Iskandaa Muda was born in 1583 and died on 27 December 1636. He is considered one of the most important figures in Aceh. He is also called Young Alexander because during his reign Aceh was the powerful and wealthiest state in Malay Archipelago. Aceh became the international center of Islamic learning and trade under sultanate of Iskandar Muda. Iskandar’s father, Mansur Syah, son of Sultan Abdul Jalil, son of third Sulṭan of Aceh Darussalam Alauddin al-Kahar. His mother Puteri Raja was the daughter of tenth sultan of Aceh.
Iskandar Muda was physically strong, wise at battle tactics and more importantly, he was very determined to protect his religion and his people. According to sources in Aceh, Iskandar Muda had very good relationship with Ottoman Empire. He sent a small fleet of three ships to Istanbul. When the ships returned to Aceh, they were given the supply of guns, 12 military experts. These experts were called the heroes of Aceh. They were also said to be so skillful that they could also help Iskandar Muda, not only in building a formidable fortress in Banda Aceh, but also building a sultanate palace. Sultan Iskandar Muda gave more importance both to build up the relationships with other Islamic countries, especially in the Middle East, in the context of economic and military relations and make a progress in the development of the religious sciences during his governance. For that reason, he supported ulama to come to Acheh, visit other Islamic regions, write about different topics such as Islamic law, etc. and apply Islamic rules in his sultanate. When two ‘çelebi’ from İstanbul came to Aceh to find traditional medicine for the illness of the Ottoman Sultan, Ahmet I (1603-1617). Iskandar Muda was in the Deli campaign during this period. After ending the campaign Muda came and met the envoy in his palace and he welcomed them. When this envoy turned back to Turkey, they informed much about the condition in Aceh, how the sultan of Aceh proselytized Islam, was a protector of Muslims in the region and improved the cultural and intellectual life in Aceh.
Iskandar Muda was a powerful sultan in Aceh because he had very strong military strength in Aceh. When Portuguese coerced Johor to sign armistice in 1610, urged Iskandra Muda to come into action against Malacca/Johor pact. In the light of these developments, Iskandar Muda conquered Deli, and in 1613 Aru and Johor. But Johor managed to expel the Acehnese garrison later that year and Iskandar Muda was never able to assert permanent control over the area. During his reign Aceh did not suffer any Portuguese or foreign attack even after his defeat he still controlled much of the region’s trade. Aceh remained the implacable opponent of Portuguese. When Dutch realized that it was very hard to beat him off. Therefore, Dutch reversed its foreign policy and renewed the friendship with Iskandar Muda in 1632.
The economic foundations of the sultanate was the spice trade, especially in pepper. Aceh was the center of production for precious spices such as pepper, clove, nutmeg, and an entrepot. Therefore, Aceh was being attacked by Dutch invaders in order to control the resources in Aceh. But Iskandar Muda played very pivotal role in Aceh and he kept all enemies at bay.
Iskandar Muda is a pioneering figure in Indonesia. He was a leader, a pious and god conscious Muslim. Under the leadership of Iskandar Muda Islam spread widely not by the sword but by virtue of its beauty, simplicity, transparency, openness and the leadership provided by him. Iskandar Muda’s actions speak louder about his character, his integrity and his love for the people in the Muslim state. During his reign Aceh had achieved a significant number of milestones. Aceh Sultanate began to decline after the death of Iskandar Muda. In Aceh more buildings and structures named after him, including the Sultan Iskandar Muda Airport and Sultan Iskandar Muda Air Force Base. Aceh has never had another leader like Iskandar Muda. He will be remembered for good in Aceh.
Aqib Farooq Mir