The Royal Sultanate of Sulu (Sultaniyyah Sin Lupah Sug) is an Islamic Tausug state, a subnational monarchy within an autonomous region in the southern Philippines. Its territories include many islands in the Sulu Archipelago and Northern Borneo (Sabah).
The Sultanate began life in 1405 and was officially founded as a theocratic state in 1457 by a Johore-born Arab explorer and religious scholar Sayyid Abu Bakr Abirin, a direct descendant of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. After the marriage of Abu Bakr Abirin and a local heiress, Dayang-Dayang (princess of the first degree) Paramisuli, he founded the Sultanate and assumed the title Paduka Mahasari Maulana al Sultan Sharif ul-Hāshim. In the course of the following contacts with Europeans, the Sultanate of Sulu was internationally recognised as a Kingdom (or a Royal Sultanate).
The Tausug people of Sulu have been a sovereign people for more than 600 years. Once an influential thalassocracy, the Sultanate faced several attempts to be abolished by colonisers. This occurred in 1915, when the U.S.A. imposed a highly restrictive agreement, and again in 1936, when the former Commonwealth of the Philippines under U.S. influence, decided to ignore the Sultanate’s temporal authority. However all these attempts failed to deprive either the Sultanate or its monarch of sovereign rights and state status.
In 1957, 1962, 1969 and 1974, the present-day Republic of the Philippines officially recognised the continued existence of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu and the status of its monarch as recorded in public documents. The Sultanate has been part of an autonomous area of the Republic since 1979.
Furthermore, certain prerogatives of the Sultanate, as a genuine traditional and indigenous institution, are specifically supported by a correspondent Philippine law enacted in 1997.
The head of the Royal House of Sulu since 16 February 1986 is His Royal Majesty Ampun Sultan Hadji Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram, The 35th Sultan of Sulu and North Borneo. He is the eldest son and Raja Muda (Crown Prince) of the late Sultan Mohammad Mahakuttah Abdulla Kiram who reigned from 1974 to 1986 and grandson of Sultan Mohammed Esmail Enang Kiram who reigned from 1950 to 1974.
Sultan Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram is recognised by royal families and international organisations as the constituent monarch of Sulu. His Majesty currently resides in Jolo, Sulu, near the historical seat of the Sultanate.