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Samudera Pasai Sultanate

Samudera Pasai Sultanate
كسلطانن سامودرا ڤاساي
Map of Pasai, at today's Lhokseumawe of Sumatra, Aceh province.
Map of Pasai, at today's Lhokseumawe of Sumatra, Aceh province.
Common languagesOld Malay
Sunni Islam
• 1267–1297
Malik ul Salih (founder)
• 1514–1517
Zainal Abidin IV (last)
• Foundation
• Portuguese invasion
• Annexation by the Aceh Sultanate
CurrencyDirham coins
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Aceh Sultanate
Portuguese Empire
Today part ofIndonesia

The Samudera Pasai Sultanate (Malay: كسلطانن سامودرا ڤاساي), also known as Samudera or Pasai or Samudera Darussalam or Pacem, was a Muslim kingdom on the north coast of Sumatra from the 13th to the 16th centuries. The kingdom was believed to have been founded by Merah Silu, who later converted to Islam and adopted the name Malik ul Salih, in the year 1267 CE.[1]

Little evidence has been left to allow for historical study of the kingdom.[2]


Based on the fourteenth century chronicle Hikayat Raja-raja Pasai, 'Samudera' can be inferred to have come from the word "Semudera" ([səmudəra]), which meant 'a very large ant'.[3] The name was given by Merah Silu when he discovered an ant as large as a cat while hunting at a 'high ground'.[3] Eventually, the place was cleared for the establishment of a new state and 'Semudera' was adopted as its name.[3]

'Samudera' is also thought to be derived from the Sanskrit word Samudra, which means "ocean."

The literature also indicates the origin of the name 'Pasai' which came from Si-Pasai, the hunting dog of Sultan Malik al Salleh, who was Merah Silu after his conversion to Islam.[3][4] The legend narrates that Malik, while hunting with the dog, encountered a deer which was not afraid of the dog's barking but instead barked back. He was bewildered by this and thought that this might be a good sign for the place to be established as a new state for his son, Malik Al Tahir.[4] The dog died soon after the kingdom was founded, and Malik chose to bury him there, naming the kingdom Pasai after him. [4]

In the 14th century, the Italian traveller Odoric of Pordenone used the name Sumoltra for Samudra, and subsequent European writers also used similar forms of the name to refer to the Sumatra island itself.[5][6]


Pasai exported its culture, and most importantly its language — an early form of Malay written in the Jawi alphabet — to a number of islands. Later, this language became the lingua franca among traders in what is now Indonesia and Malaysia.

Arab and Indian Muslims had traded in Indonesia and China for many centuries. A Muslim tombstone in eastern Java bears a date corresponding to 1082. But substantial evidence of Islam in Indonesia begins only in northern Sumatra at the end of the 13th century. Two small Muslim trading kingdoms existed by that time at Pasai and Peureulak or Perlak. A 1297 royal tomb at Samudra is inscribed entirely in Arabic. By the 15th century several harbour kingdoms developed, all ruled by local Muslim princes, from the north coast of Java and elsewhere to as far east as Ternate and Tidore in Maluku. Marco Polo spent five months here, he had Ferlec, Basma, and Samara (Samudera) mentioned in his travel story. Another famous traveller Ibn Battuta on his way to China stayed 15 days at Samudera.[7]

The establishment of the first Muslim centres in Indonesia was probably a result of commercial circumstances. By the 13th century the collapse of Srivijayan power, drew foreign traders to harbours on the northern Sumatran shores of the Bay of Bengal, safe from the pirate lairs at the southern end of the Strait of Malacca. Northern Sumatra had a hinterland rich in gold and forest produce, and pepper was being cultivated at the beginning of the 15th century. It was accessible to all the merchants of the archipelago who wanted to meet ships from the Indian Ocean.

Cakra Donya bell was a gift[8] from Zheng He during his voyage to Pasai.

In the year 1345, Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan traveller visited Samudra Pasai where he notes in his travel log that the ruler of Samudera Pasai was a pious Muslim, who performed his religious duties in utmost zeal. The madh'hab he observed was Imam Al-Shafi‘i. At that time Samudera Pasai was the end of Dar al-Islam for no territory east of this was ruled by a Muslim ruler. He praised the kindness and hospitality demonstrated by the sultan of Samudera Pasai. Here he stayed for about two weeks in the wooden walled town as a guest of the sultan, and then the sultan provided him with supplies and sent him on his way on one of sultan's own junks to China.[9]

The Hongwu Emperor of China's Ming Dynasty listed Samudera in his admonition the Huang-Ming Zuxun as one of 14 countries which the Ming should not launch a military campaign against.[10] By the end of the 14th century, Samudra-Pasai had become a wealthy commercial centre, giving way in the early 15th century to the better protected harbour of Malacca on the south-west coast of the Malay Peninsula. Majapahit attacked and looted the place in the middle of the 14th century.[11]

Malik al-Salih tombstone

Pasai's economic and political power depended almost entirely on foreigners. Muslim traders and teachers probably participated in its administration from the beginning and were bound to introduce religious practices that made them feel at home. The first Muslim beachheads in Indonesia, especially Pasai, were to a considerable extent genuine Muslim creations that commanded the loyalty of the local population and encouraged scholarly activities. Similar new harbour kingdoms formed on the northern coast of Java. Tomé Pires, author of the Suma Oriental, writing not long after 1511, stresses the obscure ethnic origins of the founders of Cirebon, Demak, Japara, and Gresik. These Javanese coastal states served commerce with India and China and especially with Malacca, an importer of Javanese rice. The rulers of Malacca, despite their prestigious Srivijayan origin, accepted Islam precisely to attract Muslim and Javanese traders to their port.

The Portuguese occupied Pasai in 1521, 10 years after their conquest of Malacca. Through the Portuguese, the place become known in Europe as Pacem.[12] The Portuguese garrison evacuated Pasai in 1524 and the first Sultan of Aceh, Ali Mughayat Syah, annexed the territory.[13]

List of rulers

These are the list of rulers who ruled the Samudera Pasai Sultanate:-[14]

No Period Name of Sultan or Gelar Notes and important historical events
1 1267–1297 Sultan Malikussaleh (Meurah Silu) Founder of Samudra Pasai kingdom
2 1297–1326 Sultan Al-Malik azh-Zhahir I / Muhammad I Introduced gold coins
3 1326 – 133? Sultan Ahmad I Attacked the Karang Baru Kingdom, Tamiang
4 133? – 1349 Sultan Al-Malik azh-Zhahir II Visited by Ibnu Batutah
5 1349–1406 Sultan Zainal Abidin I Attacked by Majapahit
6 1406–1428 Ratu Nahrasyiyah Glory period of Samudra Pasai
7 1428–1438 Sultan Zainal Abidin II
8 1438–1462 Sultan Shalahuddin
9 1462–1464 Sultan Ahmad II
10 1464–1466 Sultan Abu Zaid Ahmad III
11 1466–1466 Sultan Ahmad IV
12 1466–1468 Sultan Mahmud
13 1468–1474 Sultan Zainal Abidin III Toppled by his brother
14 1474–1495 Sultan Muhammad Syah II
15 1495–1495 Sultan Al-Kamil
16 1495–1506 Sultan Adlullah
17 1506–1507 Sultan Muhammad Syah III Has two tombs
18 1507–1509 Sultan Abdullah
19 1509–1514 Sultan Ahmad V Capture of Malacca (1511)
20 1514–1517 Sultan Zainal Abidin IV

Family tree

Family tree of Samudera Pasai Monarchs[15][16]

r. 1267–1297
Al-Zahir I
Muhammad I

r. 1297–1326
♀ PrincessRaja Kadah
Ahmad I
r. 1326–1330
♀ PrincessRaja Khan
Abidin I

r. 1349–1406
Al-Zahir II

r. 1330–1349
Abidin II

r. 1428–1438

r. 1406–1428
r. 1438–1462
MansurAhmad II
r. 1462–1464
Ahmad III
r. 1464–1466
Ahmad IV
r. 1466–1466
r. 1466–1468
r. 1495–1495
r. 1495–1506
Abidin III

r. 1468–1474
Syah II

r. 1474–1495
Syah III

r. 1506–1507
r. 1507–1509
Abidin IV

r. 1514–1517
Ahmad V
r. 1509–1514

Historical heritage

The discovery of the tomb of Sultan Malik as-Saleh (696 H or 1267 AD), was referred to by historians as a sign that Islam had entered the Archipelago around the 13th century. Although there is an opinion that the possibility of Islam has come earlier than that. The story of the Pasai Kings is indeed full of myths and legends but the description of the story has helped in uncovering the dark side of history of the existence of this kingdom. The kingdom's past glory has inspired its people to re-use the name of the founder of this kingdom for the University of Malikussaleh in Lhokseumawe.

See also


  1. ^ "Samudra Pasai worthy to be world historical site". Republika Online. 24 March 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  2. ^ Ricklefs, M.C. 1991. A History of Modern Indonesia since c.1300. 2nd Edition, Stanford: Stanford University Press, p. 15. ISBN 0-333-57690-X
  3. ^ a b c d Mead, J. P. (1 January 1914). "A Romanized Version of the Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai". Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (66): 9. JSTOR 41561000.
  4. ^ a b c Mead, J. P. (1 January 1914). "A Romanized Version of the Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai". Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (66): 17. JSTOR 41561000.
  5. ^ Sir Henry Yule, ed. (1866). Cathay and the Way Thither: Being a Collection of Medieval Notices of China, Issue 36. pp. 86–87.
  6. ^ William Marsden (1811). History of Sumatra, containing an account of the government (etc.). pp. 4–10.
  7. ^ "CONSULATE GENERAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA ISTANBUL TURKEY". Kementerian Luar Negeri Repulik Indonesia (in Indonesian). Retrieved 24 January 2020.
  8. ^ Justine Vaisutis (January 2007). Indonesia. Lonely Planet. pp. 419–. ISBN 978-1-74104-435-5.
  9. ^ "Ibn Battuta's Trip: Chapter 9 Through the Straits of Malacca to China 1345 – 1346". The Travels of Ibn Battuta A Virtual Tour with the 14th Century Traveler. Archived from the original on 17 March 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  10. ^ Farmer, Edward L. (1995). Zhu Yuanzhang and Early Ming Legislation: The Reordering of Chinese Society Following the Era of Mongol Rule. BRILL. p. 120. ISBN 978-90-04-10391-7.
  11. ^ Borschberg, Peter (2003). "Review of O Domínio do Norte Samatra. A história dos sultanatos de Samudera-Pacém e de Achém e das suas relações com os Portugueses (1500-1580) the Dominion of North Sumatra. A History of the Sultanates of Samudera-Pasai and Aceh and Their Relations with the Portuguese (1500-1580)". Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. 34 (2): 361–363. doi:10.1017/S0022463403210304. ISSN 0022-4634. JSTOR 20072512.
  12. ^ Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volume 33, Parts 1–4. Quote: "The Portuguese knew Pasai as Pacem."
  13. ^ Bassett, D. K. (September 1963). "European Influence in South-East Asia, c.1500-1630". Journal of Southeast Asian History. 4 (2): 134–165 – via JSTOR.
  14. ^ Taqiyuddin Muhammad (2011). Daulah Shalihiyyah Di Sumatera. CISAH. pp. 115–186.
  15. ^ "Sultan Al-Malik Ash-Shalih, wafat dalam bulan Ramandhan tahun 696 Hijriah, dimakamkan di pusat pemerintahan Kota Sumatra" (in Indonesian). Retrieved 15 June 2023.
  16. ^ "Makam Sultan Pasai, Kesultanan Islam Terbesar di Asia Tenggara, Dibiarkan Hancur Berkeping". (in Indonesian). 31 October 2020. Retrieved 15 June 2023.

Further reading

  • Hall, Kenneth R. (1981). "Trade and statecraft in the Western Archipelago at the dawn of the European age". Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 54 (1): 21–47. JSTOR 41492897.
  • Hall, Kenneth R. (2010). A History of Early Southeast Asia: Maritime Trade and Societal Development, 100–1500. Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-6761-0.
  • Hill, A.H. (1963). "The coming of Islam to North Sumatra". Journal of Southeast Asian History. 4 (1): 6–21. doi:10.1017/S0217781100000739. JSTOR 20067418.

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Samudera Pasai Sultanate
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