Malay Islamic Monarchy Philosophy
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Published: Fri, 19 May 2017
This essay will discuss the topic culturally and politically. Brunei represents a fusion of Malay-Islamic values which makes it somewhat unique in Southeast Asia. The Sultan and his government have established a national ideology, Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB), referred to locally as Malay Islamic Monarchy. This ideology justifies preserving the absolute monarchy and invokes Brunei’s history and Islamic values in support of the Sultanate. Thus, an indivisible connection has been built between Malay ethnic identity, Islam and the Sultanate. As the dominant ideology, MIB permeates the small state of Brunei and governs institutional norms and behaviour.
This essay will also address the above topic by first exploring the concept of Malay Islamic Monarchy Philosophy. Then it will look into the introduction of MIB then the culture of Malay Islamic Monarchy philosophy in relation to Royal Brunei Armed Forced (RBAF), which is divided into the explanations of Malay, Islamic and Monarchy. The essay will explain the purpose of MIB in RBAF and ends with a conclusion.
CONCEPT OF MIB
The Sultan’s role is to preserve in the national philosophy known as MIB. Brunei is one of the oldest existing polities in Southeast Asia; it has a rich historical heritage and the longest surviving sultanate in the region. Through the ages, Brunei acquired a wise sense in the use of international diplomacy. The monarchy especially made effective use of this tool to steer the kingdom out of very tight situations and, in the process, has managed to save and preserve the identity of the state to bring it to the status of a full sovereign nation. Brunei’s government a traditional monarchy, is committed to the preservation of its people’s culture both religious (Islamic) and ethnic (Malay).
Brunei Darussalam which means in the Arabic term abode of peace; undoubtedly recognize the reference to the religion of Islam. The term sultan is a traditional title, derived from the Arabic word for authority, and used by monarchs in Islamic countries. Brunei’s government now prefers the designation “Malay Islamic Monarchy.”
THE INTRODUCTION OF MIB
The ruling monarchy is one of the oldest in the world. Historical records stated it back to the 14th century with ancient local Borneo culture heroes, including Awang Alak Batatar, who adopted Islam and became the first Muslim sultan of Brunei, Sultan Muhammad (reigned 1405-1415), and his brother, Patih Barbai, who became the second sultan, Sultan Ahmad (reigned 1415-1425), these heroes gave rise to the Barunay (Brunei) nobles. The third Sultan Sharif Ali, who was an Arab and said to be a descendant from the Prophet, consolidated the introduction of Islam in Brunei. From him are descended all subsequent Sultans. Ever since that period, the monarchy and Islam are closely linked.
Brunei became a British protected state in 1888 and became internally self-governing after the promulgation of the constitution in 1959. Upon independence, Brunei established its own defence force for the first time since 1881. There is no conscription; enlistment in the RBAF is voluntary.
The present ruler, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah who is the 29th descendent of this Islamic monarchy, officially proclaimed the MIB philosophy on 1st January 1984, the day of Brunei’s independence.
The philosophy of MIB has been in existence as early as the 14th century when Brunei’s king first converted to Islam. MIB has since become the nation’s system of ruling, its way of life and form of Government.
In 1990, a new state ideology was launched to promote the unity of the diverse groups within a plural society. MIB is based on the idea of Brunei as a traditional Malay state, a long-established Islamic state, and a monarchy. All the ethnic groups in the nation have always been under the authority and rule of the sultan.
THE MALAY, ISLAMIC, MONARCHY PHILOSOPHY IN RELATION TO THE ROYAL BRUNEI ARMED FORCES
‘the establishment of Askar Melayu does not mean we are ready to face a war crisis, but what made us establish Askar Melayu is only just one adequacy for a country wishing for a move towards development, like what have been done by every and most of the developed countries’
Formal speech by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muizzaddin Waddaulah Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam 23 September 1961 at Istiadat Menghadap His Royal Highness 45th Birthday. Taken from ‘Pelita Brunei’ dated 1 Jun 1994.
Brunei Darussalam is a multiethnic society in which one ethnic group, the Barunay, has a monopoly of political power. About three-fifths of the population of Brunei is classified officially as Malay. This category, however, includes not only ethnic Malays but also a number of the indigenous peoples, namely the Dusun, Belait, Kedayan, Murut, and Bisaya (Bisayah). Variations in tradition among other ethnic groups are not regional but cultural, social, and linguistic. The remainder of Brunei’s residents consists of other (non-“Malay”) indigenous peoples, such as the Iban (or Sea Dayak). Indigenous Muslims usually are referred to as Brunei Malays even if they are not native speakers of the Malay language. The official language is Malay, with English as a major second language. Brunei’s population is predominantly Sunni Muslim, although some of the indigenous peoples are Christian, while others follow their own local religions.
Defence force was first formed on the 31 May 1961 known as the Askar Melayu Brunei (Brunei Malay Regiment). Due to its history, only Brunei citizens of the Malay ethnicity (Bumiputera) can enlist in the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. The Malay ethnicity comprises the Belait, Bisaya, Brunei, Dusun, Kedayan, Murut and Tutong indigenous races as defined in the Brunei constitution. Military service is not compulsory for any segment of the population and there is no military draft in Brunei.
Brunei proclaimed as an Islamic sultanate. In 1990 the sultan encouraged Bruneians to adopt MIB, the country’s official ideology. The movement, which celebrated traditional Bruneian values and called for more rigid adherence to traditional Islamic principles, was viewed with anxiety by non-Muslims, particularly members of the Chinese community.
The Sultan is head of the Islamic faith in Brunei with power on all Islamic matters. Religious education is compulsory for every Muslim people. It is the government’s aspiration to make Islam a way of life for the people. The practice of other religions is to a certain extend freely allowed.
A part of the regular military training men and women in the RBAF undergo, there are also other support services to ensure that military personnel develop into well rounded personnel physically, mentally as well as spiritually. To this extent, Religious Unit plays a significant role in shaping the men and women in military uniforms into the desired form.
RBAF Religious Unit was established on April 1, 2006. The aim of the unit was to enhance spiritual knowledge in military personnel based on Islamic and MIB values. Soldiers were given an opportunity to improve their professionalism as a soldier and a productive citizen through services rendered by the unit, such as Islamic education and other religious services like counselling. The Religious Unit operates through a system that has been formulated through meticulous coordination, planning and implementation to produce highly compatible soldiers who go through an intense character development programmed based on Islamic virtues. The Royal Brunei Land Forces have helped the less fortunate in various programmed. The building of a house to ease a poverty stricken individual is a good example of benefits can be derived from the religious unit. RBAF continues to strive in community development based on the Islamic principle of seeking to help the less fortunate.
The Religious Unit was an instrument in delivering religious lectures in various workshops conducted throughout the year. Military personnel have helped religious officers within RBAF to deepen their religious knowledge to assists the RBAF community in areas such as counselling, performing the Haj, collecting `zakat’, maintaining RBAF staff’s welfare and preparing an RBAF personnel body during a funeral. Soldiers have benefited immensely from the Religious Unit’s contribution by becoming more receptive of their roles as a guardian of peace and to themselves as individuals.
Brunei is a well-established Islamic monarchy, meaning that the supreme authority over the state is vested in the Sultan and that the principal organs of administration are under direct royal control. The Sultan is at the same time Head of State, Prime Minister and Minister of Defence. This implies that he is the supreme commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces.
In conjunction with the 4th Anniversary of the Brunei Malay Regiment on 31st May 1965, Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Sir Muda Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien granted the Royal title when the word ‘Diraja’ (Royal) was added to the Brunei Malay Regiment and since then, the Brunei Malay Regiment changed its name to the Askar Melayu Diraja Brunei (Royal Brunei Malay Regiment).
On 31st May 1966, the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment was bestowed with the colours of Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien a year after it was given the “Royal” title in the Royal Colours Presentation Ceremony at Berakas Camp. The colour was green, with a background showing the symbol of a moon and a star at the bottom right, while at the above left is the personal emblem of Kebawah Duli Yang Maha Mulia Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien.
In conjunction with the 10th Anniversary of Royal Brunei Malay Regiment on 31st May 1971, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan dan Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam bestowed another colour known as the Royal Colours at the Padang Besar, Bandar Seri Begawan. The Royal Colours is yellow embossed with His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah’s personal emblem at the bottom right whilst the symbol of the Royal Brunei Malay Regiment is placed at the above left. With the bestowing of the Royal Colours, His Majesty’s colours were converted to the Units’ Colours.
On 27th May 1978, in accordance with its 17th anniversary, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan dan Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam, granted to bestow the First and Second Battalion with two colours, namely the Royal Colours and the Units’ Colours. The ceremony took place at Padang Besar, Bandar Seri Begawan. The only difference between the two colours is the additional Roman letters ‘I’ and ‘II’, symbolizing the First and Second Battalions Royal Brunei Malay Regiment.
In 1981 the Women’s Company (strength 250) was formed of which Her Royal Highness Pengiran Hajah Mariam became Colonel Commandant. In 1983, in the wake of Brunei’s independence, the name Royal Brunei Malay Regiment was changed to Angkatan Bersenjata Diraja Brunei (RBAF).
Once again, history was made with the bestowing of the new Royal Colour and Unit Flag on 12th July 1994 to the First, Second and Third Battalions of the Royal Brunei Armed Land Forces. The presentation of colours ceremony was officiated by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan dan Yang Di-Pertuan Negara Brunei Darussalam. The colours as a symbol and essence of heroic spirit and to sacrifice to maintain the security and defend the sovereignty of Brunei Darussalam in accordance with the concept of Malay Islamic Monarchy.
PURPOSE OF MIB IN RBAF
The introduction of the MIB concept in the RBAF is intended to orientate education towards the development of a pool of manpower, skilled in many fields as well as aiming at ensuring a Bruneian identity, peace and security, and communal well-being in Brunei-Darussalam. The importance of MIB are:
To encourage every personnel a mental outlook and attitude of life and such positive qualities of character as will enable the realisation of a society which is consistent with traditional Brunei virtues, such as strong religious faith, loyalty to the Monarch and a desire for balanced progress and development.
To transmit teachings which are consistent with national aspirations whereby the nation is seen as a MIB in which responsibilities are to be shouldered by all people at all levels of society, without regard to descent, beliefs, religious faith or traditional customs.
This essay has discussed the concept of MIB in Brunei in which it has a dynamic history which relates to the formation of this concept. His Royal Highness encourages his people to adopt MIB since it has become the nation’s system of ruling, its’ way of life and form of Government.
The RBAF has been entrusted with the defence of an Islamic nation and the members of its forces are required to uphold the national concept of Malay Islamic Monarchy.
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