List of Sultans of Sulu


House history

The political sovereignty of the Sultanate was dissolved in 1917. The traditional, cultural and proprietary authority remain. The descendants of the royal family are still recognized and honored as de facto royalty by the people in Sulu.

Despite this, the current title held by the Kiram family was purchased from President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos. Thus the Kiram family are usurpers. They sell titles both to buy support from “followers”, and to fill their family coffers. The Kiram family direct line had died out, without issue, during the late 19th–early 20th century. Afterward, the position of Sultan was contested by six or seven persons–none of them were closely related. The last sultan officially recognized by the Philippine government was Mohammed Mahakuttah A. Kiram, who reigned from 1974-1986.[2]

The current ruling Royal House of Sulu is the Royal House of Kiram. Members currently claiming the throne of the Sultanate are Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram, Fuad Kiram, Jamalul Kiram III and Ismael Kiram II.[3][4][5] In October 2013, Jamalul Kiram died in Quezon City, Philippines.

List of Sultans of Sulu 1450-1936

The following list details the holders of the title Sultan between 1450 and 1936.[7][8]

Sultan Details
1 Sultan Sharif ul-Hashim
The founder of the Sulu Sultanate whose proper name was Abu Bakr. He founded The Royal Sultanate of Sulu in 1457 and renamed himself Paduka Mahasari Maulana al-Sultan Sharif ul-Hashim. The “maulana” meaning protector (Arabic), “paduka” being a local term for “master”, and “mahasari” for “His Majesty”. The Sharif is reported to have lived about thirty years in Buansa, the first seat of the sultanate, and his tomb is located in one of the slopes of nearby Mount Tumantangis.
2 Sultan Kamalud-Din
The son of the Sharif ul-Hashim who succeeded his father as sultan.
3 Sultan Alaud-Din
Sulu Genealogy suggests that he was a brother of Kamalud-Din. A son of Sultan Shariful-Hashim, but believed not to be proclaimed the “Sultan of Sulu.”
4 Sultan Amirul-Umara
His title is believed to be the Arabic translation of Maharajah-di-rajah found as the fourth sultan in some tarsilas. Some Sulu genealogy do not mention him. Believed to be the Sultan Bolkiah.
5 Sultan Muizzul-Mutawadi-in
He is the Maharajah Upo (grandchild) of Sharif ul-Hashim. Some genealogies states that he succeeded to the sultanate upon the death of Kamalud-Din.
6 Sultan Nasirud-Din I
The son of Sultan Muizz ul-Mutawadi-in. His surname was Digunung or Habud, suggesting that he grew up in or ruled from the interior of Sulu.
7 Sultan Muhammad ul-Halim
The son of Sultan Nasirud-Din I. His other name was Pangiran Buddiman which was the name by which he was probably known.
8 Sultan Batara Shah Tengah
The son of Sultan Muhammad ul-Halim. “Batara” was a title used by Sulu rulers as early as the beginning of the fifteenth century, and Brunei annals always referred to Sulu rulers by this term. Died without heir.
9 Sultan Muwallil Wasit I
The nephew of Sultan Batara Shah Tengah (the son of his sister who married Sultan Hassan of Brunei). He was known to Spaniards as Raja Bungsu. One of his daughters married Sultan Qudarat of Maguindanao while another daughter married Balatamay (Baratamay), the ruler of Buayan in 1657. Around 1650, his son Bachtiar took over the sultanate.
10 Sultan Nasir ud-Din II
Son of Sultan Muwallil Wasit who reigned during the lifetime of his father following his father’s defeat by the Spaniards. The throne reverted to his father after his brother, Sarikula, died in 1648.
11 Sultan Salahud-Din Bakhtiar
Known to Spanish authorities as Pangiran Bactial and to Dutch officials as Pangiran Batticale. After his death, he was called Marhum Karamat. Due to his father’s old age as well as the number of his followers, he did not become sultan until around 1650, if not a year earlier. He installed the “3 Temporary Sultans of Sulu” to sit on the Sulu throne from 1680-1685 due to the very young age of his son.
12 Sultan Ali Shah Not mentioned in the Sulu Genealogy but produced a permanent heir in Shahabud-Din (No. 15). His reign was short and peaceful.
13 Sultan Nur ul-Azam Daughter of Sultan Nasirud-Din II who was also known as Pangyan Ampay or Sitti Kabil (Arabic, meaning grand mistress) and ruled for four or five years.
14 Sultan Al Haqunu Ibn Wali ul-Ahad The name “Ibn Wali ul-Ahad” is Arabic for “son of the rajah muda” (heir apparent). Is speculated to be the son of Sarikula and helped govern with his cousin Sultan Salah ud-Din.
15 Sultan Shahabud-Din
The son of Salah ud-Din. It was he who killed Sultan Kahar ud-Din Kuda of Maguindanao in 1702 and “ceded” Palawan to the Spanish government in 1705.
16 Sultan Mustafa Shafi ud-Din
The younger brother of Shahab ud-Din he was also known as Juhan Pahalawan. He abdicated the thrown in favor of his younger brother Badar ud-Din to avoid future dynastic troubles.
17 Sultan Badarud-Din I
The younger brother of the two previous sultans, he was known to different Spanish authors as “Bigotillos” or “Barbillas,”” or as “el Rey Viejo de Tawi-Tawi.” His mother as a Tirun lady from the North East coast of Borneo. In 1732, a nephew (or grand nephew) contested his rule which led to his retirement to Tawi-Tawi where he was then known as Sultan Dungun. He died around 1740 in Dungun during the reign of his son Azimud-Din I.
18 Sultan Nasarud-Din
He was either a son or grandson (by a daughter) of Shahab ud-Din and was known to the Spaniards as Datu Sabdula (Arabic, Abdullah). In 1731, he challenged the rule of Badar ud-Din, forcing the latter to take leave and retire in 1732. The intrigues of Badar ud-Din led to the proclamation of Azim ud-Din (a son of Badar ud-Din) as sultan in 1735. After a series of desultory skirmishes between the factions of Nasar ud-Din and Azim ud-Din, the former left for Maimbung where he generally remained till he died around 1735. He was also referred to as Dipatuan.
19 Sultan Alimud-Din I
Son of Badarud-Din. His father proclaimed him ruler in Tawi-Tawi in 1735. In 1736, after a few intrigues had paved the way, a number of Datus asked Alimud-Din to transfer his court from Dungun to Bauang (Jolo). But a political struggle in 1748 forced him to leave Jolo for Basilan and then Zamboanga. His younger brother, Datu Bantilan, was then proclaimed sultan. In the meantime, he went to Manila where he remained for sometime, including a few years of imprisonment. He returned an old man to Jolo in 1764. In the same year, on June 8, he was formally reinstated to the throne. In 1773, tired of affairs of state, he formally handed over the affairs of state to his son Muhammad Israil. He had two periods of reign; 1735–1748 and 1764-1773.
20 Sultan Bantilan Muizzud-Din
Known to Spanish officials and priests as Datu or Pangiran Bantilan. He was a younger brother of Alimud-Din-I.
21 Sultan Mohammad Israel
One of the sons of Alimud-Din I who abdicated his power to his son in November 1773, but did not formally assumed the reign early the next year. He was believed to have been poisoned by either the partisans of his cousin or the cousin, himself, Alimud-Din II(a son of Sultan Bantilan Muizzud-Din I), in 1778.
22 Sultan Alimud-Din II
The son of Muizzud-Din I who governed Sulu with his brother after the death of their father around the middle of 1763. By the end of that year, he had become, for all practical purposes, the Sultan. With the arrival of his uncle Alimud-Din I from Manila in 1764, whom he received well, Alimud-Din II left his followers for Parang. In 1778, he succeeded Muhammad Israil. He reigned up to his death in 1789.
23 Sultan Sharapud-Din
Another son of Alimud-Din I and lived a venerable old age. Ten years earlier the Spaniards were expecting him to die at any moment and were thus worried that a successor antagonistic to them might ascend the throne.
24 Sultan Alimud-Din III
The son of Sharapud-Din. He died the same year as his father. According to a report, he reigned only for forty days. Most likely he died a smallpoxepidemic that raged through Jolo that year.
25 Sultan Aliyud-Din I
The younger brother of Alimud-Din III.
26 Sultan Shakirul-Lah
The brother of Aliyud-Din I.
27 Sultan Jamalul-Kiram I
By some source his real name was Muwalil Wasit, he was the son of Alimuddin-III. Current ruling Royal House of Sulu, Royal House of Kiram descends from him.
28 Sultan Moh. Pulalun Kiram
The son of Jamalul-Kiram I.
29 Sultan Jamalul A’Lam
On 22 January 1878, he signed a treaty under what, the territory of North Borneo was leased to the British North Borneo Company. He was the son of Moh. Pulalun Kiram.
30 Sultan Badarud-Din II
The son of Jamalul-A’Lam, died in 1884 without leaving any male heir.
31 Sultan Harun Ar-Rashid
A descendant of Alimud-Din I, through Datu Putong. Spanish intrigues led to his proclamation as sultan by a few Datus in 1886, although earlier in 1884, Jamalul Kiram, a younger brother of Badarud-Din II, had already been proclaimed as Sultan of Sulu. He never had support of the majority of the Sulu people neither Ruma Bichara. When it became apparent that he no longer served any purpose to Spanish officials, Harun ar-Rashid was persuaded to abdicate in 1894. This was a tacit admission on the part of Spanish authorities that Jamalul Kiram was the real Sultan of Sulu. Harun ar-Rashid retired to Palawan where he died in April 1899.
32 Sultan Jamalul-Kiram II
The younger brother of Badarud-Din II. He was proclaimed Sultan of Sulu by his direct followers in 1884 as the son of Jamalul A’Lam. By some source his real name was Amirul Kiram Awal-II. His proclamation as sultan was contested by Datu Aliud-Din, a grandson of Sultan Shakirullah, but without any success. Aliud-Din was forced to fly to Basilan. It was Harun ar-Rashid who tried to mediate between Amirul Kiram and Aliud-Din until the Spaniards thought it expedient to have Harun ar-Rashid to Sultan himself. The Spaniards were led eventually to deal with Jamalul-Kiram II as the Sultan of Sulu in spite of his repeated refusal to go to Manila on a state visit. Jamalul-Kiram II died on June 7, 1936. In 1915, he virtually surrendered his political powers to the United States government under the 1915 Carpenter Agreement. Jamalul Kiram II died without leaving any children.
32 Sultan Bomid-din I
The second younger brother of Badarud-Din II. He was proclaimed Sultan of Sulu by his direct votes of the people during the ruma bichara held in Parang, Sulu on April 11, 1936.

Sultans from 1936-1950

After the death of Sultan Jamalul Kiram in 1936 the Philippine Government, the successors in sovereignty of the United States of America, decided not to recognise the continued existence of the Sulu Sultanate, according to a letter to the Governor of North Borneo dated 28 July 1936, from His Britannic Majesty’s Consul General in Manila.[citation needed]After that decision there appeared several legitimate claimants and pretenders to the throne of Sulu. During WWII, the Japanese and American forces took influence in the Sultanates affairs, each recognizing a pretender supportive of their agenda.

Sultan Details
1 Muwallil Wasit II
He was the younger brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram II and crown prince of the Sultanate. He was lawfully elected by the Ruma Bechara, the Datus and Sharifs as the new Sultan. Six months later and before the formal coronation ceremony took place, he was murdered.[9] His legitimacy as the heir to the throne and his position as crown prince of Jamalul Kiram II was confirmed again by the Cession Court of North Borneo`s so-called McKaskie court rule in 1939, identifying his heirs as the owners of the territory of North Borneo.
2 Amirul Umara I
Husband of Dayang Dayang Piandao and recognised Sultan of Sulu by Japanese Government. Dayang Dayang Piandao was the daughter of Sultan Badarud-Din II and after death of his father she was adopted by Sultan Jamalul Kiram II. After death of Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, on 16 August 1937 Sessions Court of North Borneo granted her administration rights over the property and credits of Sultan Jamalul Kiram II, deceased.
3 Jainal Abirin
Born as Datu Tambuyong. Supported by the American Forces.

List of Sultans of Sulu 1950-1986

The following list details the holders of the title Sultan between 1950 to 1986, who are officially recognised by the Philippine Government.

Sultan Details
33 Sultan Moh. Esmail E. Kiram I
He was the eldest son of Raja Muda Muwallil Wasit II and the legitimate successor of the Sultan of Sulu. Sultan Moh. Esmail E. Kiram granted authority to Philippine government under the administration of President Diosdado Macapagal on 12 September 1962 and of President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972. Under above mentioned documents Philippine Government again officially “recognized” the continued existence of the Sulu Sultanate and the office of Sultan of Sulu. Datu Moh. Mahakuttah A. Kiram, Sultan Moh. Esmail E. Kiram’s son was his Raja Muda.[10]
34 Sultan Moh. Mahakuttah A. Kiram
He was the eldest son of Sultan Moh. Esmail E. Kiram and the legitimate successor to the throne. He is the last officially recognized Sultan of Sulu by the Ruma Bichara and by the Philippine government. In Memorandum Order 427 of 1974, then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos declared that Mahakuttah was the legitimate heir and that the government was obligated to support his coronation as Sultan of Sulu[11] which took place on 24 May 1974.[citation needed] At the same time, Datu Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram, being 8 years old, was crowned beside his father as Raja Muda of Sulu.[12]{verification needed}

Claimants as Sultan of Sulu from 1980–present

After the death of Sultan Mahakutta Kiram, the Philippine government failed to formally recognize a new Sultan. Mahakutta`s Crown Prince Muedzul Lail Kiram, the heir to the throne according to the line of succession as recognized by the Philippine governments from 1915-1986, was 20 years old upon his father`s death.[13] Due to his young age, he failed to claim the throne in a time of political instability in the Philippines that led to the peaceful revolution and subsequent removal of President Marcos. The gap in the Sultanate leadership was filled by crown claimants of rival branches. Therefore, the following Sultans were not crowned with the support of the Philippine government nor did receive a formal recognition from the federal government like their predecessors, until 1986. However, the Philippine government decided to deal with one or more of these Sultan crown claimants regarding issues concerning the Sultanates affairs, appointed them into positions in the government or received them on a case to case basis and granted therefore a de facto recognition to their reign.

Sultan (Claimant) Details
1 Moh. Punjungan Kiram
Younger brother of Sultan Esmail E. Kiram I. On 11 October 1939, Sessions Court of North Borneo granted him administration rights over the property and credits of Raja Muda Muwallil Wasit II, deceased. He is the father of Jamalul Kiram III and Ismael Kiram II. Punjungan was the Crown Prince regent of Sultan Esmail Kiram I. under the condition to transfer his rights to the son of the Sultan, when he is of legal age,this condition rarely prevailed as the law of succession will be tainted by the rest of previous hierarchy to also do the same backward succession which is not prescribed by the law of succession. The Primogeniture law of succession will only takes place to the last male heir successor.Since Punjungan Kiram is the youngest brother of Sultan Esmail KIram I,the hierarchy goes down to his oldest son Jamallul KIram III and his legitimate Rajah Muda . Instead of resigning from his position, Punjungan exiled himself in Malaysia and later returned to contest the reign of Mahakutta Kiram, who had lawfully replaced him as Crown Prince. Mahakuttah Kiram was politically proclaimed by President Marcos as Sultan based on Abraham Rasul recommendation, but later retracted by President Ferdinand Marcos after carefully found out that the Sabah legal heir is Punjungan Kiram under Mackaskie ruling of 1939.[14]
2 Abirin, Aguimuddin
3 Jamal ul-Kiram III
“Interim Sultan of Sulu” from 1974- 1981 (not recognized by the government). In 1986, he was crowned as the Sultan of Sulu and later abdicated by the people on 2001 for violation of the Sultanate law of succession by joining the politics.[15] Eldest son of Punjungan Kiram, elder brother of Ismael Kiram II. [1] He died on October 20, 2013
4 Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram
1986–2012 as Raja Muda
2012 – Present
As the eldest son of Moh. Mahakuttah A. Kiram, he is a crown prince and claimant to the Sultanate.[3] Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram who was the Chief Justice of the Royal Court under Sultan Esmail Kiram II, whom appointed his uncle M. Fuad as Sultan of Sabah was later crowned himself as sultan in a coronation event on the island of Jolo on September 16, 2012.[16][verification needed]
6 Fuad Kiram
He was appointed in 2004 by his nephew, Raja Muda Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram, as Sultan of Sabah. Datu Fuad A. Kiram signed a notarized document stating that he recognizes Raja Muda Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram as the legitimate head of the Royal House of Sulu. However, in 2006, Raja MudaMuedzul Lail Tan Kiram revoked his appointment after he found out that Datu Fuad A. Kiram was styling himself as Sultan of Sulu and Sabah. Ismael Kiram II also excommunicated Fuad, claiming that the latter abandoned his third wife Farida.
5 Ismael Kiram II
Due to different regional spellings, as can be found on government and newspaper sites, his name appears as Esmail, Esmael, Ismail or Ismael. Second son of Punjungan Kiram and younger brother of Jamalul Kiram III. Abdulah Kiram is his son and possible heir. He was crowned as ” reigning sultan” by the elders of Sulu in 2001 as his older brother,abdicated by the people Jamalul Kiram III left Sulu and went to Manila and enter showbizz and politics. Recently,Jamallul Kiram III has styles himself as Sultan Proper being former and abdicated as Caretaker of ” Sabah Homecoming of Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram” last February 2013 that turn to standoff. Sultan Esmail Kiram II stating that he recognizes Jamalul Kiram III as the legitimate leader to the homecoming of Raja Muda Agbumuddin Kiram to Sabah as agreed by the family being the oldest, the arrangement was permitted due to the illness of Jamallul Kiram as a tribute by his younger brother Sultan Esmail Kiram II. The unpopular effect of allowing his older brother and former sultan Jamallul Kiram III to handle the Sabah homecoming issue has created some negative criticism that lead to standoff. .[17]


  1. “Chronological Self Rule and Sultanate”. Provincial Government of Sulu, Philippines. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  2. “Line of succession of the Sultans of Sulu of the Modern Era”. Retrieved 2013-02-26.
  3. “Line of succession of the Sultans of Sulu of the Modern Era”. Official Gazette (Philippines) (Official Gazette of the Republic of Philippines). 27 February 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  4. Nawal, Allan. “Sabah standoff revives questions on who is the legitimate sultan of Sulu”. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  5. “Who is the real Sultan of Sulu?”. The Star (Malaysia). Retrieved 15 February 2013.
  6. “Heir asks for aid for ‘Royal Army’ in Sabah”. PhilStar. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  7. Adib Majul, Cesar (1999). Muslims in the Philippines. University of the Philippines Press. ISBN 971-542-188-1.
  8. “The Sulu Sultanate”. Moro National Liberation Front. Retrieved 2008-07-30.
  9. “THE PHILIPPINES: Wasit to Paradise”. TIME Magazine. 30 November 1936.
  10. Sultan Esmail E. Kiram’s Raja Muda. The Social world of the Tausug, Juanito A. Bruno,1973, page XV. Retrieved 2011-04-26.
  11. “Memorandum Order No. 427, s. 1974”. Official Gazette. Office of the President of the Philippines. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  12. “Structure of Sultanate”. Royal House of Sulu. Retrieved 2011-04-26.
  13. David, Karon. “Datu Muedzul Lail Tan Kiram, iginiit na siya ang karapat-dapat na lider ng mga taga-Sulu”.GMA News. Retrieved 29 March 2013.
  14. The Social World of the Tausug. Juanito A. Bruno
  15. So who’s the real sultan?
  16. Sultan darivao Karadordevice, Blic, 2012-10-14
  17. Ramos & Calleja, Marlon. “Sabah pullout talks begin”. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 12 May 2013.

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