DYMM Raja Zarith Sofiah, consort to the Sultan of Johor DYMM Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, was born on 14 August 1959 in Batu Gajah. She is the second daughter and third child to Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah Al-Mutawakkil Alallahi Shah when he was the Raja Muda, and YMM Raja Muzwin binti Raja Ariff Shah, who was the then Raja Puan Besar. Raja Zarith Sofiah received her primary education at Sekolah Rendah Datin Khadijah in Kuala Kangsar until standard six, following which she entered Sekolah Raja Perempuan Kelsom to continue her secondary education. She then continued her secondary education in September 1972 at Cheltenham Ladies’ College in England until the sixth form. In September 1977, she then went to Davies’ College, London and was then accepted to read Chinese Studies at Somerville College, Oxford after passing the Oxford Entrance Examination. During her years in Somerville, she visited Turkey and performed the umrah with her family in 1980. She later graduated with a Bachelors of Arts from Somerville in June 1983. She was then admitted to the degree of Master of Arts in 1986 post-matriculation, as per tradition in Oxford.
In 1983, Raja Zarith Sofiah was married to DYMM Sultan Ibrahim, who was at that time Tunku Mahkota of Johor. Two years later, she and Tunku Ibrahim performed the hajj in Makkah.
Like her late father, Raja Zarith Sofiah is talented in art. Some of her works can be seen in the souvenir book for the Pesta Lukisan Kanak-Kanak. In addition to Bahasa Malaysia and English, she could converse in Mandarin Chinese, Italian and French. Her down-to-earth personality shows and she has been described as ‘the people’s Princess’ (Raja berjiwa rakyat). During the recent floods in Johor, she had personally visited victims in flood relief centres, regardless of race. She is very supportive of and has shown great interest in the people working with emergency services.
Raja Zarith Sofiah is the Chairperson of the Community Services Committee of the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, a Royal Fellow at the School of Language and Linguistic Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and writes the column Mind Matters for The Star. She is a patron of the Johor Spastic Children’s Association, Rotary Club of Tebrau Heart Fund and the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association. Raja Zarith Sofia is currently the chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Johor Bahru.
Raja Zarith Sofiah was awarded the Seri Paduka Cura DiManjakini (SPCM) by her father, the Sultan of Perak, in March 1983. She was awarded Darjah Kerabat (Johor) and the Seri Paduka Mahkota Johor by the Sultan of Johor.
Raja Zarith Sofiah and Sultan Ibrahim have six children – Tunku Ismail Idris Abdul Majid Abu Bakar (the current Tunku Mahkota of Johor), Tunku Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah, Tunku Idris, Tunku Abdul Jalil, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tunku Abu Bakar.