The early existence of the island had been influenced by the introduction of
Islam by three men, namely, Makdum, Raja Baginda, and Abu Bakar, toward the end
of the fourteenth century.
The Sultanate of Sulu began to rise as a system of government in those days, with Raja Baginda as its first supreme ruler. He was succeeded by Abu Bakar, who firmly established Mohammedanism and effected government reforms.
The presence of foreign forces in Sulu brought about several conflicts that caused the fall of the first organized state in early Philippines. For 300 years, beginning from the 16th century, the Suluans had fought all alien forces who had attempted to dominate the people and change their way of life.
The first armed conflict staged by the Suluans were against the Spaniards, as early as in 1578, when Captain Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa conducted an expedition against the Muslims. The "Moros," as they were referred to by the Spaniards, retaliated by pillaging the coastal towns in Visayas and Luzon under Spanish control.
This Muslim hostility drove the Spanish government to send at least five expeditions to Jolo for punitive purposes. The fourth expedition led by Governor-General Corcuera in 1638 perhaps deserves attention as it resulted in the first Spanish occupation of Jolo. The fighting, which lasted for three and a half months, forced the Suluans to flee their capital. Corcuera occupied the town, reconstructed its forts, and left there a garrison. In 1646, however, this garrison was recalled to Manila and Sulu was abandoned.
During the 19th century, the Spanish made a second occupation of Sulu. Spain evacuated Sulu in May 1899 and turned the local government over to the Suluans but the attempt of foreign domination continued until World War II when the Japanese occupied the Philippines.