The Sultanate of Asahan, on the North East coast of Sumatra, was founded by Raja 'Abdu'l Jalil, son of Sultan Iskandar Muda of Aceh, ca. 1630. The state remained tributary to Aceh until the early years of the nineteenth century.

Raja Musa Shah died in 1808, leaving a posthumous son. However, the rules of succession did not allow a single day to elapse between the burial of the former ruler and the proclamation of his successor. Consequently, his younger brother succeeded as Raja 'Ali Shah. Several nobles, especially those belonging to the Batak community, did not accept the new ruler. Raja Musa Shah's infant prince was taken to Kualuh and proclaimed as ruler, eventually being accepted as Deputy ruler or Yang di-Pertuan Muda.

In the meantime, Raja 'Ali Shah's son established his independence from Aceh and assumed the title of Sultan Muhammad Husain Rahmad Shah. His long reign of forty-six years witnessed increasing European commercial contacts, and the conclusion of a contract with the government of the NEI. His death in 1859, precipitated a succession dispute between the descendants of Raja Musa Shah and those of Raja 'Ali Shah.

Poor relations with the Dutch did not help Sultan Ahmad Shah. They deposed him in 1865 and proclaimed Raja Musa Shah's grandson as Sultan Ni'matu'llah Shah. However, this move did not settle anything, Sultan Ahmad Shah moved inland and maintained his rule, out of reach of Dutch gunboats. Sultan Ni'matu'llah was not able to establish his authority, so the Dutch removed him as Sultan of Asahan in 1868. The appanage territories loyal to Ni'matu'llah became the new state of Kualuh. After twenty-three years of intermittent skirmishing and followed by periods of truce and stalemate, a settlement agreed between all three parties in 1886. The Governor-General of the NEI formally recognised Ahmad Shah as Sultan of Asahan once more.

Sultan Muhammad Husain Rahmad Shah II succeeded his father two years later and presided over a period of extensive economic prosperity. Dying in 1915, his son, Sultan Sha'ibun 'Abdu'l Jalil Rahmad Shah, succeeded at the height of the Great War rubber boom. This early promise of a propitious reign fell short within thirty years. The Second World War proved to be a watershed. Japanese cruelty and oppression replaced Dutch colonialism, only to be replaced by the hideous bloodbath passing for a "social revolution". The evils of those times did not end quickly as the Dutch attempted to regain control while the Javanese and Acehnese republicans attempted to expel the Dutch. Large numbers of the aristocracy perished in these conflicts, chaos reigned supreme and the states all but ceased to function. At the end of hostilities, the sultanates were not restored but absorbed into the Republic. The old Sultan lived on for another thirty-four years, the longest reign in the history of his house.

Unlike the traditional rulers in other parts of Indonesia, none of the Sumatran sultanates have been restored or their heads recognised in their styles and titles. Nevertheless, a strong campaign for their restoration continues amongst the Malay community, thwarted by the fear of separation and the possible loss of valuable oil revenues by the government in Jakarta.

The ruling prince: Sri Paduka Tuanku Sultan (reign name) ibnu al-Marhum (father's title and reign name), Sultan and Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Asahan, with the style of His Highness.
The principal Royal consort of the ruling prince: Tengku Permaisuri, with the style of Her Highness.
The Heir Apparent: Raja Muda.
The sons, grandsons and other male descendants in the male line, up to the fifth generation: Tengku (personal name).
The daughters, granddaughters and other female descendants in the male line, up to the fifth generation: Tengku (personal name).

Male primogeniture, the sons of Royal wives taking precedence over those of commoners.

None known.

See under Malaysia main page.

John Anderson, Mission to the East Coast of Sumatra in 1823. Oxford in Asia Historical Reprints. Oxford University Press, Kuala Lumpur, 1971.
Tengku Ferry Bustamam. Bunga Rampai Kesultanan Asahan. Medan, 2003.
Ensiklopedia Sejarah dan Kebudayaan Melayu, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Kementerian Pendidikan Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 1995.
M. Hamerster, "Bijdrage tot de kennis van de afdeeling Asahan", Uitgave van het Oostkust van Sumatra-Instituut, Mededeeling No. 13, Amsterdam, 1926.
C. A. Kroesen, "Geschiedenis van Asahan", Tijdschrift voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen, Deel XXXI, pp. 82-139, Batavia, 1886.
Dada Meuraxa, Sejarah Kebudayaan Suku-Suku di Sumatera Utara. Sasterawan, Medan, 1973.

Oostkust van Sumatra-Instituut : kroniek, 1925 to 1940, 1941-1946, & 1948 en 1949. Oostkust van Sumatra Instituut, Amsterdam, 1926-1950.

These pages are dedicated to the memory of the late Tengku Ferry Bustaman, whose help, encouragement and generosity in creating them will always be very greatly valued.
Y.M. Raja Zainul Akbar, Malaysia.
Theo Dirk Brouwer, Canada.
Elaine Chan.
Y.M. Tengku Farah binti Tengku Ismit.
The late Jeffrey Finestone.
Y.M. Tengku Mansoer Adil bin Tengku Aswani.
Y.M. Tengku Meliana.
Y.M. Ungku Suraiya binti Dato' Ungku Omar.
D. Tick, Pusat Dokumentasi Kerajaan-Kerajaan di Indonesia.
I would be grateful to hear from anyone who may have changes, corrections or additions to contribute. If you do, please be kind enough to send me an e-mail using the contact details at:
Copyright© Christopher Buyers

Copyright© Christopher Buyers, December 2001 - November 2013