By : Ustaz Abu Hurairah Abdul Rahman
Mufti Besar Mindanao.
A. The Bangsamoro before the arrival of Islam
The pre-Islamic Moro social structure had three classes: the datus or chiefs, the commoners or citizens, and the slaves. The title datu embodies both political function and social status. Generally, the right to rule hinged on direct descent from the ruling class. However, by exceptional bravery or victory in war, a commoner could become a datu, in case of slave he could buy his liberty by paying a stipulated amount. Generally, the datus were of equal status or footing. However, one could emerge superior to the other by force of arms, or bravery in war. The real of the datu was more or less equal to that of a contemporary village of the Spanish-type barrio. However, there was no common term for this political unit, knowing that the Moros speak at least thirteen languages or dialects, most of which were mutually unintelligible.
The economy was based on agriculture, weaving, pottery-making, blacksmithing and fishing. In commerce, barter system was in use, for money was not yet invented.
The then people of Mindanao and Sulu wereu were a animists.
B. Arrival of Islam
How Islam came to Mindanao and Sulu is a complex question that cannot e addressed by a simple answer. However, it is historical fact that after the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about 623 AC, a general expansion of Islam ensued. Either through missionary effort or military victories, the Islamic world extended to West across the continent of Africa up to Spain, and to the East it encompassed the Indian continent up to Southeast Asia and then to Mindanao and Sulu. Many historians seem agree that the coming of Islam to Mindanao and Sulu was the result of the missionary activities of Arab traders and teachers or Sufis who came along the trade routes.
As regards the date of the arrival of Islam in Mindanao and Sulu, some historians say that it was earlier than the closing years of the fourteenth century. This is in the light of the discovery of a tombstone on the slope of Bad Datu, Sulu, in the year 710 AH, with corresponds 1310 AC, bearing the name of the deceased Maqbalu. Also in Sulu, an Arab known locally as Tuan Mashaika was credited with having founded the fisrt Muslim community. Later , in 1380 AC another Arab, Makhdum Karim reverently called Sharif Awliya Islamized a large number of inhabitatans. Makhdum founded the fist mosque in the Philippines a Tubig-Indangan in Simunul Island.
In 1390 AC, Rajah Baguinda arrived and continued the work of Makhdum Karim. By this times, a flourishing Muslim community in Sulu evolved and by the middle of the following century the Sulu Sultanate was established. The fisrt crowned Sultan was Syed Abu Bakar, an Arab from South Arabia. Upon his ascension to the thron, Abu Bakar used the regal name Sharif Hashim.
In Mindanao, around the year 1460 AC, local genealogies speak of a certain Sharif Awliya from Johore came to the Island. On the hill of Tantawan now in Cotabatu City, he married a maiden. They begot a daughter by the name Paramisuli. Another Arab, Sharif Maraja, also from Johore came and got marrief with Paramisuli.
Around the year 1475 AC, Sharif Muhammad Kabungsuan also claimed to be Hashimite descendant is credited as the most instrumental in the propagation of Islam in Mindanao. Out of his marital union with the local maidens, the Maguindanao Sultanate came to existence. The Sulu Sultanate realm had extended to embrace Palawan and some part of Borneo. While the Sultanate of Maguindanao had embraced the main island of Mindanao and some parts of Visayan island.
At the last years of the fifteen century Islam has already headway in many parts of the Philippines. It was carried directly from of via Sulu and Mindanao by preachers, trades or voyagers from Borneo who settled among the inhabitants in the North (now Manila and surrounding provinces). What is metropolitan Manila today was formerly the bastion of Islam. Manila was ruled by Rajah Sulaiman jointly or assisted by his uncle Rajah Matanda, and Tondo was under the rule of Rajah Lakandula. And so were Cebu and Mactan of Rajah Humbon and Raja Lapulapu.
The then political institution called Sultanates were of centralized government patterned after the Arabian model. The realm was headed by the Sultan. Below the Sultan was the heir-apparent crown prince, and in the lower tier of the hierarchy were the administrative officers or the ministers, the judge or Qadi as head of the Judiciary or agama court. In brief, the then political institution of the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu was Islamic.