Good Relations Between the Ottoman Empire and the Aceh Sultanate

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During the Battle of the Trench, amid the preparations, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was asked by one of his companions, "O Messenger of Allah, which will fall into the hands of the Muslims first, Constantinople or Rome?" The Prophet replied, "The city of Heraklius (Constantinople)." (Hadith narrated by Ahmad, Ad-Darimi, Al-Hakim). And the Prophet's prophecy proved to be true during the Ottoman Empire, precisely during the reign of Sultan Muhammad II (Al-Fatih) on May 29, 1453 AD, when Constantinople fell into the hands of the Muslims.

This golden-written historical record was also the effort of the early Ottoman pioneers. Usman Al-Ghazi, the pioneer, conquered the Tartar forces with great strength. The struggle did not stop there; it continued in the subsequent periods. All of these efforts were aimed at realizing the prophecy of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The Ottoman Empire stands as a historical testament to the glory of the Islamic nation. In historical records, the Ottoman Empire was able to control and conquer two-thirds of the world's territories. Starting from the eastern regions to the Nusantara (the Malay Archipelago). In the Nusantara, the Ottoman Empire is recorded to have had relations or ties with the Aceh Sultanate. Now, how did their relationship come about?

The vast distance and the oceans separating these two sultanates did not hinder the emergence of Islamic brotherhood ties. When Aceh was fighting against the Portuguese in the Nusantara, the Ottoman Empire repeatedly sent aid. In 1565, Sultan Ali Mughayat Syah Al-Qahhar sent envoys to Istanbul, bearing gifts as a sign of submission and a request for assistance in expelling the Portuguese. Sultan Selim II, who was reigning at the time, accepted the request for assistance. He sent troops and cannons to the Aceh Sultanate. At that time, cannons were the most advanced weapons, and not many sultanates possessed them.

The sending of envoys from Aceh to Istanbul at that time is known as the "Pepper Seed Incident" ("Lada Secupak" in Indonesian). Why was it called the "Pepper Seed Incident"?

When the Aceh Sultanate sent envoys to Istanbul, these envoys could not immediately meet the sultan. They had to wait for almost two years. Sultan Sulaiman, who was in power when the envoys from Aceh arrived, was at that time leading a war against Hungary. During the waiting period, the supplies brought by the Aceh envoys dwindled until eventually, one by one, the items to be presented to the sultan were sold. The valuable items that remained were only a handful of pepper or a "pepper seed." 

The envoys of the Aceh Sultanate had to wait even longer, after hearing the news that Sultan Sulaiman had been martyred in the battlefield. The envoys had to wait until the appointment of a new sultan in the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Selim II, who succeeded Sultan Sulaiman, finally agreed to receive the envoy and grant their request.

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To assist the Aceh Sultanate, Sultan Selim II not only sent combat troops but also dispatched Ottoman military and strategy experts to Aceh. In Aceh, the envoys of Sultan Selim II established military training facilities, or what we now call military academies. National heroes such as Admiral Malahayati and Sultan Iskandar Muda once received training in these places. The Ottoman troops also provided other teachings, such as blacksmithing techniques to create weapons for warfare. It is rumored that the Rencong, a traditional weapon of Aceh, was a design of the Ottoman army.

Buya Hamka, in his book "Sejarah Umat Islam" (History of the Islamic Nation), writes that the influence of the Ottoman Empire in the Nusantara was strongly felt. Until now, villages in Ulu Palembang, Tanah Bugis, Minangkabau, especially in Aceh, still have many images of Ottoman sultans hanging. Even in the second sermon of Friday prayers in villages, many still pray for the Ottoman leaders.

Furthermore, kings who held the title of sultan had ties with the Ottoman Empire. To obtain permission to use that title, they sent tribute to Istanbul. Thus, the relationship between the sultanates they ruled could be well established with the Ottoman Empire.

In conclusion, the relationship between the Ottoman Empire and the Aceh Sultanate demonstrates a very good relationship or tie. This was based on the spirit of building Islamic brotherhood between them. Therefore, the vast distance and long time could not sever the bond of brotherhood and unity of faith.

Mushpih Kawakibil Hijaj, writer on shariavest.