Samudera Pasai Sultanate

For the town in Burma see Pasai, Burma
Samudera Pasai Sultanate
Samudera Darussalam
Map of Pasai, at today's Lhokseumawe of Sumatra, Aceh province.
Capital Pasai
Languages Malay language
Religion Sunni Islam
Government Monarchy
   1267–1297 Malik ul Salih (founder)
  1514–1517 Zainal Abidin IV (last)
   Coronation 1267
   Portuguese invasion 1521
Currency Dirham coins
Succeeded by
Aceh Sultanate
Portuguese Empire
Today part of  Indonesia

Samudera Pasai, also known as Samudera and Pasai sometimes called Samudera Darussalam was a Muslim harbour kingdom on the north coast of Sumatra from the 13th to the 15th centuries CE. The kingdom was believed to have been founded by Merah Silu, who later converted to Islam and adopted the name Malik ul Salih, in the year 1267 CE.

Little evidence has been left to allow for historical study of the kingdom.[1]


Based on the local literature Hikayat Raja-raja Pasai, 'Samudera' can be inferred to have come from the word 'Semudera' ([səmudəra]), which meant 'a very large ant'.[2] The name was given by Merah Silu when he discovered an ant as large as a cat while hunting at a 'high ground'.[2] Eventually, the place was cleared for the establishment of a new state and 'Semudera' was adopted as its name.[2]

'Samudera' is also theorised to have been derived from Samudra meaning ocean in Sanskrit and Tamil.

The literature also indicates the origin of the name 'Pasai' which came from Si-Pasai, the hunting dog of Sultan Malik al Salleh, who was Merah Silu after his conversion to Islam.[2][3] The legend narrates that Sultan Malik al Salleh, while hunting with the dog, encountered a deer which was not afraid of the dog's barking but instead barked back. He was bewildered by this and thought that this might be a good sign for the place to be established as a new state for his son Sultan Malik Al Tahir.[3] The dog died after the state was established.[3] Sultan Malik al Salleh buried the dog there and he eventually named the place after it.[3]


Pasai exported its culture, and most importantly its language — an early form of Malay written in the Jawi alphabet — to a number of islands. Later, this language became the lingua franca among traders in what is now Indonesia and Malaysia.

Arab and Indian Muslims had traded in Indonesia and China for many centuries. A Muslim tombstone in eastern Java bears a date corresponding to 1082. But substantial evidence of Islam in Indonesia begins only in northern Sumatra at the end of the 13th century. Two small Muslim trading kingdoms existed by that time at Pasai and Peureulak or Perlak. A 1297 royal tomb at Samudra is inscribed entirely in Arabic. By the 15th century several harbour kingdoms developed, all ruled by local Muslim princes, from the north coast of Java and elsewhere to as far east as Ternate and Tidore in Maluku. Marco Polo spent five months here, he had Ferlec, Basma, and Samara (Samudera) mentioned in his travel story. Another famous traveller Ibn Battuta on his way to China stayed 15 days at Samudera.

The establishment of the first Muslim centres in Indonesia was probably a result of commercial circumstances. By the 13th century the collapse of Srivijayan power, drew foreign traders to harbours on the northern Sumatran shores of the Bay of Bengal, safe from the pirate lairs at the southern end of the Strait of Malacca. Northern Sumatra had a hinterland rich in gold and forest produce, and pepper was being cultivated at the beginning of the 15th century. It was accessible to all the merchants of the archipelago who wanted to meet ships from the Indian Ocean.

Cakra Donya bell was a gift[4] from Zheng He during his voyage to Pasai.

In the year 1345, Ibn Battuta, a Moroccan traveller visited Samudra Pasai where he notes in his travel log that the ruler of Samudera Pasai was a pious Muslim, who performed his religious duties in utmost zeal. The madh'hab he observed was Imam Al-Shafi‘i. At that time Samudera Pasai was the end of Dar al-Islam for no territory east of this was ruled by a Muslim ruler. He praised the kindness and hospitality demonstrated by the sultan of Samudera Pasai. Here he stayed for about two weeks in the wooden walled town as a guest of the sultan, and then the sultan provided him with supplies and sent him on his way on one of sultan's own junks to China.[5]

By the end of the 14th century, Samudra-Pasai had become a wealthy commercial centre, giving way in the early 15th century to the better protected harbour of Malacca on the south-west coast of the Malay Peninsula. Majapahit attacked and looted the place in the middle of the 14th century.

Pasai's economic and political power depended almost entirely on foreigners. Muslim traders and teachers probably participated in its administration from the beginning and were bound to introduce religious practices that made them feel at home. The first Muslim beachheads in Indonesia, especially Pasai, were to a considerable extent genuine Muslim creations that commanded the loyalty of the local population and encouraged scholarly activities. Similar new harbour kingdoms formed on the northern coast of Java. Tomé Pires, author of the Suma Oriental, writing not long after 1511, stresses the obscure ethnic origins of the founders of Cheribon, Demak, Japara, and Gresik. These Javanese coastal states served commerce with India and China and especially with Malacca, an importer of Javanese rice. The rulers of Malacca, despite their prestigious Srivijayan origin, accepted Islam precisely to attract Muslim and Javanese traders to their port.

The Portuguese occupied Pasai in 1521, 10 years after their conquest of Malacca. Through the Portuguese, the place become known in Europe as Pacem.[6] Later, the Acehnese took control of Pasai.

List of rulers

Part of a series on the
History of Indonesia
Indonesia portal

These are the list of rulers who ruled the Samudera Pasai Sultanate:-[7]

No Period Name of Sultan or Gelar Notes and important historical events
1 1267–1297 Sultan Malikussaleh (Meurah Silu) Founder of Samudra Pasai kingdom
2 1297–1326 Sultan Al-Malik azh-Zhahir I / Muhammad I Introduced gold coins
3 1326 – 133? Sultan Ahmad I Attacked the Karang Baru Kingdom, Tamiang
4 133? – 1349 Sultan Al-Malik azh-Zhahir II Visited by Ibnu Batutah
5 1349–1406 Sultan Zainal Abidin I Attacked by Majapahit
6 1406–1428 Ratu Nahrasyiyah Glory period of Samudra Pasai
7 1428–1438 Sultan Zainal Abidin II
8 1438–1462 Sultan Shalahuddin
9 1462–1464 Sultan Ahmad II
10 1464–1466 Sultan Abu Zaid Ahmad III
11 1466–1466 Sultan Ahmad IV
12 1466–1468 Sultan Mahmud
13 1468–1474 Sultan Zainal Abidin III Toppled by his brother
14 1474–1495 Sultan Muhammad Syah II
15 1495–1495 Sultan Al-Kamil
16 1495–1506 Sultan Adlullah
17 1506–1507 Sultan Muhammad Syah III Has two tombs
18 1507–1509 Sultan Abdullah
19 1509–1514 Sultan Ahmad V Capture of Malacca (1511)
20 1514–1517 Sultan Zainal Abidin IV

See also


  1. Ricklefs, M.C. 1991. A History of Modern Indonesia since c.1300. 2nd Edition, Stanford: Stanford University Press, p. 15. ISBN 0-333-57690-X
  2. 1 2 3 4 Mead, J. P. (1914-01-01). "A Romanized Version of the Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai". Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (66): 9. JSTOR 41561000.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Mead, J. P. (1914-01-01). "A Romanized Version of the Hikayat Raja-Raja Pasai". Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (66): 17. JSTOR 41561000.
  4. Justine Vaisutis (January 2007). Indonesia. Lonely Planet. pp. 419–. ISBN 978-1-74104-435-5.
  5. "Ibn Battuta's Trip: Chapter 9 Through the Straits of Malacca to China 1345 – 1346". The Travels of Ibn Battuta A Virtual Tour with the 14th Century Traveler. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
  6. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society , Volume 33, Parts 1–4. Quote: "The Portuguese knew Pasai as Pacem."
  7. Taqiyuddin Muhammad (2011). Daulah Shalihiyyah Di Sumatera. CISAH. pp. 115–186.

Further reading

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