Syarif Masahor

Sayyid Mashhur bin Muhammad Al-Shahab (also commonly known as Syarif Masahor or Sharif Masahor in Malayan contexts)[1] (died 1890 in Selangor) was a famous Malay warrior of Hadhrami descent[2] in Sarikei, Sarawak state, Malaysia during the Brooke White Rajahs era in that state.


Before the arrival of James Brooke, he was a powerful member who ruled and, in the past, like Datu Patinggi Abdul Gapur, he was very influential and respected due to both his charisma in uniting the people of different races and beliefs, and also due to his lineage.

Resistance and death

James Brooke's expansion policy caused disturbance in many parts of Borneo. In the initial agreement between James Brooke and the Sultan of Brunei, Sarawak was only a territory which stretched from Tanjung Datu to Maong River (Sungai Maong). Syarif's territory was far away from the designated area. Brooke's encroachment into local leaders' territory caused many locals to rebel, including Syarif Masahor.

James Brooke departed for England at the end of 1857, leaving his nephew Charles behind to monitor the rule. This allowed Masahor to put his plans into action. In July 1859, Masahor and his army attacked Brooke's outpost near Bukit Rejang in Kanowit. During this attack, officers Charles Fox and Henry Steele were killed by Melanau people led by Sawing and Sakalai. This angered the British people throughout Kuching following the rebellion by the Chinese people.

In early 1860, Masahor ordered Temenggung Hayim Jalil from Brunei to go to Pontianak for a meeting with Abdul Gapur. In early February 1860 they mounted an assault on Kuching (at that time, Sarawak), according to Masahor's plan. Masahor and his army wanted to approach Kuching via the Sarawak River. In the battle that ensued, the British forces gained the upper hand when Charles Brooke succeeded in ambushing and destroying all Masahor's ships. Facing defeat, Masahor retreated to Brunei, where he would seek shelter from the British.

However, in 1861, James Brooke went to Brunei, in hopes of forcing the Sultan of Brunei to banish Syarif Masahor to Selangor once and for all. Masahor eventually arrived at Klang, where he became an adviser to Sultan Abdul Samad.

During the Klang War however, Syarif Masahor sided with the rebellious Klang territorial chief Raja Mahadi who did not recognise Sultan Abdul Samad's rule. Abdul Samad sought British help to win the war, and Masahor ended up fighting against the British for a second time. Nevertheless, after the surrender of Raja Mahadi and Syarif Masahor, they were both pardoned by Abdul Samad. Syarif Masahor died in Kerling, Selangor in 1890 and was buried there.


Even after the loss of Syarif Masahor, Datu Patinggi Abdul Gapur continued his resistance against the Brooke occupation of Sarawak through Pontianak. But the Dutch quickly captured him, and he was imprisoned in Batavia before being sent to Mecca.

Furthermore, most Malays in what was Sarawak at that time (presently Kuching) did not give support to Syarif Masahor and his resistance fighters because of their loyalty to James Brooke, as Brooke was deemed as a saviour from Brunei's tyranny. However, they in the same time did not give any support to James Brooke, as Syarif Masahor was claimed to be of holy lineage, descended from the Islamic prophet Muhammad himself. Malays, Melanaus and Dayaks from areas outside Kuching (largely Kanowit) rallied behind Syarif Masahor.


  1. Ulrike Freitag, W. G. Clarence-Smith (1997). Hadhrami Traders, Scholars, and Statesmen in the Indian Ocean, 1750s-1960s: 1750s- 1960s. 1997. p. 92. ISBN 90-04-10771-1.
  2. John H. Walker (2002). Power and Prowess: The Origins of Brooke Kingship in Sarawak. University of Hawaii Press. p. 104. ISBN 0-8248-2500-4.

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