Who was Pangeran (prince) Wiro Kusumo?

Arched entry at the south side of Pangeran Wiro Kusumo’s home (north of the Batanghari River in the City of Jambi).

In 1830 there were only 20 Arabs that lived in the City of Jambi, out of the town’s total population of 600. These Arabs were only nominally subject to the sultan’s authority. Due to them being economically powerful and a highly respected group, they were closely associated with the Kraton (the ruling elite in Jambi), an association that helped them assert their independence. Some of them would play important roles in 19th century Jambian history.

Jambi’s history, from the mid-1800s till the first part of the 1900s, is filled with the activities of an Arab descendant by the name of Said Idrus (Sayyid Idrus bin Hasan Al-Jufri; or, Habib Idrus). Said Idrus’ grandfather was born as a full-blooded Arab from the Arabian peninsula and had migrated to the East Indies at the end of the 18th century. Said Idrus was part Jambian, as his father had taken a wife from the Jambi court. He himself later did the same.

Carved dragon on the left archway leading into Pangeran Wiro Kusumo’s home.

The date of Said Idrus’s birth is not known, but from Dutch documents (the only surviving documents available) it was assumed he was over 40 years old in 1879. Dutch documents also record the date of his death as 1905, although a sign in front of his grave says 1902.

Said Idrus was one of the “Al Jufri” Arabs and their descendants. The Al Jufri belonged to the said  (sayyid), one of the nine families honored as being religious elites from the Hadhramaut (southern part of the Arabian peninsula). They were respected and honored as religious nobles because they could trace their lineage back to Muhammad’s daughter and son-in-law. The Al Jufri lived in Jambi and played a political role, both for and against the Jambi sultan’s authority, since as far back as 1812.

The local rulers, throughout the islands now known as Indonesia, admired the Al Jufri because they were descendants of the Prophet Muhammad and they knew the Arabic language, which Muslims consider holy. To marry the daughters of the Al Jufri brought local rulers tremendous political and financial advantages. The Al Jufri men always married local women, because Arab women didn’t emigrate. This led the Al Jufri men to seek marriages with daughters of sultans and other highly influential rulers, with a preference for the said daughters of royal houses.

The Al Jufri’s Mediatorial Role

With the Al Jufri’s position as not being considered one of the local people, yet admired and respected, they were often used as mediators between the local rulers and the Dutch colonial authorities throughout the 19th century. The member of the Al Jufri that took upon himself the role as mediator and spokesman for the entire Al Jufri in Jambi was Said Idrus. He filled this unique position from the 1860s till his death in 1902 (or 1905).

A tile layered brick staircase reveals the value of the home Pangeran Wiro Kusumo’s lived in.

Besides allowing him to marry his daughter, Sultan Nazaruddin had given Said Idrus the title of Pangeran (prince) Wiro Kusumo. This title, which was also in use in 1853 for a member of the “Kraton” (family of the ruling elite in the Jambi court), signified then that its bearer was a “pepati dalam,” a court dignitary whose task it was to act for the sultan in his absence and to supervise the royal household.

Dutch documents record that Pangeran Wiro Kusumo had a genius for sheltering with the strongest party. In the years 1858-81, when Sultan Nazaruddin exercised formal power, he managed to make himself indispensable by becoming the sultan’s representative in the capital. This was because the sultans almost always chose to live far from the capital (City of Jambi) to distance themselves from the Dutch.

Evidence of Pangeran Wiro Kusumo’s Wealth and Power

Being married to one of Sultan Nazaruddin’s daughters brought him tremendous power. When Sultan Thaha expanded his influence in the last two decades of the 19th century, Pangeran Wiro Kusumo ingratiated himself with him. He even managed to become a relative of Sultan Thaha by marrying his son to Thaha’s daughter.

  • In 1875 Sultan Nazaruddin and the pangeran ratu [crown prince / prime minister] left this powerful dignitary [Pangeran Wiro Kusumo] to manage all the affairs of the realm.
  • He administered the salt monopoly revenue.
  • He administered the opium monopoly revenue.
  • He owned the largest lowland tracks of land (on the eastern part of the Jambi Province) and had control of the lower Batanghari River, all the way up to the Tungkal River.
  • He was very powerful, but a Sultan? Blogs repeat oral traditions as fact, indicating he was at one time a sultan. A local Jambi newspaper also reported the same (last sentence of this article) as recent as 8 September 2011. The opinion that he was a sultan just doesn’t stack up to documented evidence, like what can be found in the book; Mencari Jejak Sangkala, the author being the honorable Jambi historian, Drs. H. Junaidi T. Noor. Nor does it hold water when compared to the scholarly and thoroughly documented book; Sumatran Sultanate and Colonial State. Quite to the contrary, though he was an adviser to sultans, Pangeran Wiro Kusumo himself was never a Sultan.
  • Another act attributed to Pangeran Wiro Kusumo, which needs further proof, was him building the Mosque Jami’ Al Ikhsaniyah. His commitment to his religion is not in question, but for him to receive credit for building this mosque would indicate he did it before his birth or shortly thereafter.

The Home of Pangeran Wiro Kusumo

You can read our post about the home of Pangeran Wiro Kusumo by clicking this link.   His home can still be seen on the north side of the Batanghari River, across from the City of Jambi. Though this home was never maintained, and has fallen into a dilapidated state, the evidence of his wealth can be seen in it, as stone stairways and arches are still in place. This is in vast contrast to other homes in the area, which, even to this current date reflect a rather basic design and construction.

The Grave of Pangeran Wiro Kusumo.

Information about the location of his grave can be  found with this link.

*The majority of the information obtained for this post was extracted throughout the books:  Sumatran Sultanate and Colonial State: Jambi and the Rise of Dutch Imperialism, 1830-1907, and Mencari Jejak Sangkala.