Template:Infobox former country/autocat
Kingdom of Sulu
Kerajaan Sulu (Malay)
Kerajaan Sūg (Tausūg)
المملكة سولو (Arabic)
Flag of the Philippines (1943-1945).svg
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg
1949–1955 Flag of Mindanao.png
Flag of the Philippines.svg

Late 19th Century Flag of Sulu.svg

"Our Home In the Seas"
"Our Freedom, Our Struggle"
Capital Kota Pasalan, Basilan
Languages English, Malay, Arabic, Yakan, Tausūg, Sama-Bajau
Religion Islam, also some small minorities of Christians and Hindus
Government Constitutional monarchy
 -  1949-1950 Jainal Abirin
 - 1950-1955 Moh. Esmail Kiram I
 -  Established 1949
 -  Disestablished 1955
The Kingdom of Sulu (Malay: Kerajaan Sulu, Tausūg: Kerajaan Sūg, Arabic: المملكة سولو, Chavacano: Reino de Sulu), known in British Malayan and Indonesian sources as the Kingdom of the Suluks (Malay: Kerajaan Suluk) was a de facto maritime state that existed in the Sulu Archipelago in the deep southern Philippines, south of Mindanao as well as the islands of Balabac and Bataraza in Palawan. It was one of two unrecognized states that declared independence from the Philippines in 1949.

It is considered a successor to the historical Sultanate of Sulu. Jainal Abirin was crowned the Sultan in 1949. The Zamboanga Peninsula was originally supposed to be incorporated. However in 1955, due to widespread poverty and a lack of progress, the succeeding Sultan and later Maharajah, Mohammad Esmail Kiram I opted to join the Republic of Mindanao in 1955.

As part of the Republic of Mindanao, it was incorporated as the Province of Sulu, which was divided into the regencies of Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Jolo where the respective datus and local royalties of those islands retained their political positions.


The Kingdom of Sulu's history originates throughout the ending of World War II. The Sulu natives showed valiant resistance against the Japanese soldiers, that the Sulu region was generally left untouched by foreign armies. Jainal Abirin, the Sultan of Sulu went to Mindanao to help with their resistance against the remaining Japanese forces. He, along with a Maranoan chief by the name of Ahmad Salahuddin joined and formed the Mindanao Free Army.

While Salahuddin was in the Dutch East Indies, the Sultan was instructed to inform the people of Sulu of the upcoming independence, since the natives of both Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago refused to acknowledge Philippine occupation of their islands.

First Cotabato City Convention

In 1946, Sultan Abirin attended the First Cotabato City Convention, which was meant to discuss the government, language and constitution of the upcoming Republic of Mindanao.

Abirin and the other Moro chiefs agreed to the terms, that Malay would become the new language of the Republic. It was then that Abirin was presented with the Constitution of Mindanao, which was influenced and emulated from Sukarno's Pancasilan, or the Five Points.

Zamboanga City Convention

The Sultan, however, had an independent convention, with other Tausūg chiefs, as well as Bajau-Sama and Mapun datus, this time in Zamboanga City of whether Sulu should became an independent state on of itself, or become part of the new Republic.

The Tausūgs rather remained divided on the issue. Those who hailed from mainland Mindanao, particularly the Zamboanga Peninsula, opted to join the Republic while those from Sulu, wanted to re-establish the Sultanate of Sulu.

The final decision was that the Sultanate of Sulu needed to be reformed, and recognized and thus, this would be the issue that Abirin would present in the next upcoming convention in Cotabato City. Abirin also stated that the Tausug datus who opted to become part of the Republic may do so.

Second Cotabato City Convention

Abirin and other Tausug chiefs attended the Second Cotabato City Convention, a far-larger convention that not only composed of Muslim chiefs and revolutionaries, but also Hindus and Buddhist from northern Mindanao and Christian Lumads from the central highlands, even Visayan Catholics who supported the independence cause.

At the end, Abirin finally stated his peaceful intent to form an independent monarchy in Sulu, which was respected by Ahmad Salahuddin. Salahuddin said, "I will not stop the Sultan of Sulu from carrying forth his political wishes, and therefore shall announce the formation of a second state."

It is in this convention, that two independent states were announced: the Republic of Mindanao which would cover the entire island itself, and the Kingdom of Sulu which would cover the Sulu Archipelago.

The Kingdom of Sulu 1949-1955

Reign of Sultan Abirin 1949-1950

On January 3, 1949, Sultan Jainal Abirin, along with Ahmad Salahuddin declared their independence from the Philippines and from all foreign powers. Abirin sent the Sulu Declaration of Independence to Manila and Jakarta.

The newly-formed Indonesian government, not wanting to harm neutrality with the Philippines, offered no response, while the Philippines rejected and refused to acknowledge Sulu's independence. Nonetheless, Abirin was officially crowned as the Sultan of the new Kingdom.

The British acknowledged the Sulu Sultanate as a war belligerent and their independence war against the Philippines. The Philippine government sent troops, to both the Sulu Archipelago and Mindanao. But the fierce resistance was too strong for the Filipino soldiers to handle.

The Chinese recognized Sulu and Mindanao's independence, and sent military aid to the rebels of the two island groups, reviving the centuries-old ties between the Moro sultanates and the various Chinese imperial dynasties.

Jolo Convention

On January 5, 1949, Jainal Abirin adopted his own version of the Pancasila. However, there some slight changes. Point 4 of Salahuddin and Sukarno's constitutions promote a democratic presidential republic. Abirin changed it to, "Loyalty to the Sultan, loyalty to the people". This point emphasizes that all the rights of the people, as well as the datus and rajahs would be protected as long as they are loyal to the Sultan.

The Perlembagaan Diraja Sulu or the "Royal Sulu Constitution" was ratified by the Sulu Royal Court in January 6, 1949, created an organized structure and law and order for the people of Sulu.

Isabela City in Basilan was proclaimed the capital, and named Kota Pasalan. 

Reign of Sultan Kiram I 1950-1955

Sultan Abirin abdicated the throne in 1950, and Sultan Mohammad Esmail E. Kiram I was crowned the Sultan of Sulu. In 1952, Sultan Abirin made a visit to the neighboring British North Borneo (Sabah). His domain and his Kingdom was recognized as the "Kingdom of the Suluks". Though his recognition as the head of a sovereign outside of British North Borneo was not recognized, and London had little to no knowledge about the Kingdom of Sulu. Nonetheless however, British soldiers in North Borneo notified London about the issue. 

The British Royal Command in London issued an order, to provide only limited military support to the people in Sulu. The British Parliament also sent a letter to Sultan Kiram offering to become a British protectorate should they request for foreign protection.

British officers and the chiefs and datus of Sulu met in Kota Pasalan (today Isabela City), to discuss whether the Kingdom of Sulu should be placed under the jurisdiction of the British North Borneo Company or perhaps the formation of a British Crown Colony of Sulu. 

The Philippine government did not approve of what they called a "British invasion of Philippine territory", and threatened to use military force in Sulu. The United States government advised the British to withdraw, not wanting severe ties between the three countries. 

While things seemingly went smooth, the Sultanate underwent a period of poverty and a lack of progress. Even trade in the gold industry with the flourishing Republic of Mindanao did not help.

Unlike the Republic of Mindanao, the Kingdom lacked cooperation between tribes and clans, Sultan Kiram I didn't want to interfere in their lives, in fears of violating Point 4 of the Sulu Pancasila. Not even decentralizing the kingdom into three sultanates helped, if not changing, only worsened the situation.

After five years of meetings with various datus of the island group, the Sultan acknowledged that it needed to join with the Republic of Mindanao. However, he went around to address this issue before taking any action, and ironically, many of the clans and tribes, suffering from poverty, had agreed that Sulu was in need of help. In 1955, the Sultan went to Cotabato City to meet Mindanao's president Gumbay Piang on the merging of the two. It was announced on January 10, 1955 that the Republic of Mindanao was going to include the Sulu Archipelago.

As Province of Mindanao Republic and Philippines

The former Kingdom of Sulu was incorporated as the Province of Sulu (Malay: Wilayah Sulu), and was divided into three regencies: they included Jolo, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi. Though, the native royalties of Sulu were no longer addressed by their titles as such outside of their maritime homeland, they retained the political influence and prestige that they had enjoyed prior to becoming part of the Republic.

The former rajahs or datus that ruled islands became governors of the regencies. 

Mohammad Esmail Kiram I retained political position as the Governor of the Sulu Province, though he was still often times referred to as the "Sultan of Sulu". During his hajj to Mecca, he was still addressed as the Sultan of Sulu rather than a provincial governor. 

In 1967, Ahmad Salahuddin and Karimal Sayid signed a limited treaty with Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, agreeing to surrender sovereignty if the people of Mindanao and Sulu remain unharmed. The Mindanao Treaty was signed, and the Sulu Archipelago became incorporated into a Mindanao and Sulu Governorate, with Ahmad Salahuddin as the Governor-General. 

Politics and government

The Kingdom of Sulu was considered to have been a constitutional monarchy, with the Sultan as the absolute Head of State. Princes ruled islands, and depending on tribe or clan, the titles rajah and datu were often used, even interchangeably as the titular names for native rulers were never addressed.

In 1953, the kingdom was decentralized, with three sultanates emerging, namely the Sultanates of Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Jolo. The main ruler would receive the title Maharajah, in this case Mohammad Esmail Kiram I would become the Maharajah of Sulu. Every 4 years, a sultan from each state would be chosen and elected by the Council of Datus and Rajahs, the electing body of the Sulu government. 

Point 4 of the Royal Constitution states, "So long as the Sultan is respected, native rulers and local chiefs may enjoy the prestige given to them by their local communities." 

This contributed to the Kingdom's problems, as tribes and clans often lacked the necessary cooperation and communication to develop and well-held together nation. This is what prompted Maharajah Kiram I to incorporate the Kingdom as a Province within the Republic of Mindanao. 

The legislative body of the Kingdom was solely in the Royal Sulu Court (Malay: Mahkahamh Sulu Diraja). The Royal Sulu Court contained a mix of Shariah Law and secular law, to protect non-Muslim natives living in the islands. 


The Kingdom of Sulu also lacked a well-structured economy and while the kingdom did have a currency, the active economy that most of its citizens relied on was via barter and trade. The currency used in Sulu was the Sulu Dollar, given in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100. The Kingdom also didn't have enough means to produce coins, which created an even bigger problem. 


Via the decisions made during the First Cotabato City Convention, the chosen national language, or the Bahasa Kebangsaan for the Kingdom of Sulu was Malay, or Bahasa Melayu. Since the overwhelming majority of its people were Tausūg, their language Bahasa Sūg was then designated as a second official language. During the Jolo Convention, Arabic reached a status as the third official language. Some high-ranking datus had actually wanted Arabic the main official language, others wanted Malay. 

Arabic was spoken and taught to the upper-class families of prestige - along with proper Malay. Those fluent in Arabic were often seen as wealthy and "superior". The commoners mostly spoke a mix of Tausūg or what was known as "Bazaar Malay" or "broken Malay" - a trade and creole-like dialect. 

Other languages spoken included Yakan, Sama-Bajau, Tagalog, Cebuano, and Chavacano. The latter three languages were spoken mostly by Filipino Christian communities.

Malay and Tausūg were mostly written in the Latin script, or "Rumi". However, an Arabic-based script known as Jawi was used by the prestigious class, the commoners had little to no use or knowledge of writing in Jawi. 

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