BONGAO, Tawi-tawi (MindaNews / 07 Nov) – This day is yearly celebrated in the Philippines Muslim region of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as the anniversary of the coming of Karim’ul Makhdum and the building of his mosque in Bohe Indangan, Simunul island in Tawi-Tawi.
In this fiscal year of 2016, the regional government celebrates the 636th founding year of the establishment of a first Muslim prayer hall (langgal) in Simunul island by one of the first missionaries, a Karim’ul Makhdum (a holy teacher). It is based largely on the historical estimates propounded in the book of Dr. Cesar Adib Majul (1977, 1999) based on his and Najeeb Saleeby’s (1905, 1908) readings of the Sulu genealogical accounts (Sarsila).
As was also happening elsewhere in Java, Sulawesi and the rest of Nusantara (present Southeast Asia) in the accounts of Indonesianists and Muslim historians such as Adrian Lapian and Azyurmardi Azra; between the year 1350 to 1450, most Sulu Muslim historians, namely Majul, Samuel Tan (2003) and Asiri Abubakar (1973 in Tahil 2016) (including Dr. Najeeb Saleeby who was a Christian Sulu historian) concur to be the period to be marked as the arrival of learned men of Islam in the region, and the rise of a centralized political bureaucracy in Sulu under the political system of Sultaniya (Sultanate).
Meanwhile, locals and Sulu townsfolk, among them traditional religious elders, imam and fakhir who are the trustees and “juru cunci” (elderly wardens) of tampat and watchers of the sacred sites urge that the year 1380 may not be construed as the date when Sulu archipelago first became Islamized as outsiders are prone to (mis)interpret.
Remnants of an old tomb of Tuan Maqbalu found at the foot of Bud Datu that appears to predate the old langgal of Simunul (if the claimed 1380s dating above were true) shows an inscription dating his death to be sometime in November or December of 1310 C.E. (Rajab 710 A.H.): and that he was a Muslim. It can be inferred that Muslim leaders and Muslim communities were already inhabiting the Sulu archipelago probably in 1290’s (or earlier than 1380) and the coming of the Makhdumin but just facilitated the systematization and formalization of most of the social infrastructures for its practice and propagation.
Historians do concur that the period of systematic and formal missionary work was between 1380-1450 and highlighted by the coming of Karimul Makhdum, a missionary-scholar from Arabia, who came from Malacca and reached Sulu around 1380. The preacher who was also known as the Tuan Awlia, settled in Buansa (Maimbung, Sulu) and later expanded his missionary work to southern Sulu, passing by Tapul island where a Tausug clan claim descendancy to him: upon arriving in dominantly-Sama inhabited island of Simunul (present day province of Tawi-Tawi) he built a mosque whose foundation remains standing in what is now Boheh Indangan. Although there is an unsettled controversy and multiple claims for his tombs, one of those is believed to be (and quoted by Majul) in Sibutu where he died and a tampat (tomb) is now revered to be enshrining his earthly remains.
Contemporary researchers (Absari 2012, Tahil 2014) however propose to resolve the seeming dispute by investing truth to all claimants of the holy relics as indeed valid and probably authentic by citing that the holy personalities were having the mystical gifts of multiple-location and teleportation that it is plausible that all the sacred tangible remnants claimed are genuine as either places of entombment of bodies, books or material possessions (tampat), or lika’ (hangar) or places were the holy men and women had frequented and spiritually-appeared as gnostic teachers (guru). (Mucha Shim L. Quiling heads the Sulu Current Research Institute in Bongao, Tawi-tawi).