Ismail of Johor

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Ismail of Johor
Sultan of Johor
Reign 9 May 1959 - 10 May 1981
Coronation 10 February 1960
Predecessor Sultan Ibrahim
Successor Sultan Iskandar
Tunku Mahkota of Johor
Reign 1895 - 1959
Spouse Sultanah Ungku Tun Aminah binti Ungku Ahmad (1920-1977)
Tengku Nora binti Tengku Panglima Raja Ahmad (1977-1981)
Issue Tunku Iskandar
Tunku Abdul Rahman
Full name
Duli Yang Maha Mulia Al-Marhum Sultan Sir Ismail Al-Khalidi ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Sir Ibrahim Al-Masyhur, DK, DMN, SMN, SPMJ[1][2]
House House of Temenggong[3]
Father Sultan Ibrahim
Born (1894-10-28)28 October 1894
Istana Semayam, Johor
Died 10 May 1981(1981-05-10) (aged 86)
Johor Bahru, Johor
Burial 11 May 1981
Mahmoodiah Royal Mausoleum, Johor Bahru, Johor
Religion Sunni Islam

Sultan Ismail Al-Khalidi Ibni Sultan Ibrahim Al-Masyhur, KBE, CMG, was the 23rd Sultan of Johor in Malaysia.

Early life[edit]

Tunku Ismail was born on 28 October 1894 at Istana Semayam, Johor and was the eldest son of Tunku Ibrahim (later Sultan Ibrahim) by his first wife, Sultanah Ungku Maimunah binti Ungku Abdul Majid.[4][5] He was made the Tunku Mahkota of Johor on 2 November 1895, when Tunku Ibrahim was installed as the Sultan of Johor following Sultan Abu Bakar's death. He spent several years in Perak, where he was enrolled into the Malay College Kuala Kangsar.[6] In March 1912, Tunku Ismail was sent to England to receive his tertiary education in a boarding school; his brothers Tunku Abu Bakar and Tunku Ahmad later followed suit.[7]

Regnal career[edit]

Tunku Ismail was made the state's regent to take care of state affairs in 1928 as Sultan Ibrahim began to spend more time travelling overseas.[8] In 1937, Tunku Ismail appointed a state executive councillor and a family acquaintance, Onn Jaafar as his private secretary and entrusted him to run the Johore Pavilion at the world fair in San Francisco the following year. Upon Onn's return from San Francisco, Tunku Ismail invited Onn to resume his former duties, which he accepted.[9] Shortly before the Japanese armies occupied Johor during the Japanese Invasion of Malaya, Tunku Ismail fled to England for fear that the Japanese military government may manipulate him onto the throne in his father's stead.[10]

Tunku Ismail returned to Johor after the war and was confronted with Malay nationalist movements which had erupted as a result of the rulers' dissatisfaction with the Malayan Union scheme. While Sultan Ibrahim faced widespread criticisms from the Malay grassroots and nationalist leaders due to his initial willingness to sign the Malayan Union scheme treaties with Sir Harold MacMichael, Tunku Ismail maintained a neutral relations between the British government and the Malay nationalist leaders.[11] Nevertheless, Tunku Ismail officiated the opening ceremony of the United Malays National Organisation's (UMNO) first congress which was held at Istana Besar in May 1946 while Sultan Ibrahim was residing in London.[12]

Tunku Ismail took over the responsibility to state affairs during the late 1940s and 1950s, and presented upon his father's behalf at official functions. On 27 August 1957, Tunku Ismail was one of the nine royal signatories at the royal signing ceremony of the Malaya's Federal Constitution. Nevertheless, he faced mild opposition from a few nationalist leaders in Johor, notably Ungku Abdullah, the party leader of Persatuan Kebangsaan Melayu Johor (PKMJ), a nationalist party that advocated Johor's secession from Malaya. A few days before signing the Federal constitution, Ungku Abdullah cabled to Sultan Ibrahim to boycott the signing ceremony, who notified Ungku Abdullah that he had since delegated the state's executive powers to Tunku Ismail. Ungku Abdullah called for Tunku Ismail to boycott the signing ceremony, who quickly turned down his calls.[13]

Sultan of Johor[edit]

He was crowned at Throne Room of the Istana Besar, Johor Bahru on the 10 February 1960 and was the last Johor Sultan to be officially crowned.[14][15] The Sultan was known to be very close to his subjects; he made annual trips to visit selected villages in all eight districts of Johor and frequently acquainted himself with the civil servants working for the state government.[16]

He was the first Chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia when the institution was established in 1975.[17]

In August 1977, both Sultan Ismail and his wife, Ungku Tun Aminah binti Ungku Ahmad, met with a car accident in Kulai. While she was permanently left in a vegetative state until her death a month later owing to brain damage, the sultan escaped with only minor injuries.[18] Nevertheless, the ordeal passed rather quickly, and Sultan Ismail remarried in November 1977 to Tengku Nora. Tengku Nora was subsequently crowned as Sultanah the following October.[19]

Sultan Ismail died on 10 May 1981 and was interred at the Makam Mahmoodiah royal mausoleum, Johor Bahru.

Succession issues[edit]

On 10 August 1961, he stripped his eldest son Tunku Mahmood Iskandar, of the post of Tunku Mahkota due to misconduct–although he was given the post of Raja Muda on 1 December 1966. His second son, Tunku Abdul Rahman (1933–1989) became the Tunku Mahkota instead. However, shortly before his death in April 1981, Sultan Ismail reappointed Tunku Iskandar as the Tunku Mahkota, who succeeded him the following month.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Sultan Ismail was an animal lover was instrumental in the setting up of the Johor Zoo. He also had a collection of wild animals ranging from deers to crocodiles. Among the Chinese community in Johor, he was known affectionately as "Lau Sultan", literally meaning "an old or elderly Sultan".[17]


A fat, meek and quiet ruler, Sultan Ismail married two official wives who served as Sultanahs of Johor. They were:

  • Sultanah Ungku Tun Aminah binti Ungku Ahmad (d. 1977), a second cousin of the Sultan, married on 30 August 1920.[21] Sultanah Aminah died in a road accident in 1977. He had seven children with her, of which only three survived to adulthood:
  • Tunku Abdul Jalil (1924-1925)
  • Tunku Kalthum Maimunah (1927-1930)
  • Tunku Abdul Rahman (1930-1930)
  • Tunku Mahmud (later Sultan Iskandar) (born 1932-2010)[22][23]
  • Tunku Abdul Rahman (1933-89)[24]
  • Tunku Helen (1936-1937)
  • Tunku Tun Maimunah (born 1939)[22]
  • Sultanah Tengku Nora binti Tengku Panglima Raja Ahmad, member of the Kelantanese royal household, married in October 1978. She is the sister of Tengku Zanariah (next Sultanah), the spouse of Sultan Iskandar.[25]


Several institutions and places were named after Sultan Ismail, including:

Honours (foreign)[edit]



  1. ^ The Statesman's Year-book: Statistical and Historical Annual of the States of the World for the Year 1981-1982 (1981), pg 821
  2. ^ In Islamic cultures, the title Al-Marhum means "to one whom mercy has been shown. This is used for Muslim rulers who are deceased. Islamic Names: An Introduction, Schimmel, pg 59
  3. ^ Nadarajah, pg 44
  4. ^ Johor14 retrieved January 6, 2008
  5. ^ Johor12 retrieved January 26, 2009
  6. ^ Andressen (1992), pg 108
  7. ^ One hundred years of Singapore: being some account of the capital of the Straits Settlements from its foundation by Sir Stamford Raffles on the 6th February 1819 to the 6th February 1919 (1921), pg 455
  8. ^ Winstedt (1992), pg 175
  9. ^ Ong (1998), pg 262
  10. ^ Bayly, Harper (2005, pg 221
  11. ^ Kratoska (2001), pg 127
  12. ^ Istana Besar, birthplace of Umno, 22 March 2009, Fauziah Ismail, New Straits Times
  13. ^ Sopiee (2005), p. 81
  14. ^ Johore Ruler Crowned, The Straits Times, February 11, 1960
  15. ^ Scott standard postage stamp catalogue, Scott Publishing Co, 1978
  16. ^ Who's who in Malaysia ... & profiles of Singapore (1982), pg 13
  17. ^ a b c Road renamed after 3rd Johor Sultan from Treacher Road, DEBBIE CHAN, June 9, 2007, The Star (Malaysia)
  18. ^ Andressen (1992), pg 123
  19. ^ Andressen (1992), pg 125-6
  20. ^ Information Malaysia (1985), pg 58
  21. ^ Morais (1969), pg xxii
  22. ^ a b Johor15 retrieved January 6, 2008
  23. ^ Morais (1965), pg xxii
  24. ^ Who's who in Malaysia ... & Profiles of Singapore, Morais (1967), pp. xxii; Selamat Johor Tanda Kenangan
  25. ^ Morais (1979), pg 67
  26. ^ Pengenalan, Laman Web Rasmi Perpustakaan Sultan Ismail, retrieved February 1, 2009
  27. ^ Malaysia-Johor


  • Andressen, PaulMads Lange fra Bali: Og Hans Efterslaegt Sultanerne af Johor, published by Odense Universitetsforlag, 1992, ISBN 87-7492-851-1
  • Bayly, Christopher Alan; Harper, Timothy Norman, Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945, Harvard University Press, 2005, ISBN 0-674-01748-X
  • Colonial Reports - Annual, by Great Britain Colonial Office, published by H.M. Stationery Office, 1939
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  • Makepeace, Walter; Brooke, Gilbert Edward, One Hundred Years of Singapore: Being Some Account of the capital of the Straits Settlements from its foundation by Sir Stamford Raffles on the 6th February 1819 to the 6th February 1919, published by J. Murray, 1921
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Regnal titles
Preceded by
Sultan Ibrahim
Sultan of Johor
Succeeded by
Sultan Iskandar