selling spices to Javanese and Makassar traders.

Fall of the Sultanate of Ternate

The next few sultans of Ternate continued to struggle to get Ternate out of the grip of the Dutch. With limited capabilities because they are always being watched, they are only able to support the struggle of their people secretly. Finally, in 1914 Sultan Haji Muhammad Usman Syah (1896-1927) mobilized people’s resistance in his territories, starting in the Banggai region under the leadership of Hairuddin Tomagola but failed.

In Jailolo, the people of Tudowongi, Tuwada and Kao under the leadership of Kapita Banau succeeded in inflicting losses on the Dutch side, many Dutch soldiers were killed including the Dutch Controleur Agerbeek and their headquarters was ransacked. However, due to military superiority and more complete weaponry owned by the Dutch, the resistance was broken, the Banau capita was arrested and sentenced to be hanged.

Sultan Haji Muhammad Usman Syah was proven to be involved in this rebellion, therefore based on the decision of the Dutch East Indies government, dated 23 September 1915 no. 47, Sultan Haji Muhammad Usman Syah was removed from the position of sultan and all his property was confiscated, he was exiled to Bandung in 1915 and died there in 1927.

After the dethronement of Sultan Haji Muhammad Usman Syah, the position of sultan remained vacant for 14 years and the customary administration was run by Jogugu and the imperial council. There had been a desire by the Dutch East Indies government to abolish the Sultanate of Ternate, but this intention was nevertheless carried out for fear of a strong reaction that could trigger a new uprising while Ternate was far from the center of Dutch administration in Batavia.

Now entering its 750th year, the Sultanate of Ternate still survives even though it is only a cultural symbol.


Legacy of the Sultanate of Ternate

Sigi Lamo, the mosque of the Sultanate of Ternate.

The Empire of the Eastern Archipelago led by Ternate had indeed collapsed since the mid-17th century, but the influence of Ternate as a kingdom with a long history was still being felt centuries later. Ternate has a very large share in the culture of the eastern archipelago, especially Sulawesi (north and east coast) and Maluku. These influences include religion, customs and language.

As the first kingdom to embrace Islam, Ternate played a major role in efforts to convert and introduce Islamic law in the eastern archipelago and southern Philippines. The form of the sultanate’s organization and the implementation of Islamic law, which was first introduced by Sultan Zainal Abidin, became the standard followed by all kingdoms in Maluku, almost without significant changes.

The success of the people of Ternate under Sultan Baabullah in expelling Portugal in 1575 was the first victory for the natives of the archipelago over western powers, therefore Buya Hamka even praised the victory of the people of Ternate for delaying western colonization of the archipelago for 100 years while at the same time strengthening the position of Islam, and if the people If Ternate fails, eastern Indonesia will undoubtedly become a Christian center like the Philippines.

Ternate’s position as an influential kingdom also helped raise the degree of Ternate language as a social language in various areas under its influence. Prof. EKW Masinambow in his writing, “Ternate language in the context of Austronesian and Non-Austronesian languages” stated that the Ternate language had the greatest impact on the Malay language used by the people of eastern Indonesia. As much as 46% of Malay vocabulary in Manado is taken from Ternate. Ternate Malay is now widely used in Eastern Indonesia, especially North Sulawesi, the east coast of Central and South Sulawesi, Maluku and Papua with different dialects.

Two manuscripts of the letters of the sultan of Ternate, from Sultan Abu Hayat II to the King of Portugal on 27 April and 8 November 1521 are recognized as the oldest Malay manuscripts in the world after the Tanjung Tanah Malay manuscript. The two letters of Sultan Abu Hayat are currently still stored in the Lisbon Museum, Portugal.

Other relics from this sultanate include the tomb complex of the sultan of Ternate as well as relics in the Museum of the Sultanate of Ternate (war equipment, the king’s throne, and the king’s handwritten Koran).

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