31st Sultan of Perak: Sultan Abdul Aziz Mu’tassim Billah Shah ibni Almarhum Raja Muda Musa I (1938-1948)

A portrait of Sultan Abdul Aziz Mu’tassim Billah Shah ibni Almarhum Raja Muda Musa I.

Sultan Abdul Aziz Mu’tassim Billah Shah was known as a quiet and dignified Malay gentleman, as well as a ruler whose unassuming hobby was gardening.

Tuanku was born Raja Abdul Aziz ibni Raja Muda Musa at Kampung Bandar in Teluk Anson (now Teluk Intan) on 14 November 1887, some 13 years after British interference in Perak following the Pangkor Treaty. He was the only son of Raja Muda Musa ibni Almarhum Sultan Jaafar Muazzam Shah[1].

He received his formal education at the Anglo Chinese Schools at Teluk Anson and Ipoh, and later at Central School in Taiping (now known as SMK King Edward VII). He then went to the ‘Eton of the East’ – The Malay College where he was known to be a keen footballer, together with his nephew, Raja Kamaralzaman, in the team known as ‘The Moderates‘.

Raja Muda Abdul Aziz with Sultan Iskandar Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Idris I. (Source: Arkib Negara Malaysia)

In 1908, the young Raja Abdul Aziz joined the Perak Secretariat as Malay Probationer, and went to Krian as Assistant Collector of Land Revenue and general assistant in 1909. In 1910, he was then made Assistant District Officer (ADO) of Upper Perak (Hulu Perak) and was stationed at Lenggong. At the end of 1910, he was transferred to Matang and then, in the following year, to Larut also as ADO. In 1914, Raja Abdul Aziz returned to Krian as Padi Inspector. In 1915, Raja Abdul Aziz went on to pass his law examinations.

On 1 August 1918, he was appointed Raja Bendahara and four months later on 18 December 1918, he was appointed Raja Muda upon the passing of Sultan Abdul Jalil and resided in Teluk Anson, the place where he was born.

Raja Abdul Aziz on his recent appointment as Raja Muda in 1918, flanked by Raja Kechil Sulong Harun Al Rashid (left) and Raja Kechil Bongsu Abdul Rashid.

Raja Muda Abdul Aziz joined the Malayan Volunteer Infantry (MVI) as a private, despite being heir apparent to the throne of Perak and could almost certainly have taken the short-cut of an honorary commission in the MVI. Private Raja Abdul Aziz chose to begin his service at the Teluk Anson company of the MVI, which later became part of the FMS Volunteer Force under the State Battalion system. From the lower ranks, he rose to the ranks as a commissioned officer. Raja Abdul Aziz worked hard to win command of the company, which was one of the best in Perak during his command. As the duties of Raja Muda increased during his period of office, he then held the rank of a reserve officer. Later, following his ascension as Sultan Abdul Aziz, Tuanku was made honorary Colonel of the 1st (Perak) Batallion of the FMS Volunteer Force, a rank of which he was very proud of.

With the post of Raja Muda came the vice-presidency of the Perak State Council, where Raja Muda Abdul Aziz devoted a great deal of his time, especially with the reconstitution of the Council under the decentralisation policy of Sir Cecil Clementi, which was largely inspired and vigorously supported by his brother-in-law, Sultan Iskandar Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Idris I. Raja Muda Abdul Aziz found it far from easy to succeed his first cousin, Raja Sir Chulan ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdullah[2], as a Malay member of the Federal Council. Nevertheless, Raja Muda Abdul Aziz was quick to show that championing the Malay cause at the Council would not dissipate. His speeches, mainly appealing for greater opportunities for Malays to play their rightful part in state administration, bore the stamp of sincerity and careful preparation. His great ability, long recognised in Perak, was quickly established in other parts of Federated Malay States. In 1924, Raja Muda Abdul Aziz was appointed as Regent for Perak during the Sultan Iskandar’s visit to England where the Sultan was granted an audience with George V.

Sultan Abdul Aziz and Raja Perempuan Khadijah after the installation ceremony at Istana Iskandariah, 1938.

Raja Muda Aziz succeeded as the 31st Sultan of Perak on 14 October 1938 upon the passing of Sultan Iskandar Shah. He was proclaimed Sultan at Kuala Kangsar on 17 October 1938 and installed at Istana Iskandariah in Bukit Chandan, Kuala Kangsar, on 4 March 1939.  On the same evening, the High Commisioner of the FMS, Sir Shenton Thomas, invested Sultan Abdul Aziz with the star and badge of Knight Commander of The Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (KCMG) at Istana Iskandariah.

Sultan Abdul Aziz (third left) reigned partly during the Japanese Occupation between 1941 and 1945. This group photo taken at Istana Iskandariah shows the Raja-Raja Perak with members of the Japanese administration. In the front row are Raja Di-Hilir Abdul Rashid (second left), Raja Muda Yusuf Izzudin (fourth right) and Raja Bendahara Idris (second right). Also identified (in the back row) are Raja Shahriman Raja Abdul Hamid (fourth left) and Raja Shahruddin ibni Almarhum Sultan Idris I (rightmost).

Compared to his predecessor, Sultan Iskandar Shah who was not only a leading spokesman of the Malays but a great sportsman famed on the polo field, Sultan Abdul Aziz may not be much known outside Perak. In the ten years of his reign as Sultan, Tuanku suffered many challenges, amongst which were the Japanese occupation of  Malaya from 1942 to 1945, the subsequent emergence of Bintang Tiga and the communist insurgency, and the Malay rebellion against the concept of the Malayan Union. Nevertheless, Sultan Abdul Aziz was remembered as one of the  many who led the Malay opposition to the treaties imposed by Sir Harold MacMichael immediately after the British reoccupation of Malaya. Sultan Abdul Aziz also had a prominent role among the Malay Rulers in the steps taken that led to the setting up of the Federation of Malaya. Another significant event during his reign was the introduction of the Part I of the state constitution (‘Undang-Undang Tubuh Kerajaan Perak’) in February 1948.

This photo of Sultan Abdul Aziz (in dark baju melayu) was taken at the District Office in Kuala Kangsar during the commemoration of the British Army’s return to Malaya after the Second World War. In this photo were (from Tuanku’s right): Raja Di-Hilir Abdul Rashid, Raja Muda Yusuff Izzudin, Raja Bendahara Idris Shah and Raja Razman (Malay Secretary to Sultan Abdul Aziz).

Sultan Abdul Aziz would be remembered as the ruler that spent most of his time touring the state of Perak, encouraging the rakyat to develop a more stable form of livelihood. An enthusiastic horticulturist himself, the agricultural shows held at many districts in Perak had his full support and Tuanku would travel many miles to act as judge of padi strains.

A portrait of Sultan Abdul Aziz ibni Almarhum Raja Muda Musa I. (Source: Arkib Negara Malaysia)

As for recreational activities, tennis had always been Tuanku’s favourite game. His tennis trophies won in district tournaments were showcased at the dining hall in Istana Iskandariah. Sultan Abdul Aziz also has done much to encourage the game of tennis among Malays and the fine hard courts at the Istana Iskandariah were the scene of keen matches between Tuanku, his personal staff and friends.

Sultan Abdul Aziz with Tengku Permaisuri Ummi Kalthum and his grandson, Raja Kobat Sallehuddin.

Sultan Abdul Aziz married Raja Khadijah binti Sultan Idris I (styled Raja Perempuan) in 1911. They had one son, Raja Musa, who was later Raja Muda. Raja Perempuan Khadijah mangkat in 1939. A year later, Sultan Abdul Aziz married Che Ummi Kalthum who was styled Tengku Permaisuri. From this second marriage, Tuanku had no issue. The present DYAM Raja Di-Hilir Jaafar and YM Raja Kobat Sallehuddin, the consultant editor of SembangKuala, are amongst the grandsons of Sultan Abdul Aziz.

In 1948, Tuanku began to show poor health and was advised by his doctors to go to Lumut for a change of air. However, Tuanku mangkat suddently at the Lumut Rest House on 26 March 1948. Almarhum was interred at the Al-Ghufran Royal Mausoleum on Bukit Chandan and the posthumous title Marhum Ni’matullah was conferred. Almarhum was 61.

[1] When Sultan Abdullah was exiled to the Seychelles in 1877 after the murder of  J.W.W. Birch, he was succeeded by Sultan Yusuf Sharifuddin (1877-1887). In 1887, Raja Muda Idris, cousin of Sultan Abdullah, ascended to the throne while Raja Musa ibni Sultan Jaafar, the younger brother of Sultan Abdullah, was elected Raja Muda. Raja Muda Musa I died in 1906.
[2]Raja Sir Chulan possessed great authority in the Council. He spoke little but when he did, his words were apparently very forceful and to the point. For that, Raja Sir Chulan earned a well-deserved reputation as an outstanding Malay spokesman of his generation.

All photos apart from those from Arkib Negara Malaysia are courtesy of YM Raja Kobat Sallehuddin Ibni Almarhum Raja Muda Musa


1. Laman Rasmi Pejabat DYMM Sultan Perak
2. Portal Raja Kita Negeri Perak Darul Ridzuan
3. YM Raja Kobat Sallehuddin
4. Perak Sultan strove for his people. Life of service recalled.The Straits Times. 1948 March26.
5. Perak’s 31st Sultan- Modern Ruler whose hobby is gardening. The Straits Times. 1938 March 5.
6. M.A. Fawzi Basri. Cempaka Sari: Sejarah Kesultanan Negeri Perak. 1986.

7 thoughts on “31st Sultan of Perak: Sultan Abdul Aziz Mu’tassim Billah Shah ibni Almarhum Raja Muda Musa I (1938-1948)

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  7. Dear sir,

    I am an indépendant documentais filmmaker,
    we are currently working on a history documentary about Malaysia
    We found there is one picture on your web that is related to our topics, “Sultan Abdul Aziz (third left) reigned partly during the Japanese Occupation between 1941 and 1945. ”
    we would like to ask what is the current status of this pictures copyright?
    Is it public owned or owned by you only?
    could we ask for permission to use it in documentary?
    hope to hear from you soon

    best regards

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