Aceh Sultanate

Aceh Sultanate

The Sultanate of Aceh was a sultanate centered in the modern area of Aceh Province, Sumatra, Indonesia, which was a major regional power in the 16th and 17th centuries, before experiencing a long period of decline. Its capital was Kutaraja, the present Banda Aceh. At its peak it was a formidable enemy of the sultanate of Johor and Portuguese-controlled Malacca, both on the Malayan Peninsula, as all three attempted to control the trade through the Strait of Malacca and the regional exports of pepper and tin with fluctuating success. In addition to its considerable military strength, the court of Aceh became a noted center of Islamic scholarship and trade.

Foundation and rise

The ruler of Aceh converted to Islam in the mid-15th century.Barwise and White, 114] The sultanate was founded by Ali Mughayat Syah, who began campaigns to extend his control over northern Sumatra in 1520. [Ricklefs, 32] His conquests included Deli, Pedir, and Pasai, and he attacked Aru. His son Alauddin al-Kahar extended the domains farther south into Sumatra, but was less successful in his attempts to gain a foothold across the strait, though he made several attacks on both Johor and Malacca, [Ricklefs, 33] with the support along with men and firearms from Suleiman the Magnificent's Ottoman Empire.

Internal dissension in the sultanate prevented another powerful sultan from appearing until 1607, when Iskandar Muda came to the position. He extended the sultanate's control over most of Sumatra. He also conquered Pahang, a tin-producing region on the Malayan Peninsula. The strength of his formidable fleet was brought to an end with a disastrous campaign against Malacca in 1629, when the combined Portuguese and Johor forces managed to destroy all his ships and 19,000 troops according to Portuguese account. [Ricklefs, 34] *D. G. E. Hall, A History of South-east Asia. London: Macmillan, 1955.] Aceh forces was not destroyed, however, as Aceh was able to conquer Kedah within the same year and taking many of its citizens to Aceh. ] The Sultan's son in law, Iskandar Thani, former prince of Pahang later became his successor. During his reign Aceh focused on internal consolidation and religious unity.

After the reign of Sultan Iskandar Sani, Aceh was ruled by a series of female sultana. Aceh previous policy of taking hostage conquered kingdoms' population ] made them eager to seek independence, the results are Aceh's power weakened while regional rulers gained effective power. The sultan ultimately became a largely symbolic title. [Ricklefs, 36] By the 1680s, a Persian visitor could describe a northern Sumatra where "every corner shelters a separate king or governor and all the local rulers maintain themselves independently and do not pay tribute to any higher authority."Barwise and White, 117]

Culture and economy

Aceh saw itself as heir to Pasai, the first Muslim state in Southeast Asia, and continuing Muslim missionary work of Malacca after it was conquered by the Roman Catholic Portuguese. It called itself the "veranda of Mecca," and became a center of Islamic scholarship, where the Qur'an and other Islamic texts were translated into Malay. Its notable scholars included Hamzah Pansuri, Syamsuddin of Pasai, Abdurrauf of Singkil, and the Indian Nuruddin ar-Raniri. [Ricklefs, 51]

Aceh gained wealth from its export of pepper, nutmeg, cloves, betel nuts, [Barwise and White, 115-116] and, once it conquered Pahang in 1617, tin. Low interest rates and the use of gold currency strengthened its economy. [Barwise and White, 116] It was always somewhat fragile economically, however, because of the difficulty in providing enough surplus food to support the military and commercial adventures of the state. [Ricklefs, 35] However, as it lost political cohesion in the 17th century, it saw its trading importance yielding to the Dutch East India Company, who became the dominant military and economic power in the region following the successful siege of Malacca in 1641.

Conquest by the Dutch

In the 1820s, as Aceh produced over half the world's supply of pepper, a new leader, Tuanku Ibrahim, was able to restore some authority to the sultanate and gain control over the "pepper rajas" who were nominal vassals of the sultan by playing them off against each other. He rose to power during the sultanate of his brother, Muhammad Syah, and was able to dominate the reign of his successor Sulaiman Syah (r. 1838-1857), before taking the sultan himself, under the title Sultan Ali Alauddin Mansur Syah (1857-1870). He extended Aceh's effective control southward at just the time when the Dutch were consolidating their holdings northward. [Ricklefs, 143] Britain, heretofore guarding the independence of Aceh in order to keep it out of Dutch hands, re-evaluated its policy and concluded the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of Sumatra, which allowed for Dutch control throughout Sumatra in exchange for concessions in the Gold Coast and equal trading rights in northern Aceh. The treaty was tantamount to a declaration of war on Aceh, and the Aceh War followed soon after in 1873. As the Dutch prepared for war, Mahmud Syah (1870-1874) appealed for international help, but no one was willing or able to assist. [Ricklefs, 144]

In 1874 the sultan abandoned the capital, withdrawing to the hills, while the Dutch announced the annexation of Aceh. The sultan died of cholera, as did many combatants on both sides, but the Acehnese proclaimed a grandson of Tuanku Ibrahim sultan. The rulers of Acehnese ports nominally submitted to Dutch authority in order to avoid a blockade, but they used their income to support the resistance. [Ricklefs, 145] However, eventually many of them compromised with the Dutch, and the Dutch were able establish a fairly stable government in Aceh with their cooperation, and get the sultan to surrender in 1903. After his death in 1907, no successor was named, but the resistance continued to fight for some time. [Ricklefs, 146] Indeed, Hasan di Tiro, who founded the Free Aceh Movement, is a descendent of the last sultan. [cite web|url=|title=Profile: Aceh's Gam separatists|work=BBC News|accessdate=2007-01-09]

List of sultans

* 1496-1528 Ali Mughayat Syah
* 1528-1537 Salahuddin
* 1537-1568 Alauddin al Qahhar
* 1568-1575 Husain Ali Riayat Syah
* 1575 Muda
* 1575-1576 Sri Alam
* 1576-1577 Zainal Abidin
* 1577-1589 Alauddin Mansur Syah
* 1589-1596 Buyong
* 1596-1604 Alauddin Riayat Syah Sayyid al-Mukammil
* 1604-1607 Ali Riayat Syah
* 1607-1636 Iskandar Muda
* 1636-1641 Iskandar Thani
* 1641-1675 Ratu Safiatuddin Tajul Alam
* 1675-1678 Ratu Naqiatuddin Nurul Alam
* 1678-1688 Ratu Zaqiatuddin Inayat Syah
* 1688-1699 Ratu Kamalat Syah Zinatuddin
* 1699-1702 Badrul Alam Syarif Hashim Jamaluddin
* 1702-1703 Perkasa Alam Syarif Lamtui
* 1703-1726 Jamal ul Alam Badrul Munir
* 1726 Jauhar ul Alam Aminuddin
* 1726-1727 Syamsul Alam
* 1727-1735 Alauddin Ahmad Syah
* 1735-1760 Alauddin Johan Syah
* 1750-1781 Mahmud Syah
* 1764-1785 Badruddin
* 1775-1781 Sulaiman Syah
* 1781-1795 Alauddin Muhammad Daud Syah
* 1795-1815 Alauddin Jauhar ul Alam
* 1815-1818 Syarif Saif ul Alam
* 1818-1824 Alauddin Jauhar ul Alam (second time)
* 1824-1838 Muhammad Syah
* 1838-1857 Sulaiman Syah
* 1857-1870 Mansur Syah
* 1870-1874 Mahmud Syah
* 1874-1903 Muhammad Daud Syah



* J.M. Barwise and N.J. White. "A Traveller’s History of Southeast Asia". New York: Interlink Books, 2002.
* M.C. Ricklefs. "A History of Modern Indonesia Since c. 1300", 2nd ed. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994.

ee also

* [ The History of Sumatra by William Marsden, ca. 1800]

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