JOHOR BARU: Raja Zarith Sofiah Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah shared her fond memories of her late cousin, Pahang’s Paduka Ayahanda Sultan Ahmad Shah Al-Musta’in Billah ibni Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mu’adzam Shah, who died at the age of 88.
The Permaisuri Johor said that in the pre-Internet and pre-social media days when newspapers and television news were the only sources of information, it was common to see images and photos of Sultan Ahmad Shah.
She recalled one incident when the former Pahang Ruler – casually clad in a tracksuit – sat at ease on the floor of a simple village home, chatting to an elderly man who was ill and needed medical help.
“He was not there to offer medical advice, but wanted that man to know that he had his sympathy and attention.
“If there was a natural disaster in Pahang – most often, it was floods – Sultan Ahmad Shah would be the first one on the scene.
“For my family in Perak, we had become so used to seeing photos of him with the rakyat in the newspapers 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 yesterday.
Raja Zarith Sofiah also recalled the time when her parents were discussing who should be the first to begin the merenjis (blessings) ceremony at her wedding.
“I was trying hard to understand the complexity and sensitivity of royal protocol and who was deemed more senior; my father as the Sultan of Perak and father of the bride, or Sultan Ahmad Shah, his nephew, but also at the time the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the King of Malaysia!“And of course, to make matters even more complex, my husband’s father was also a Sultan (of Johor).
“I just left it to the palace protocol officers to sort it out with my parents while I concentrated on less sensitive issues such as the colour of my eyeshadow and what hairstyle I should have,” she 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 begin the merenjis ceremony.
“He discarded protocol. He had made his own decision. He was the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, he was our King and should have rightly superseded all other Sultans, but he chose instead to adhere to his own values of being nobler by being humbler.
“Giving his consent to my father to bless me first at my wedding proved the kind of man he was. Protocols could 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 warded at Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore, Sultan Ahmad Shah was one of his first and most frequent visitors, and showed his concern and support.
“My husband, 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 he 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 a year later, Sultan Ahmad Shah came to his funeral,” she added.
Raja Zarith Sofiah said the fact that Sultan Ahmad Shah’s own health had slowed him down 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 father became critically ill, Sultan Ahmad Shah made a special trip to Johor to be there at the hospital.
“He gave my husband the strength and confidence to cope during a sad and difficult time in his life,” the Permaisuri Johor said.
At almost every occasion when she would be in line to greet him, she said Sultan Ahmad Shah would tell 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 guests tried to figure out how I – so much younger than him – could possibly be his first cousin.
“His acknowledgment of me as his cousin made me feel less insignificant as a much younger and junior royal,” she said.
Raja Zarith Sofiah said many others would have as many special memories of Sultan Ahmad Shah’s words and actions.
“These are, however, our own and the ones we shall never forget. May Allah shower His blessings upon Almarhum Sultan Ahmad Shah, and may he be placed among the righteous. Al-Fatihah,” she said. — Bernama