Raja Ismail was a grandson of the 18th Sultan of Perak, Sultan Ahmaddin Shah, as his mother was Raja Nandak binti Almarhum Sultan Ahmaddin Shah. His father was Saiyid Shaikh Al-Khairat, a member of the royal family of Siak.
Raja Ismail was appointed as Raja Bendahara in 1857 by Sultan Jaafar Muazzam Shah and remained in post, unpromoted, until the reign of Sultan Ali Al-Mukammal Inayat Shah, as Raja Abdullah ibni Almarhum Sultan Jaafar was made Raja Muda instead.
When Sultan Ali mangkat in 1871, Raja Bendahara Ismail, as it was the adat to do so, took over in the interim and invited Raja Muda Abdullah, who was residing in Batak Rabit, to present himself at Sayong to be installed as the new Sultan before the Almarhum Sultan Ali could be interred.
It was said that Raja Muda Abdullah was concerned over his safety to make the journey, as Raja Yusuf ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdullah Muhammad I, a rival claimant to the throne, was ready to ambush him at Senggang. The territorial chiefs waited for forty days and in the end, Raja Bendahara Ismail was appointed as the new Sultan, apparently with strong support from Ngah Ibrahim of Larut.
Sultan Ismail then resided in Belanja. During his reign, the power struggle continued in Perak . Raja Muda Abdullah and Raja Yusuf continued their infighting with regards to their claim to the throne. It is believed that during the turmoil, Raja Tepus was appointed as the acting Raja Muda.
Raja Muda Abdullah later appealed to Sir Harry Ord, who was then the Governor of the Straits Settlement, that he was the rightful candidate to the throne and Sultan Ismail’s succession was illegal and not in accordance with the adat of the state. Despite the initial abstinence from interference of Malay affairs, the British changed their tune when Sir Andrew Clarke took over as Governor in Singapore. This culminated in the conference held in Pulau Pangkor between Sir Andrew Clarke, Raja Muda Abdullah and most of the chiefs, which led to the signing of the Pangkor Treaty on 20 January 1874. One of the terms agreed in the treaty was that Sultan Ismail was to be replaced by Raja Muda Abdullah, with the former to be given the deposed title Sultan Muda. In addition, a monthly sum of $1,000 was to be paid to Sultan Muda Ismail by the State of Perak.
The period between 1874-1875 saw such turmoil in Perak with the appointment of J.W.W. Birch as the British Resident, which concluded with Birch’s assassination at Pasir Salak. British troops were then sent to Perak marking the beginning of the Perak War. Dato’ Maharaja Lela was found by the British to be complicit in Birch’s assassination. Fleeing the pursuing British troops, he was then joined by Sultan Muda Ismail at Belanja, taking with them the articles of the State Regalia. However, Sultan Muda Ismail later surrendered himself to the Sultan of Kedah, and Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin III Mukarram Shah handed him over to Major General Archibald Edward Harbord Anson, the Lieutenant Governor of Penang.
Sultan Muda Ismail was later sent into exile in Skudai, Johor in 1887 with his movements restricted and the articles of the State Regalia were taken by the British Government to England.
Sultan Muda Ismail mangkat on 4 September 1889. He was interred at Bukit Mahmoodiah, Johor Baharu and was given the title Marhum Mangkat di Sekudai.
Footnote: The place is now called Kampung Raja, near Pekan Parit.
1. M.A. Fawzi Basri. Cempaka Sari: Sejarah Kesultanan Negeri Perak. Yayasan Perak; 1986.
2. Buku Chenderamata Pertabalan Sultan Idris Shah.
3. Buku Chenderamata Pertabalan Sultan Azlan Shah.
4. Portal Raja Kita Negeri Perak Darul Ridzuan