On 19 April 1928, Toh Puan Hatijah binti Dato’ Seri Wangsa Ahmad gave birth to a son named Raja Azlan Shah in the former mining town of Batu Gajah, Perak. The child is the fourth and youngest son of Sultan Yussuf Izzudin ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Jalil. As the youngest son of a Sultan, there was little expectation that Raja Azlan Shah would ascend to the throne, especially with the unique appointment system for the heir apparent and heirs presumptive to the throne of Perak.
Raja Azlan Shah was raised in Batu Gajah where he received his early education at the Government English School there, now known as Sekolah Menengah Sultan Yussuf. Just like any other young royals, Raja Azlan received his secondary education at the Malay College in Kuala Kangsar.
In 1951, Raja Azlan Shah left Malaya to read law at the University of Nottingham. A hardworking and bright student, Raja Azlan Shah was subsequently conferred the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree in 1953 and was later admitted to the English Bar by the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn on 23 November 1954.
On returning from the United Kingdom in 1954, Raja Azlan Shah first served as the Assistant State Secretary for Perak but left the post within a year to pursue a career in legislation which was in line with his qualifications. He then joined the Judicial and Legal Service of the Federation of Malaya where he served as a First Class Magistrate and President of the Sessions Court, respectively. He was later appointed Federal Counsel and Deputy Public Prosecutor, Legal Adviser of the State of Pahang and Johor, Registrar of the High Court of Malay and Chief Registrar of the Federal Court of Malaysia. At the age of 37, Raja Azlan Shah was elevated to the Bench of the High Court of Malaya and became the youngest judge to be appointed in the Commonwealth. His achievements are nothing less than impressive, to say the least, for Raja Azlan Shah has always been a man of great intelligence and substance. He became a Federal Court Judge in 1973, the Chief Justice of the High Court of Malaya in 1979 and finally the Lord President (now Chief Justice) of the Federal Court of Malaysia in 1982.
After the demise of Raja Di-Hilir Kamaralzaman bin Raja Mansur on 19 July 1962, the post of Raja Kechil Bongsu was left vacant. Seeing Raja Azlan Shah’s achievements and potential, his father, Sultan Yussuf Izzudin Shah, appointed him as Raja Kechil Bongsu on 19 August 1962. Sadly, five months later saw the demise of Sultan Yussuf Izzudin, and Raja Kechil Bongsu Azlan Shah was promoted to Raja Kechil Tengah. Due to close interval between the passing of Raja Kecil Besar Lope Nur Rashid Raja Abdul Rahman on 24 May 1977 and Raja Di-Hilir Ekram ibni Almarhum Sultan Yussuf Izzudin on 9 June 1978, Raja Azlan Shah was appointed Raja Kecil Besar on 1 August 1978. On 1 July 1983, Raja Kecil Besar Azlan Shah was appointed Raja Muda following the demise of Raja Muda Musa II ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Aziz on 12 May 1983. While Perak was still mourning the loss of Almarhum Raja Muda Musa II, the state was further stunned with the sudden passing of Sultan Idris Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar Shah on 30 January 1984. Raja Muda Azlan Shah then ascended the Perak throne on 3 February 1984 as the 34th Sultan of Perak. He was officially installed on 9 December 1985 and was styled DYMM Sultan Azlan Muhibuddin Shah.
Sultan Azlan Shah was later elected the ninth Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia on 26 April 1989 when he served his five-year term until 25 April 1994.
Sultan Azlan Shah is married to Tuanku Bainun Mohd Ali in 1955, after his return from England. Sultan Azlan Shah was then a magistrate in Kuala Lumpur, and Tuanku Bainun was teaching at that time, having returned from Kirkby in England. The couple is blessed with five children – two princes and three princesses. The eldest is DYTM Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah, the current Raja Muda of Perak, followed by YAM Raja Dato’ Seri Azureen, YAM Raja Kecil Sulung Dato’ Seri Ashman Shah, YAM Raja Dato’ Seri Eleena and YAM Raja Yong Sofia.
Sultan Azlan Shah possesses a staunch enthusiasm for sports, especially hockey. His love for hockey began during his schooldays. As the centre-forward for the Perak Malays and Perak State teams, Tuanku was feared by his opponents for his speed as well as his dribbling skills on the field. Tuanku was also the president of the Malaysian Hockey Federation, president of the Asian Hockey Federation and vice-president of FIH (International Hockey Federation). More importantly, an annual international field hockey tournament held in Malaysia, The Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, is named after Tuanku. The tournament that began in 1983 as a biennial contest became an annual event after 1998, following its growth and popularity. Apart from hockey, Tuanku is also an avid golfer.
Apart from his keen involvement with sports, Tuanku is a Royal Patron to many professional and learned societies, including The Malaysian Law Society in Great Britain and Eire, The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia and The British Graduates Association of Malaysia, to name a few.
1. Arkib Negara Malaysia
2. Laman Rasmi Pejabat DYMM Sultan Perak
3. Portal Raja Kita Negeri Perak Darul Ridzuan
5. Wan Hashim Wan Teh. DYMM Sultan Azlan Shah: Biografi Bergambar. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka; 1990.
6. Khoo Kay Kim. His Majesty Sultan Azlan Shah: Biography. Pelanduk Publications; 1991.