Sultan Iskandar Shah was born Raja Alang Iskandar in 1876, the third son (after Raja Abdul Hamid and Sultan Abdul Jalil) of Sultan Idris Murshidul Azzam Shah at Kuala Keboi near Kampar.
Raja Alang Iskandar had his early education at the Central School Taiping (now King Edward VII School). He was accompanied by Hugh Clifford (later Sir) to England in 1896 during which Raja Alang Iskandar pursued his university education at Balliol College. He returned to Perak, accompanied by his father, Sultan Idris, after being in England for nearly seven years in 1902.
His first civil service posting was an attachment to the Perak Secretariat at Taiping in 1905. He was then with the FMS Police Force at Kuala Lumpur and attained the rank of Assistant Commissioner, and was the first ever Malay to do so. In 1916, he returned to Perak to become Raja Bendahara following the installation of his elder brother, Raja Muda Abdul Jalil, as the 29th Sultan of Perak.
However, Sultan Abdul Jalil’s reign was somewhat short as Almarhum passed away on 26 October 1918. Raja Bendahara Alang Iskandar was briefly made Raja Muda (the post of Raja Muda was vacant at that time) in April 1918 and he subsequently was proclaimed Sultan in December 1918 and duly installed 0n 10 April 1919, styled as DYMM Sultan Iskandar Shah.
Sultan Iskandar Shah was an all-round sportsman, and played football, hockey, cricket and polo. Tuanku’s interest in hockey began early in his youth when he played for the Oxford Casuals and the University XI. Tuanku also represented Selangor and the Malay States at polo. Tuanku was a keen owner of horses – he was an amateur jockey and kept a racing stable of about seventy horses.
Sultan Iskandar Shah was made Honorary Inspector-General of Police and also held the rank of a Colonel in the Malayan Volunteer Infantry, a branch of the FMS Volunteer Force. Tuanku strongly supported the formation of the Malay Regiment and was very much responsible for the decentralisation policy of the FMS Government, following which administrative powers were handed back to the individual federated states. Tuanku was also instrumental in the retrocession of the Dindings and Pulau Pangkor to Perak in 1935.
Sultan Iskandar Shah was appointed Knight Commander of The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (KCMG) on 1 January 1921, and later admitted into the Royal Victorian Order as Knight Commander (KCVO) on 25 June 1924. Tuanku was finally appointed Knight Grand Cross of The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (GCMG) on 19 June 1933.
Sultan Iskandar was known to be a pious monarch. Woe betide any Muslim man not attending solat Jumaat (Friday prayers) as it is said that Tuanku was able to tell if one had not been to the mosque! Tuanku was known to revolve amongst the learned circles of the ulama, and gave lectures on Islam to the rakyat during his regular visits around Perak. Tuanku had appointed Shaikh Muhammad Saleh from Minangkabau as the Sheikh-ul-Islam (or mufti) of Perak, who was heavily involved with the tabligh movement in Teluk Anson (now Teluk Intan).
Another historical milestone in Perak that was reached during the reign of Sultan Iskandar Shah was the opening of the Sultan Idris Teaching College (now UPSI) which was officially opened by Sir George Maxwell, the Chief Secretary of the FMS, on 29 November 1922.
For a short time, Sultan Iskandar Shah resided at Istana Lembah (which was built by Tukang Sofian after the great flood of 1926 and completed in 1931) whilst the Istana Iskandariah was being built. Istana Iskandariah was finally completed in 1932.
After a short illness, Almarhum Sultan Iskandar Shah mangkat at Istana Iskandariah on 14 August 1938. Almarhum was interred at the Al-Ghufran Royal Mausoleum at Bukit Chandan and the posthumous title Marhum Kadasallah was conferred.
Almarhum was married four times. His first wife was Tengku Nong Fatimah binti Sultan Ahmad Al-Muazzam Shah of Pahang who died in 1916, prior to Almarhum’s installation as Sultan. Of the other three subsequent marriages, only the last one, Raja Teh Kelsom binti Raja Kulop Muhammad, was of royal blood and styled Raja Perempuan.
For Almarhum’s short family tree (showing his issue), please click here.
RoyalArk.net describes Raja Alang Iskandar’s birthdate as 10 May 1881.