Marudu strengthened under Syarif Osman to a kingdom ("kerajaan"). Syarif Osman achieved what no one in Sabah before or after him did: he united it and created it as an independent political entity. It took up approximately the area of today's Sabah, beyond that it even reached as far as Palawan.
Marudu bordered the Sultanate of Brunei to the south. Kimanis was the border, it belonged as heir to the Pengiran Usop of Brunei - a friend of Syarif Osman. It is also reported that Osman wanted to set up a trading post on Labuan. The island was settled before the British occupation of 1846. Brooke wanted this island to be part of Britain, and maybe that was one of the reasons he wanted to get Syarif Osman out of the way. - In the east, Marudu bordered the Sultanate of Sulu, although the control areas will have overlapped here. In Southeast Asia it was common that always people were controlled and not territories, which means that a river system that lied actually in the area of Marudu could also be subordinate to Sulu.
After the devastating event on August 19, 1845, when the British destroyed Marudu, the area fell back into different spheres of influence. Under Syarif Osman, Marudu was autonomous and he was an independent ruler who was accepted by the sultanates and other local populations. After the Battle of Marudu, the British recognized many influential local figures among the fallen. They all had been Syraif Osman's allies. He was valued as a friend and relative of sultan's families, but was also accepted by local Europeans. Both the Spanish governor of Manila named Claveria and the British governor Butterworth of Singapore recognized him, who correctly called him "Raja of Marudu" and wanted to trade with him.
The three spheres of influence of Marudu
Marudu has three spheres of influence: the closer a sphere was to the center of Syarif Osman on the Marudu River, the stronger was Osman's influence in this sphere.
Sphere 1) Marudu Bay was considered Osman's core area. A list from 1851 shows how many families had to pay tribute to Syarif Osman. The Briton Spenser St. John received this list from Syarif Osman's son, who is called Syarif Hassan, and calculated that 60,000 people were under Osman in the areas of Marudu Bay. In addition, there are those of the offshore islands of Banggi and Balambangan which are quite large islands. The bay has four major rivers that were trade arteries. Osman let build many new settlements. The center of the Kindgom of Marudu was in the south of the bay, pretty much exactly in the middle. It was fortified, had a warehouse and trading center. Behind the fortress were the living places and the surrounding fields.
Sphere 2) were the rivers further away. Rivers were considered districts. The chiefs were subordinate to Syarif Osman, they were subject to tribute and service, for example Ambong, Tempasuk, and Pandasan. There were family relationships. Syarif Osman took rigorous action against leaders who refused to pay the required tribute.
Sphere 3) The third sphere was that of alliance system. Leaders were secured by Syarif Osman through an alliance, whereby he was always considered to be the stronger of the partners, but Syarif Osman's control was not as strong here as in the other two spheres. His alliance with Sandokong of Melapi (on Kinabatangan) is well known, who probably brought his bird nests to the transshipment point in Marudu. The nests were widely sold by the Chinese and were considered a coveted and expensive commodity. Oral traditions depict Osman and Sandokong as friends and comrades in arms.
Map with the three spheres of influence of the Kingdom of Marudu:
Sphere 1 is dark red, 2: medium red, 3: light red.