Maguindanao Province is located on the west of central Mindanao. It is bounded on the north by the Province of Lanao del Sur, on the east by Cotabato Province, on the south by Sultan Kudarat Province and on the west by Illana Bay.
The land of the Maguindanaos, or ‘people of the flood plains’, lies in a fertile valley of the longest river in Mindanao, the Pulangi or the Rio Grande de Mindanao. The province of Lanao del Sur bounds the province to the northwest, Cotabato lies to the northeast and Sultan Kudarat to the south. The coast is regular with a few good anchorages like Polloc Harbor and Linao Bay. The land is generally flat and low, with marshes in the vicinity of Libungan. Mountains rise to the southwest. Maguindanao receives little precipitation through out the year, but the rains that do fall swell the tributaries and flood the plains. Muslim traders from the nearby Malay states traded with the Maguindanaos and influenced the culture of the region. It is believed that Islam first came to the region in 1460, with the arrival of Sharif Awliya, who married a Maguindanao. The introduction of Islam and its institutions has been credited to Sharif Mohammed Kabungsuwan, a Johore Muslim who established the Sultanate of Maguindanao sometime in 1515. Over the years, several sultanates were established to rule over the region, the most significant of which are the sultanates of Cotabato, Buayan, and Kabuntalan.
The Spaniards tried to conquer Maguindanao as early as 1596 but were thwarted by the stiff resistance of the Maguindanaos. From 1600-1650, the Sultan of Maguindanao, Sultan Muhammad Dipatuan Kudarat expanded the realm subject to the Maguindanao Sultanate and at its height of power, it held sway over the regions from the Gulf of Davao all the way to Dapitan. Upon his death, however, the sultanate was fragmented into several rival sultanates and towards the middle of the 19th Century, Maguindanao power had waned considerably.
In 1851, Spanish forces attacked and seized Polloc. A naval base was established in the town and in 1854, a separate politico-military district was created. In 1861, following more expeditions by the Spaniards, the Sultan of Maguindanao recognized Spanish sovereignty. Resistance continued in the upper Pulangi directed by Datu Ugto but superior Spanish arms allowed the Spaniards to remain in Maguindanao until 1899. In that year, following the evacuation of Spanish forces from the region, Upper Pulangi datus attacked and occupied Cotabato until the Americans arrived.
The district of Cotabato was created in 1860 following the reorganization of Spanish government in Mindanao. In 1903, following the establishment of the Moro Province, Cotabato became one of its districts. Maguindanao continued to be a part of the province of Cotabato until November 1973 when the province was divided into the three provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 341.
Maguindanao was the scene of clashes between government forces and Bangsa Moro secessionists during the height of the armed struggle to create a Moro homeland forcing thousands to seek refuge in more secure settlements. Maguindanao remains a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. In 1979, the province became part of an autonomous regional government for Central Mindanao. Ten years later, the people of Maguindanao voted to be included in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao