Sultan Azlan Shah was crowned the 34th ruler of Perak following the death of his uncle, Sultan Idris Shah, in 1984. Prior to becoming the sultan, he held the highest position in the Malaysian Judiciary as Lord President of the Federal Court. He assumed the appointment in 1982.
Sultan Azlan Shah was appointed Yang di-Pertuan Agong in 1989 and served a term ending in 1994. He was Pro-Chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia (1971 to 1984) and was the Chancellor of Universiti Malaya from 1986 till the time of his demise.
An active hockey player during his youth, Sultan Azlan Shah was instrumental in the development of the sport in the country. He was the President of the Malaysian Hockey Federation until 2005 and also presided over the Asian Hockey Federation. He was an executive board member of the International Hockey Federation.
The Sultan Azlan Shah Hockey Tournament, an annual hockey tournament, which features some of the top hockey nations in the world and played in Ipoh, is attributed to him.
Raja Azlan Shah was born on April 19, 1928, in Batu Gajah, Perak to Sultan Yusuf Izzuddin Shah (1948-1963) and his commoner wife, Toh Puan Dewangsa Khadijah Ahmad. Young Raja Azlan Shah was brought up by his mother outside of the royal circles.
He received his early education at the Government English School, Batu Gajah (now SMK Sultan Yussuf). He did his secondary education at the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar, before leaving for the United Kingdom to read law at the University of Nottingham.
The late sultan obtained his degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1953 and was admitted to the English Bar by the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn on November 23, 1954.
On his return, he served as the assistant State Secretary of Perak before joining the judicial and legal service of the then Federation of Malaya as a magistrate. He was later appointed Sessions Court president.
He was also a federal counsel and a deputy public prosecutor. He was Pahang and Johor legal adviser, Registrar of the High Court of Malaya and Chief Registrar of the Federal Court of Malaysia.
In 1965, at the age of 37, Raja Azlan was elevated to the bench of the High Court of Malaya. He was the youngest judge in the Commonwealth then. In 1973, he was made a Federal Court judge and six years later in 1979, Chief Justice of Malaya, an office which he held until his appointment as the youngest-ever Lord President of the Federal Court of Malaysia on November 12, 1982.
Raja Azlan Shah was installed Raja Muda (Crown Prince) of Perak by his uncle, Sultan Idris Almutawakkil Alallahi Shah II on July 1, 1983. The long reign of that Sultan had taken its toll on Raja Azlan Shah’s elder siblings. His only surviving elder brother, Raja Baharom Shah, refused the office of Raja Muda and Raja Azlan Shah was suddenly heir to the throne.
When Sultan Idris died in January 1984, Raja Azlan Shah was appointed Sultan of Perak on February 3, 1984. In April 1989, Sultan Azlan Shah became the ninth Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia. He served the full five year term and returned as Sultan of Perak in 1994.
In February 2009, he attracted heavy criticism for his involvement in the toppling of the Pakatan Rakyat state government, which led to the Perak Constitutional Crisis. His decision was subsequently reversed by the Kuala Lumpur High Court, which ruled that the Sultan was not constitutionally right to dismiss the Menteri Besar.
However, upon appeal by Dato’ Sri DiRaja Dr Zambry bin Abd Kadir, the Court of Appeal reversed the High Court’s decision on the ground that the learned judge had wrongly interpreted relevant articles in the Perak State Constitution, which gives discretionary power for the Sultan to withhold consent to dissolve the State Legislative Assembly. The Court of Appeal was of the view that the Sultan was correct to refuse dissolution of the assembly and directed Nizar to resign, as he had lost the majority of confidence in assembly.
The decision by Court of Appeal was upheld by the Federal Court on February 10, 2010 and Dato’ Seri DiRaja Dr Zambry was declared the rightful Menteri Besar of Perak.
Sultan Azlan Shah married a commoner from Penang, former teacher Bainun binti Mohamad Ali. She is styled as DYMM Raja Perempuan Perak. When Sultan Azlan Shah became Yang di-Pertuan Agong, she became the first ever commoner Raja Permaisuri Agong in the history of Malaysia.
The royal couple have five children. The eldest is Raja Nazrin Shah, who is the Raja Muda of Perak. The others are Raja Dato’ Seri Azureen, Raja Dato’ Seri Ashman Shah, Raja Eleena and Raja Yong Sofia. Raja Ashman Shah died on March 30, 2012.
Sultan Azlan Shah passed away on May 28 at 1.38pm at the National Heart Institute (IJN), Kuala Lumpur. He was 86. His body will be laid to rest at the Al-Ghufran Royal Mausoleum near Ubudiah Mosque, Kuala Kangsar after Asar prayers on Thursday, May 29.