Raja Zarith Sofiah pays tribute to late Sultan Ahmad Shah

23 May 2019 / 11:41 H.

JOHOR BARU: Permaisuri Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah Almarhum Sultan Idris (pix) today shared her fond memories of her late cousin, Pahang’s Paduka Ayahanda Sultan Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah, who died at the age of 88, yesterday.

Recalling her memories, Raja Zarith Sofiah said during the pre-Internet and pre-social media days when newspapers and television news were the only sources of information, it was not uncommon to see images and photos of Sultan Ahmad Shah, casually-clad in a tracksuit, sitting quite at ease on the floor of a simple kampong home, chatting to an elderly man who was ill and needed medical help.

“Almarhum (Sultan Ahmad Shah), however, was not there to offer medical advice, but instead, wanted that man to know that he had his Sultan’s sympathy and attention.

“If there was a natural disaster in Pahang – most often, it was floods – it would be Sultan Ahmad Shah who would be the first to be on the scene.

“For my family in Perak, we had become so used to see photos of him in the newspapers, always with his rakyat, that we did not see his unexpected appearance at a kampung house as anything uncommon,” the Permaisuri Johor said in a post uploaded to the Royal Johor Facebook page today.

Raja Zarith Sofiah also recalled the time when her parents were discussing as to who should be first to begin the merenjis or blessings ceremony at her wedding.

“I was trying hard to understand the complexity and sensitivity of royal protocol, and who was considered more senior; my father as the Sultan of Perak and the father of the bride, or Sultan Ahmad Shah, his nephew, but who was also at the time the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the King of Malaysia!

“And, of course, to make matters even more complex was that my husband’s father too was a Sultan (of Johor). I just left it to the palace protocol officers to sort it out with my parents whilst I concentrated on less sensitive issues such as the colour of my eyeshadow and what hairstyle I should have,” Her Majesty said.

Raja Zarith Sofiah said, in the end, in the same way that Sultan Ahmad Shah would sit on the floor with an elderly villager, he let her father – his uncle (Sultan Idris Shah) – begin the merenjis ceremony.

“He discarded protocol. He had made his own decision, he was the Yang DiPertuan Agong, he was our King and should rightly supersede all other Sultans, but he chose instead to adhere to his own values of being nobler by being humbler.

“By giving his consent to let my father bless me first at my wedding proved the kind of man that he was. Protocols can be bent or done away with, but family and rakyat mattered more,” she said.

Raja Zarith Sofiah said when her late son, Tunku Abdul Jalil Sultan Ibrahim was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2014 and was warded at the Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore, Sultan Ahmad Shah was one of the first and most frequent visitors to see him and showed his concern and support.

“My husband (Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar), despite the dark despair he felt inside, would try to lighten the mood by reminding Sultan Ahmad Shah of shared funny moments in the past, or of the people they both knew when Sultan Ahmad Shah visited Johor.

“We did not expect a Sultan to show so much concern or care for our son. Jalil was someone he hardly saw or knew.

“We cannot deny he made all of us - and Jalil - feel terribly special. When Jalil lost his fight against his cancer a year later, Sultan Ahmad Shah came to his funeral,” she said.

Raja Zarith Sofiah said the fact that Sultan Ahmad Shah’s health at that time had slowed him down and he was not as strong as he used to be, made his presence more meaningful to the Johor royal family.

“My husband has also felt a great deal of gratitude and indebtedness towards Sultan Ahmad Shah for all his other acts of kindness and caring.

“When his own father (the late Sultan Iskandar Sultan Ismail) became critically ill, Sultan Ahmad Shah made a special trip to fly to Johor to be there at the hospital. He gave my husband the strength and the confidence to cope at a sad and difficult time in his life,” she said.

At almost every occasion when she would be in line to greet him, Raja Zarith Sofiah said Sultan Ahmad Shah would invariably say to those standing nearest to them: “She’s my first cousin.”

“And there would be raised eyebrows (of surprise), or just perplexed and curious looks as the guest tried to figure out how I - so much younger than him - could possibly be his first cousin. By acknowledging me as his cousin made me feel less insignificant as a much younger and junior royal,” she said.

Raja Zarith Sofiah said there would be many other people who would have as many special memories of Sultan Ahmad Shah’s words and actions.

“These are, however, our own and the ones which we shall never forget. May Allah shower His blessings upon Almarhum Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, and may he be placed amongst the righteous. Al Fatihah,“ she said. — Bernama

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