ARCHEOLOGICAL sources point to the existence of MIB coming to the tiny country of Brunei, then still known to the world as Po-ni, approximately more than 600 years ago. The concept itself was established by Awang Alak Betatar, the monarch in power at the time, in 1368 AD and later practised by his lineage till present day. Stated in Datu Imam Yaakup’s version of The Genealogy of Brunei Kings “The the first government to bring Islam into the Brunei government administration under the syariat of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the government of Paduka Seri Sultan Muhammad Shah”, the Muslim name bestowed upon Awang Alak Betatar when he converted to Islam following his marriage to the Princess of Johor, which we now refer to as ancient Singapore.
This article will focus on the beginning of MIB and how it became the living foundation of every Bruneian and shaped Brunei Darussalam to be the country that it is today; an fascinating country of beautiful Malay culture, with strong Islamic beliefs under the guidance of His Majesty, rich in history with a harmonious society working together for common prosperity.
One of the earliest mentions of Brunei was recorded in a poem of ‘Awang Semaun’, about how Awang Alak Betatar escorted by Pateh Berbai and Demang Sari, with a retinue of by 90 aboriginal people, traveled from Garang, Temburong District to Brunei-Muara and took up residence on the shores of Kota Batu. To be close to their ruler, his people built houses on the Brunei River, which eventually became the iconic landmarks, Kampong Ayer. This simple exchange of mutual respect and loyalty between a ruler and his people laid the foundations of MIB; a Sultan who loved his people, a people that loved their ruler in return, and the set of beliefs that bound them together.
Among others, part of Syair Awang Semaun decribes this story: “Bersama pula Pateh Berbai, Masuk ke Negeri Sungai Brunei, Sembilan puluh banyaknya ramai, Sekaliannya itu semuanya Sakai. Awang Alak Betatar berkata kepada Demang Sari, Bersama Pateh kanan dan kiri, Jikalau terpakai Awangku sendiri, Ke dalam Brunei kita bernegeri.”
We cannot simply base our opinions on a single historic analogy to illustrate the importance of MIB to our nation. Merely stating that MIB has been here for 600 years is simply not enough to satisfy the curiosity of our younger generations. We will need to show to them how it has shaped Brunei; how it kept the country at peace in times of great war and suffering, circumvented the cultural pitfall that is globalisation, and navigated the steady growth of Brunei over the ages. History is, and always has been, a strong and important process of nation building and development, and it is imperative that the youth of today are privy to the knowledge of yesterday for them to make proper decisions for the future of our nation tomorrow.
Some may argue that adhering to the antiquated beliefs will lead us to ruin; that we should follow in the footsteps of our neighbours and forsake the ideologies of old and accept the ways of modern society. But the cost paid by our fellow Malay neighbours was far too high; they have lost both their cultural identity and their political stability in exchange for economic success, something which Brunei can also achieve without sacrificing everything that makes her beautiful. That is what MIB all about.
We must be able to answer when we asked;
“What is MIB?”
“How is MIB beneficial to country?”
“Why is His Majesty always emphasising on the importance of MIB?”
Failing to address these questions mean we ourselves fail to understand the concept of MIB, and we will fail to help the younger generations understand and accept MIB.
Our new generations; our children, and their children’s children hold the future of Brunei. They will be the heart that pumps life into Brunei, and we owe it to ourselves to ensure what has shaped Brunei into what it is today, will not be unforgotten. It’s our responsibility to preserve the nation’s culture and source of pride and when we pass the torch to our younger generation, it’ll be their responsible to continue the legacy.
The new generation is becoming more intelligent, they will question everything. For them to accept the concept of MIB, we have to address all their questions and help them understand the history and the importance of the concept. We can connect to them by sharing facts on MIB; from the history of its establishment to the point where it has helped developed and governed the country today.
We want our generations to understand the importance of preserving our heritage and cultures. Taking some our neighbouring communities as examples. It is true that they are economically more advanced than we are, but what they’ have gained in economy, they lost in their cultures; a Malay country that is governed or shares power with non-Malays and socially globalised by Western cultures.
We will find a middle ground where Brunei can economically advance while preserving the values of her beautiful Malay culture and strengthen her Islamic beliefs. MIB will be the guide that will lead Brunei towards the preservation of her strong identity and integrity; a country with beautiful Malay culture, strong Islamic belief and governed by leadership of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.
It’s important that we refer to our nation’s history, and explore how MIB has helped Brunei gain independence, protect its people from globalisation, and advanced in political relations and its economy. As a country with a mix of ethnicities, religion and cultural backgrounds, we have to explain to the younger generations, as inheritors of the Brunei cultural heritage, why our traditions must not be lost.
The birth of Brunei Darussalam became the commencement of the MIB concept and up to this day, it still is the basis of the nation’s ideology. It is believed that MIB is a gift from Allah the Almighty. It groomed Brunei as a country and furthermore became a source of solidary and harmony for its people. MIB became the foundation for the country’s administrative policy.
His Majesty stated in a titah, “The policy in this country is MIB, thus all programmes and actions must be formed on the basis of MIB. Strong and perfect policy can hasten development, as well as creating harmony in society.”
MIB is more than a historical legacy. It has become part of Brunei life. It has given Brunei its identity as a Malay Islamic country governed by a Monarchy.
A country that is well respected and envied by its neighbouring countries and known globally as a country that preserves its heritage and culture by living it instead of archiving it in museums and in historical books.
Local historians confirmed that the MIB concept was established together with the beginnings of the Brunei Kingdom. As Brunei was geographically positioned at the centre of Malay archipelago’s trading route, Kota Batu became a trading centre for Arab and Western traders, according to Arab and Western historical manuscripts. Brunei was known as the Venice of the East by the Westerners.
MIB is not just about being a Malay, Muslim and living in a monarchial country. In its core, MIB carries the story of the beginnings of Brunei Darussalam, a concept that has kept the country in peace and harmony, protected from outside influence. It’s a concept that the people and their future generation need to preserve, a way of life that needs to be believed and upheld strongly in order to retain the sovereignty as a blessed Kingdom of Malay Islamic Monarchy.
It is our duty and our future generation’s responsibility as well as the government ministries’ and the private sector’s to carry on the Brunei legacy, whether they are at home or work, and believe and accept MIB as part of their lives. This was mentioned in His Majesty’s titah of proclamation when Brunei gained her full independence on January 1, 1984:
“…Brunei with the will and mercy of Allah, glorified and exalted be He, will forever remain a Malay Islamic Monarchy which is independent, sovereign and democratic founded on justice, trust and freedom, and with the guidance and pleasure of Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He, will always strive to preserve peace and security, prosperity and happiness for my people. We will likewise maintain friendly relationship within the international community on the principle of mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality and territorial integrity of all nations free from outside interference.”
Finally, Brunei is so fortunate to have His Majesty as a ruler for 49 years (since 1967), and the citizens and residents of Brunei Darussalam have continued to enjoy peace, prosperity and happiness.
This is definitely a blessing from Allah the Almighty, glorified and exalted be He, and God willing this will continue as long as our leader and the people in this country continue to discharge their duty and obligation to worship Allah the Almighty and follow the true teachings of Islam. As citizens and residents of Brunei, we should be grateful for this blessing because due to the able leadership of His Majesty and his predecessors who have always strived to protect Islam as a complete way of life in helping to maintain Brunei Darussalam’s status as a Malay Islamic Monarchy.
We pray to Allah the Almighty that the struggle for survival be continued by the future generations of Brunei so that in the time to come their efforts would remain in the annals in fighting for the sake of seeing that the laws of Allah the Almighty are upheld and continue to be practised in the Sultanate according to the MIB way of life, a heritage and identity of Bruneians in the pursuit of true happiness in this world and the next.
Dr. Haji Muhammad Hadi bin Muhammad Melayong
Senior Special Duties Officer