Ismail Nasiruddin of Terengganu

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Ismail Nasiruddin Shah
Sultan of Terengganu
CO 1069-504-14 (7893276778).jpg
Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia
Reign 21 September 1965 – 20 September 1970
Predecessor Putra of Perlis
Successor Abdul Halim of Kedah
Sultan of Terengganu
Reign 16 December 1945 – 20 September 1979
Coronation 6 June 1949
Predecessor Sultan Ali Shah
Successor Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah
Born (1907-01-24)24 January 1907
Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, Siam
Died 20 September 1979(1979-09-20) (aged 72)
Istana Badariah, Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia
Burial 21 September 1979
Abidin Mosque, Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu, Malaysia
Spouse Tengku Intan Zaharah (m. 1944-1979)
Issue Mahmud of Terengganu
Tengku Zaleha
Full name
Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Zainal Abdin III
Father Sultan Zainal Abidin III
Mother Cik Maimunah binti Abdullah
Religion Sunni Islam

Almarhum Sultan Sir Ismail Nasiruddin Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Zainal Abidin III KCMG (24 January 1907 – 20 September 1979) was the fourth Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia (roughly equivalent to King) of Malaysia, and the fifteenth Sultan of Terengganu.[1]

Early career

The date of his birth has been given as either 16 March 1906[2] or as 24 January 1907,[3] the latter being the one more often used. Born in Kuala Terengganu, he was the fifth, but third surviving, son of Sultan Zainal Abidin III ibni Almarhum Sultan Ahmad II (reigned 1881–1918). His mother was a Thai Muslim convert, Cik Maimunah binti Abdullah, who died in 1918.[4]

Educated at the Kuala Terengganu Malay School, he then went to the Malay College.[5] In 1929, he entered the Terengganu administrative service. In 1934, he was appointed Assistant Collector of Land Revenue in Kuala Terengganu.

In 1935, he became aide-de-camp to his elder half brother Sultan Sulaiman, accompanying him to the coronation of King George VI on 12 May 1937. In 1939, he became Registrar of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. He also served as the Land Court Registrar. In 1940, he was appointed a minister of the Terengganu state cabinet, having been made Tengku Paduka Raja. In 1941, he became First Class Magistrate and was promoted Terengganu State Secretary on 15 November 1941.[6]

Succession dispute

Sultan Sulaiman Badrul Alam Shah of Terengganu died on 25 September 1942 of blood poisoning. The Japanese Military Administration, which occupied Malaya at that time, proclaimed his son as the fourteenth Sultan of Terengganu bearing the title Sultan Ali Shah. On 18 October 1943, the Thai government under prime minister Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram took over the administration of Terengganu from the Japanese and continued to recognise Sultan Ali Shah.[7]

When the British returned after the end of World War II, they declined to recognise Sultan Ali Shah. Allegedly, Sultan Ali was too much in debt and had been too close to the Japanese during their occupation.[8] According to Sultan Ali, the British Military Administration wanted him removed for his refusal to sign the Malayan Union treaty.[9]

The British Military Administration also disapproved of Sultan Ali's character, where he was said to have repudiated his official consort, Tengku Seri Nila Utama Pahang (the daughter of Sultan Abu Bakar of Pahang) and had contracted an unsuitable second marriage to a former prostitute.[10]

On 5 November 1945 the Terengganu State Council of thirteen members announced the dismissal of Sultan Ali and the appointment of Tengku Ismail as the fifteenth Sultan of Terengganu. Tengku Ismail became known as Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah and was installed on 6 June 1949 at Istana Maziah, Kuala Terengganu.[11] Sultan Ismail's descendants have since ruled Terengganu.

Sultan Ali continued to dispute his dismissal until his death on 17 May 1996.[12]

Election as Deputy King

Sultan Ismail served as Deputy Yang di-Pertuan Agong between 21 September 1960 to 20 September 1965.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong

Sultan Ismail was elected the fourth Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia and served in that office from 21 September 1965 until 20 September 1970.

Sultan Ismail's reign was at a time when Malaysia began to be active in making its presence felt in the international arena, having secured a more solid foundation and confidence as a Federation of Malay States, Sabah and Sarawak. There were many visits by important world and South East Asian leaders, including US President Lyndon B Johnson, West German President Lubke, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Shah of Iran, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, General Ne Win of Burma and Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky of South Vietnam. The security of the country was more secure during his reign as the Konfrontasi with Indonesia ended and the Philippines sought normal relations (after its claim of Sabah) with Malaysia. Due to health reasons he wanted to resign as Yang di-Pertuan Agong in 1969, but was persuaded by Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman not to do so as the next Yang di-Pertuan Agong would be Tunku Abdul Rahman's nephew (Tuanku Abdul Halim of Kedah) and the Tunku felt it was not right for him to continue in office during that time.[13] In his farewell speech at the end of his and Sultan Ismail's term as Yang Di Pertuan Agong, Tunku Abdul Rahman declared that the event signified "the end of the first chapter of Malaysia's history".[14]

Sultan Ismail was reigning as Yang di-Pertuan Agong when the May 13 incident sparked racial riots in Kuala Lumpur and parliament was suspended. Despite this unfortunate event Tunku Abdul Rahman described Sultan Ismail's reign as "a most eventful and glorious one".[15] Sultan Ismail launched the Rukun Negara, the Malaysian declaration of national philosophy on 31 August 1970.

Death and funeral

Sultan Ismail died at Istana Badariah, Kuala Terengganu on 20 September 1979 and was buried a day later at the Abidin Mosque, Royal Mausoleum, Kuala Terengganu.[16] He was succeeded by Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah, his eldest son.

Family life

Sultan Ismail married four times:

  1. Che Wan Aminah binti Che Wan Chik, by whom he had two daughters
  2. in 1929 to Tengku Tengah Zaharah binti Tengku Setia Raja Pahang Tengku Umar bin Sultan Ahmad Pahang (1911–1979; divorced) by whom he had seven children including his successor as sultan of Terengganu, Sultan Mahmud
  3. Che Jarah binti Abdullah, by whom he had one daughter
  4. in 1944 to Tengku Intan Zaharah binti Tengku Setia Raja Terengganu Tengku Hitam Umar (1928-2015) sometime Tengku Ampuan Besar of Terengganu, Raja Permaisuri Agong and currently Tengku Tua of Terengganu[17]


National and Sultanal Honours

Foreign Honours


  1. Sultan Ismail was an accomplished amateur photographer and is the father of Modern Malaysian Photography [1]. His photographic works date from 1923 to 1979. An authoritative monograph of his life as photographer HRH Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah: Pioneering Malaysian Photography 1923-71 (ISBN 978-967-11726-0-5) was written and published in August 2013 by his grandson and heir of his photograph archives, Raja Mohd Zainol Ihsan Shah.
  2. Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah as photographer is referenced on page 136 of Photographer: Webster's Timeline History 1890-1989 Published by Icon Group International (2009).
  3. Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah's as Malaysia's Yang Di Pertuan Agong was one of 73 world leaders who left messages in the silicon disc left on the moon's Sea of Tranquility by Neil Armstrong and the crew of Apollo 11 [19]


  1. Royal Ark
  2. Finestone, Jeffrey and Shaharil Talib (1994) The Royal Families of South-East Asia Shahindera Sdn Bhd
  3. Buyong Adil (1974) Sejarah Terengganu p 205 DBP
  4. Buyong Adil Op Cit p 140
  6. Buyong Adil, op cit, p. 205
  7. Willan, HC (1945) Interviews with the Malay rulers CAB101/69, CAB/HIST/B/4/7
  8. Willan, op cit
  9. Wan Ramli Wan Mohamad (1993) Pengakuan Tengku Ali Mengapa Saya Diturunkan Dari Takhta Terengganu Fajar Bakti, Kuala Lumpur
  10. Willan, op cit
  11. Buyong Adil Op Cit p205
  12. Wan Ramli Wan Mohamad (1993) Op Cit
  13. Tunku Abdul Rahman (1977) Looking Back pp 343-344 Pustaka Antara, kuala Lumpur
  14. The Straits Times, 4 September 1970
  15. The Star - Reviews of the First Five Kings (1975)
  16. (22 September 1979) New Straits Times
  17. Finestone, Jeffrey and Shaharil Talib (1994) Op Cit
  18. Angelfire
  19. Tahir Rahman (2009) "We Came In Peace for All Mankind: The Untold Story of the Apollo 11 Silicon Disc"
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Tuanku Syed Putra
(Raja of Perlis)
Yang di-Pertuan Agong
(King of Malaysia)
Succeeded by
Tuanku Abdul Halim
(Sultan of Kedah)
Preceded by
Sultan Ali Shah
Sultan of Terengganu
Succeeded by
Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah