MDF English Corner (25/11/2022) – Who was Raden Fatahillah?


Welcome to another edition of English Corner, my name is Rifki Kusmana. This is an article about Raden Fatahillah, an Islamic icon in Indonesian history.

An Indonesian version of this article is available here.

Fatahillah or Faddilah Khan, was an Islamic figure and commander of the Demak-Cirebon Kingdom army who led the defeat of the Portuguese in Sunda Kelapa in 1527. After expelling the Portuguese, he renamed Sunda Kelapa to Jayakarta, which means the city of victory. The foreign name Faletehan was obtained from a Portuguese named Joao de Barros in his book entitled Decadas da Asia.

Fatahillah was a famous propagator of Islam in West Java and even the archipelago. Fatahillah’s efforts to spread Islam both in the government and to the level of Islamic kingdoms are proof that Fatahillah is a scholar and leader who is adept at the state.

There are several opinions about the history or origin of Fatahillah. Some say he came from Pasai, North Aceh. There are also who say that Fatahillah was the son of the king of Makkah (Arabia) who married the daughter of the king of Pajajaran. Most professional opinions say Fatahillah was born in 1448 from Sultan Syarif Abdullah Maulana Huda, an Egyptian dignitary descended from Bani Hasyim from Palestine, and Nyai Rara Santang, the daughter of the king of Pajajaran, Raden Manah Rasa.

Fatahillah was included in one of the Wali Sanga or Wali Sembilan, it was because of his determination in fighting for Islam and his perseverance in practising Islam. Fatahillah was known as a warlord who was good at diplomacy and brave on the battlefield. Thanks to his merit and courage, Islam could spread in many regions and spread massively on the north coast of Java.

When Pasai was captured by the Portuguese in 1521, Fatahillah sailed to Makkah. Four years later, Fatahillah returned to the archipelago and in 1524 he married Nyai Ratu Pembayun who was the sister of Sultan Trenggana from Demak. Fatahillah gained victory over the conquest of Banten and Sunda Kelapa.

The fall of Banten to Pajajaran and most of the rebels there further increased the fire power of Fatahillah’s fleet. In 1526, Alfonso d’Albuquerque sent six warships under Francisco de Sa to Sunda Kelapa. Fatahillah was recognised as the warlord who succeeded in expelling the Portuguese from Sunda Kelapa. Historians argue that Fatahillah set foot in Java in 1525, precisely in the Land of Sunda.

His arrival was welcomed by the King of Sunda, Prabu Surawisesa, known to the Portuguese as King Samio. The Sundanese Kingdom at the time had entered into cooperation with the Portuguese in order to legitimise its power in Sunda Kelapa from the Islamic political forces in Java or Mataram. However, Fatahillah considered that the Portuguese presence in Sunda Kelapa was a threat to the entire archipelago, especially Java.

Fatahillah then went to Demak and devoted himself to Sultan Trenggono, the ruler of the Demak Kingdom at that time. In addition, Fatahillah was also given power over thousands of soldiers to Islamise Sunda and seize Sunda Kelapa from the Portuguese. On his way to Sunda Kelapa, Fatahillah stopped by the Sultanate of Cirebon to join forces.

Fatahillah is estimated to have brought 20 ships carrying around 1,500 troops under his command. The expedition began in 1526 and ended on 22 June 1527, when his troops defeated the Portuguese and took control of Sunda Kelapa. After successfully expelling the Portuguese, Fatahillah renamed Sunda Kelapa to Jayakarta. Fatahillah’s conquest of the Portuguese on 22 June 1527 was later commemorated as the anniversary of Jakarta.

And that’s it for today’s English Corner, I hope you have enjoyed this article and I hope to see you again. Thank you for reading.

Editor: Rifki Kusmana

Editor of the MDF English Corner