Iskandar of Johor

Iskandar of Johor
Sultan of Johor
DYMM Sultan Iskandar Johor
Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia
Reign 26 April 1984 – 25 April 1989[1]
Predecessor Ahmad of Pahang
Successor Azlan of Perak
Regent Tunku Ibrahim Ismail
Sultan of Johor
Reign 1981–2010
Predecessor Ismail of Johor
Successor Ibrahim Ismail of Johor
Spouse Kalsom binti Abdullah[2]
née Josephine Trevorrow (1956–62)
Sultanah Zanariah (1961–2010)
10 children (2 sons and 8 daughters),[3] including:
1. Tunku Kamariah
2. Tunku Zabedah
3. Tunku Ibrahim Ismail
4. Tunku Azizah
5. Tunku Mariam
6. Tunku Noraini
7. Tunku Maimunah Ismailiah
8. Tunku Abdul Majid Idris
9. Tunku Muna Najiah
10. Tunku Masera
Full name
Mahmud Iskandar Al-Haj ibni Ismail Al-Khalidi[4]
House House of Temenggong (Johor)[5]
Father Sultan Ismail
Mother Sultanah Ungku Tun Aminah
Born 8 April 1932(1932-04-08)[6]
Johor Bahru, Johor
British Malaya
Died 22 January 2010(2010-01-22) (aged 77) [7]
Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia [7]
Burial 23 January 2010
Mahmoodiah Royal Mausoleum, Johor Bahru, Johor
Religion Sunni Islam[1]

Almarhum Sultan Mahmud Iskandar Al-Haj ibni Ismail Al-Khalidi[8][9][10][γ][δ] (8 April 1932 – 22 January 2010) was the eighth Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Malay for Paramount Chieftain, Supreme King or High King) of Malaysia, from 26 April 1984 to 25 April 1989. He succeeded his father, Sultan Ismail, to become the 24th Sultan of Johor[ε] upon the former's death in 1981. Sultan Iskandar's reign lasted for almost 29 years until his death in January 2010, upon which he was succeeded by his oldest son, Tunku Ibrahim.

As was the case with his grandfather, Sultan Ibrahim,[11] Sultan Iskandar's independent mindset resulted in strained relations with the Malaysian federal government on numerous occasions. This was more so during his days as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong,[12] whereby a number of notable public incidents involved Sultan Iskandar.[13] Nevertheless, Sultan Iskandar was reputed to show great concern to his subjects, and was held in high esteem by many of his subjects–particularly the Malays and Orang Aslis.[14]

Sultan Iskandar is reputed to have been a staunch disciplinarian, with willingness to occasionally voice personal opinions on governmental issues. On the personal side, subjects who have personally approached the Sultan in his later years described him as a person with a warm[15] and generous personality.[16] However, past critics had also argued that Sultan Iskandar was a person with a turbulent temper.[17][18] These claims were made by citing records of past notorious incidents,[19] which include an experience of being disinherited from being the Tunku Mahkota (or Crown Prince in English) by his father, in 1961, as well as a series of alleged criminal acts occurring between the 1970s and the 1990s which were published in the press and provoked widespread moral outrage within the Malaysian public.[20][21]

During his younger days as a prince, Tunku[22] Iskandar was commonly known by his first name, "Mahmud"[γ][23][24] or his full name "Mahmud Iskandar". He largely discontinued the use of his first name after he became Sultan in 1981,[25][ζ] although some people still refer to him by his full name on an occasional basis.[26][27]


Early life

Sultan Iskandar (known as Tunku Mahmud Iskandar[γ] until 1981) was the third son of Sultan Ismail ibni Sultan Ibrahim by Sultanah Ungku Tun Aminah binti Ungku Paduka Bena Sri Maharaja Utama Ahmad, and was born on 8 April 1932 in Istana Semayam, Johor Bahru.[6] (He had two older brothers, both of whom died in infancy.)[28] Tunku Mahmud received his primary and secondary education in Ngee Heng Primary School and the English College (now Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar) in Johor Bahru. In 1952, he was sent to Australia for tertiary education at the Trinity Grammar School. After graduating in 1953, Tunku Mahmud travelled to the Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom, where he enrolled into the Upper Chine School for three years.[29] Upon completing his studies, Tunku Mahmud returned to Malaysia in 1956 and briefly served as a cadet officer in the Johor Civil Service,[30] taking charge of affairs in District Affairs, Land and Treasury departments until his appointment as the Tunku Mahkota of Johor in May 1959.[14]

In 1956, Tunku Mahmud married Josephine Trevorrow, from Cornwall, United Kingdom, with whom he had four children, including the crown prince, Tunku Ibrahim Ismail. The marriage ended with divorce in 1962.[31] He remarried in 1961 – shortly before his divorce to Trevorrow, to Tengku Zanariah, who came from the Kelantan royal family. Tengku Zanariah had six children with the Sultan.[8][32] Analysts such as Kate Wharton have observed that any literal references to Trevorrow's association with Sultan Iskandar was carefully omitted in all official biographies.[33]

Tunku Mahmud was appointed the Tunku Mahkota of Johor from 1959 to 1961, and Raja Muda from 1966 to 1981, by Sultan Ismail. On 29 April 1981, he was re-appointed as the Tunku Mahkota shortly before his father's death.[34]

Sultan of Johor

On 10 May 1981, Tunku Mahmud was appointed as the Regent of Johor following the death of his father, and was sworn in as Sultan a day later, shortly before his father was buried.[35] In turn, his younger brother, Tunku Abdul Rahman (not to be confused with Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's first Prime Minister), formerly the Tunku Mahkota of Johor for twenty years under Sultan Ismail, was appointed the Tunku Bendahara of Johor, a post which he held until his death in 1989.[17] In the same year on 12 December, Sultan Iskandar was appointed as the Chancellor of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.[36]

Under the elective monarchy system of Malaysia, Sultan Iskandar was elected to be the new Yang Di-Pertuan Agong on 9 February 1984 by the council of rulers–shortly before his predecessor's term expired on 26 April 1984. He succeeded the Sultan of Pahang as the Yang-Di Pertuan Agong on 26 April.[37] A royal investature was held shortly after that–in which he was donned in the traditional suit of the Agong, whereby he was officially installed.[38] Sultan Iskandar served in the capacity as the Yang-Di Pertuan Agong until 1989, whereby the Sultan of Perak succeeded him.[39] As the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Iskandar was automatically designated under constitutional provisions as the Supreme Commander of the Malaysian Armed Forces, holding the rank of the Marshal of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, Admiral of the Fleet of the Royal Malaysian Navy and Field Marshal of the Army.[40]

On 8 April 2006, the Sultan appointed his grandson Tunku Ismail Ibrahim–the son of the Tunku Mahkota–as the Raja Muda during an investure in conjunction on his birthday. The rank of Raja Muda denotes that Tunku Ismail is third in position in terms of the order of succession to the Johor royal throne.[41]

State affairs

Sultan Iskandar held annual open house events either at Istana Bukit Serene, his official residence, or at Istana Besar.[42] On these days, the Sultan and his eldest son, the Tunku Mahkota, held special sessions whereby Johoreans came up to pay their respects to him.[43] The Sultan also bestowed honorary awards on distinguished Malaysians from his annual birthday honours list on his birthdays.[44] As a matter of convention, the state government gazetted 8 April as a state public holiday to mark his birthday.[45][46]

Shortly before he became Agong in April 1984, Sultan Iskandar issued a proposal for the Orang Aslis to be referred to as the "Bumiputera Asli" (literally, Original Sons of the Soil). The proposal was made as Sultan Iskandar suggested that the Orang Aslis maintained a distinct identity from the Malays as the majority of them were not Muslims. The proposal was subsequently scrapped, and the government made subsequent attempts to assimilate the Orang Aslis with the mainstream Malay society.[47] After his inauguration as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, he donated his Agong's salary to various scholarship boards that were open to Malaysians of all races.[48]

Steps to the main hall of Istana Besar, Johor Bahru

Sultan Iskandar issued a decree in 2007 which only allowed residences and properties owned by the Sultan and the Tunku Mahkota to be called Istana, while properties belonging to other members of the royal family are to be known as "Kediaman". The terms "Istana" and "Kediaman" are translated as "Palace" and "Residences" in English, respectively.[49] The following December, Sultan Iskandar gave his endorsement for the state government to gazette a proposed legislation which bans Muslims in the state from practicing Yoga, citing that Hindu elements in the exercise went against Islamic teachings. Applications to seek the Sultan's consent came from the state religious council, who acted under the instructions of the National Fatwa Council.[50][51]

Sultan Iskandar graced the official landmark opening of the Sultan Iskandar customs, immigration and quarantine complex on 1 December 2008, in the presence of the Tunku Mahkota and several key cabinet ministers. The complex was named in honour of the Sultan,[52] who expressed optimism in its success during his opening speech.[53][54]

Foreign relations

Since his ascension to the throne, Sultan Iskandar fostered particularly close neighbourly ties with Singapore, by developing a personal rapport with top Singaporean leaders. This practice has also been taken up by his sons, the Tunku Mahkota and Tunku Bendahara.[55] Media reports highlighted the particularly warm reception which leaders of both countries received whenever they visited each other's domains,[56][57] particularly in July 1988, when Sultan Iskandar's visit to Singapore marked[58] the first official visit by any Yang di-Pertuan Agong since 1957.[59][60] Between these years, Sultan Iskandar has been awarded or been given the following awards by Singaporean political leaders:

  • 1988: Then-Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong received the Dato' Paduka Mahkota Johor (Kehormat) from the Sultan himself[61]
  • 2007: Sultan Iskandar was presented with the Honorary Master Parachutist Wing by then-Singapore Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean[62]
  • 2007: Conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws by the National University of Singapore.[62]

Relations with Singapore took a dive after the International Court of Justice ruled in Singapore's favour following a long legal battle over the sovereignty of Pedra Branca. At the inaugural session of the 12th Johor State Assembly in 2008, the Sultan stated his stand on Malaysia's sovereignty over Pedra Branca, and vowed to find legal means to retrieve the island's sovereignty.[63]

Sultan Iskandar also fostered a fairly close relationship with the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, particularly during his days as the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong.[64] In 2006, they were again seen together in public, after Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah made a state visit to Johor to express his interest in Iskandar Development Region.[65]



Prior to his life as the Sultan or Agong, and even during the 1980s and early 1990s, Tunku Mahmud's reputation was more or less marred by a number of alleged controversial incidents which received occasional attention from the media. One of these earliest incidents was the loss of his status as Tunku Mahkota in 1961—a position which his father, Sultan Ismail, appointed to him two years earlier, citing reasons of alleged misbehaviour[13] after confidential reports accusing him of incarcerating a policeman reached the Sultan.[66] Tunku Iskandar's younger brother, Tunku Abdul Rahman[22] was appointed as the Tunku Mahkota in favour of him. Nevertheless, in 1966, Tunku Iskandar was appointed the Raja Muda—which puts him second in line to the throne.[32] In April 1981, Tunku Mahmud was reinstated as Tunku Mahkota shortly before his father's death the following month and was subsequently installed as the Sultan of Johor,[67] under the orders of his father.[35]

However, some eyewitnesses challenged the legitimacy of Tunku Mahmud's reappointment as the Tunku Mahkota, by arguing that they witnessed Sultan Ismail already having lapsed into coma at the time of his appointment as the Regent.[66] Records stated that Sultan Ismail lapsed into a coma on 8 May, three days before his death.[68] Relations with the Menteri Besar of Johor, Othman Saat deteriorated when the latter questioned Tunku Iskandar's legitimacy to the throne, which led to an incident which saw the Sultan issuing an order to the Menteri Besar to vacate his office within 24 hours, shortly after Sultan Ismail's death, citing reasons for the need for that office space for his own. The Menteri Besar heeded his order, though the Sultan did not move in as he had said.[69] Othman Saat subsequently resigned the following year as the Menteri Besar.[13]

Allegations of criminal misconduct

In 1972, Tunku Mahmud was charged for causing assault with a mace to two men for overtaking his car and was convicted the following year.[70] A year later, reports also surfaced another similar attack upon a young couple, when Tunku Iskandar, together with his bodyguard, attacked them with chemicals and a mace after having offended him. Another alleged incident took place at about this time when Tunku Mahmud chained up two policemen in a dog kennel for a day after having angered him.[71]

Five years later, Tunku Mahmud was charged and convicted of manslaughter[72] after shooting and killing a man near his private helicopter whom he took to be a smuggler. In both cases, his father, Sultan Ismail, intervened and granted official pardons to Tunku Mahmud.[73][74][75] Similarly, his eldest son, Tunku Ibrahim Ismail, was convicted in the 1980s of shooting dead a man in a nightclub during a feud, but was quickly pardoned.[76]

In 1987, Sultan Iskandar was accused of causing the death of a golf caddy in Cameron Highlands by assault, following an incident in which the golf caddy laughed when the Sultan missed a hole. Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's first Prime Minister, pointed out that the Sultan (then the Agong) could not be prosecuted due to the immunity that was accorded to the rulers, yet he condemned Sultan Iskandar's actions at the same time. In the end the matter was let off without much public attention. The brother of the caddy – who also suffered injuries from the incident, being distressed from what he saw, subsequently ran amok in Kuala Lumpur and had to be quarantined in a mental hospital.[77][78]

Gomez Incident


In late 1992, two separate assault cases by the Sultan himself as well as his younger son, Tunku Abdul Majid Idris, on hockey coaches culminated in the stripping of immunity of rulers from prosecution. Both cases received considerable headlines in the local and international news which was aptly dubbed as "The Gomez Incident".[79][80] The incident was kicked off on 10 July 1992, when Sultan Iskandar's second son, the Tunku Bendahara–Tunku Abdul Majid Idris, lost his temper during a hockey match with the Perak hockey team after Perak won the match by a penalty stroke, and assaulted the Perak goalkeeper, Mohamed Jaafar Mohamed Vello.[81] The goalkeeper later lodged a police report on 30 July. The incident received public attention, especially when the matter was debated in parliament.[82] The incident resulted in the Malaysian Hockey Federation issuing Tunku Majid, (then second-in line to the throne after his elder brother) facing a ban of five years from participating in any tournaments following investigations.[83] Tunku Majid was later convicted of assault in January 1993, of which the chief justice sentenced him to a year in prison, on top of a RM 2000 fine. He was released on a bail, and these charges were later dropped on grounds of immunity, which was still applicable at the time when the act was committed.[84]

The Sultan responded to the ban by putting pressure on the state authorities to enforce isolation of the Johor hockey teams from all national tournaments.[82] In November 1992, Douglas Gomez, a coach for the Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar field hockey team, expressed his displeasure of being called to withdraw from a semi-final national hockey match by the Director of the Johor Education Department. The incident attracted the attention of the Sultan, who personally summoned Gomez to his palace, Istana Bukit Serene, where he was promptly reprimanded and assaulted by the Sultan.[85] Following Gomez's meeting with the Sultan, Gomez sought treatment to his face and stomach. Subsequently, he lodged a police report against the Sultan for assault. Gomez elaborated that the Sultan bodyguards, members of the Johor Military Force personnel, were merely onlookers, and that the Sultan was solely responsible for the injuries.[86]

Public responses and follow ups

The assault resulted in a public outcry over the event[87] which pressured all levels of the government right up to the top ranks of the federal government to investigate into the matter.[88] In the closing months of 1992, and also the opening months of 1993, dozens of articles mentioning misdeeds by the royal families of several states–but in particular Sultan Iskandar himself were published.[89] A good deal of these alleged misdeeds that were mentioned included the charging of exorbitant fines–way above the prescribed legal limits–upon offenders who had obstructed the Sultan's car, amongst others.[90] Sultan Iskandar, nevertheless bore the brunt of the backlash by the numerous references centered towards alleged acts of criminal wrongdoings even though many of the listed acts were committed by other members of the royal family.[91]

The vociferous spate of criticisms roused by the press prompted Members of Parliament of the Dewan Rakyat to convene a special session on 10 December 1992. All 96 parliamentarians present on that day passed a unanimous resolution[92] which called for action to curb the powers of the rulers if necessary. During the special meeting, parliamentarians disclosed past criminal records of Sultan Iskandar and his two sons, all of whom had been involved in a total of at least 23 cases of assault and manslaughter,[93][94] five of which were cases committed by the Sultan after 1981, two cases by the Tunku Mahkota and three cases by the Tunku Bendahara.[95]

A bill was passed by both the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara on 19 January and 20 January 1993 respectively.[96] The bill, which proposed to remove legal immunity was approved by six out of nine sultans[97]—but saw stiff opposition from three, two of which included the Ismail Petra, the Sultan of Kelantan and the Sultan Iskandar himself. Sultan Iskandar took up the initiative to obtain more royal support to stall the implementation of the proposed bill. The bill, which proposed to strip rulers and members of the royal families of legal immunity, would make them prosecutable by the law in any cases of proven criminal wrongdoings.[98]

Sultan Iskandar organised a rally which was to be held outside the palace with the aim of garnering public support to stall the bill's implementation. However, this was cancelled after intense pressure from the government. A report made during the rally quoted Sultan Iskandar calling upon all local civil servants to boycott state and federal functions in a show of support for his motion.[99] Meanwhile, the federal government continued to pressure the rulers into assenting to the bills, which they did after several revisions of the bill were made by the government. Following which, the proposed bill was enshrined into the Federal Constitution in March 1993.[100]

The bill allowed rulers who violated the laws to be prosecuted, while the Sedition Act of 1948 was also amended to allow public criticism of the rulers.[101] A special court was created–presided by the Lord President of the Federal Court–to empower and prosecute members of the rulers and immediate members of the royal household.[102]


Sultan Iskandar's great-grandfather, Sultan Abu Bakar was the founder of the Johor Military Force. This picture shows his grandfather, Sultan Ibrahim.

Sultan Iskandar and his family members were not prosecuted for their past violations of the law on grounds that the royal immunity was still applicable when the incidences occurred.[103] Nevertheless, shortly after the incident, Sultan Iskandar was prompted to take steps to rehabilitate his public image, which was more or less tarnished by the incident. In a public speech shortly after the episode, the Sultan was noted to have toned down somewhat on his hardline image and appeared to be somewhat more humble, appealing to Johoreans to maintain their loyalty to him.[84]

The Gomez incident also led to a review and proposal by the Federal Government in August 1993 to disband the Johor Military Force (JMF).[104] However, the bill to disband the JMF was subsequently repealed by parliament.[105][106]


Days as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia (1980s)

Shortly before his election as the Yang-Di Pertuan Agong in 1983, a spate of reports alleging Sultan Iskandar's intention to launch a coup d'état by launching a state of emergency to overthrow the government circulated within political circles, which reached Mahathir himself. The Sultan was reportedly having fostered close relations with several key military personnel, including the Army chief himself. The government subsequently took action to curb constitutional loopholes within the constitution and took to task of reducing the power of royal veto in passing legislation, culminating to a constitutional crisis in late 1983.[107] Nevertheless, during his inaugural speech as the Agong in 1984, about a month after the constitutional amendments were passed in parliament, Sultan Iskandar voiced public support for the revised constitution and pledged to act in accordance to the Prime Minister's advise.[108]

A diplomatic scandal between the United Kingdom and Malaysia broke out in 1984, when several British newspapers published pieces on Sultan Iskandar's coronation, citing the headlines such as "Killer becomes King" and "King a Killer", which enraged the Malaysian government, who demanded an apology from the British government. The British government refused to apologise on behalf of the newspapers, hence triggering tensions between the two countries.[94] Two months later, in June 1984, Sultan Iskandar in his capacity as the Agong, surprised the Malaysian public when he publicly called upon the then-Deputy Prime Minister, Musa Hitam, to make a public apology in front of the entire congregation present at the National Mosque. Sultan Iskandar, on his part, was angry over remarks which Musa made during the course of the 1983 constitutional crisis that he deemed to be disrespectful. Musa abided to the Agong's demand and boldly came forward to make the apology, which was greeted by a thunderous applause from the entire congregation. The event, which was broadcast live throughout the nation on Malaysian Radio (although the television stations abruptly terminated its broadcast halfway), was seen by many observers as an act of confrontation by the Agong to put Musa in his place.[109]

In 1988, also serving in his capacity as the Yang-Di Pertuan Agong, the Lord President of the Federal Court Tun Salleh Abas was sacked by the Agong in what led to the 1988 Malaysian constitutional crisis.[110] However, observers suggested a remarkably warm relationship[77] between then-Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad with the Agong, both of whom shared common resentment against the chief justice, Salleh Abas. In 1973, Tunku Iskandar was convicted of assault and was sentenced to six months imprisonment, of which Salleh Abas served as the public prosecutor hearing the case. As the public prosecutor, Salleh had appealed to the chief justice, Raja Azlan Shah (now the Sultan of Perak), for handing down a heavier sentence for Tunku Iskandar, which naturally earned his wrath.[20][111][112] The sacking of the Lord President, was however not without controversy, given the alleged manner in which the Agong and Prime Minister had handled the matter–including an incident which the Agong had refused to forgive the Lord President in spite of Salleh's willingness to offer his apology to the Agong, which he turned down.[113][114]

Later years (2000 onwards)

Sultan Iskandar's public call to support Abdullah Badawi's administration in October 2006 created a minor stir among Mahathir's supporters, when he remarked that "Mahathir should act like a pensioner". The call came at a time when Mahathir's spate of criticisms against Abdullah's were at its most vociferous period.[115] The Sultan was the first state ruler to publicly defend the policy of the government during the period of Mahathir's criticisms against the Abdullah administration.[116] Earlier sources however, noted Sultan Iskandar's concerns with the deepening rift between Mahathir and Abdullah and had asked to be photographed together with the two leaders during the United Malays National Organisations (UMNO) 60th anniversary celebrations in Johor Bahru.[117]

A month later, in November 2006, another small stir erupted during the launching ceremony of the Iskandar Development Region, when Sultan Iskandar voiced his opinion that the Causeway, which connects Johor and Singapore, should be removed to allow ships to pass through and promoting development of the state. He also remarked that the people should be wary of all foreigners as they were "vultures" and also urged the people not to hold them in high regard, citing his displeasure that his ancestors were "deceived" by dirty tactics employed by colonialists to build the Causeway.[118][119]

At the inaugural 12th Johor State Assembly Seating in April 2008, a minor controversy erupted when one opposition member of parliament (MP), Gwee Tong Hiang, flouted dress regulations by appearing in a lounge suit and tie instead of the usual official attire and songkok. This resulted in him being dismissed from the assembly chamber shortly before the Sultan's arrival.[120] Gwee, a Democratic Action Party (DAP) MP, reportedly argued that there was no stated order to wear the official attire and songkok and stated his desire to wear a western suit,[121] promptly drew flak from other MPs and the Menteri Besar, Abdul Ghani Othman who had earlier on met to agree to don in the official attire and songkok prior to the assembly, whereby Gwee was absent.[122] The Sultan, apparently angry at Gwee, sharply criticised him two days later[123] and publicly called upon Gwee to seek an audience with him.[124]


During his days as the Agong, Sultan Iskandar was often seen in public carrying a pistol in his waistband, which drew considerable concern and discomfort from the Malaysian public due to his past record of criminal offending.[125] He was also reputed to have led a flamboyant lifestyle, which also drew similar skepticism.[125] He was also known to be a motorbike enthusiast; documentaries on national patriotism would feature Sultan Iskandar, the then-Agong, riding out on a police motorbike and his flamboyant appearance during a few public ceremonies. These documentaries drew criticisms from the Malaysian public, who felt that the television clips of Sultan Iskandar were inappropriate for its theme and national image.[126]


Several projects and institutions were named after the Sultan, including:

Educational institutions

  • Institute Sultan Iskandar of Urban Habitat and Highrise, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia[127]
  • SMK Tengku Mahmud Iskandar, Sungai Mati, Muar[128]
  • SMK Tunku Mahmood Iskandar, Parit Saidi, Batu Pahat[129]
  • SK Tengku Mahmood Iskandar 1 and 2, Pontian[130]


Bangunan Sultan Iskandar–Customs, Immigration and Quarantine centre was opened in December 2008.


One of his grandsons (the son of his second son, Tunku Abdul Majid), Tunku Mahmood Iskandar, was named after him.[144] Some of his children and grandchildren are also similarly named after his forebears, notably his older son, Tunku Ibrahim, who was named after the Sultan's grandfather, Sultan Ibrahim.[27] Sultan Iskandar also followed his grandfather's and father's footsteps of using the royal monogram "S.I.". The monogram's letters represent the initials of their title and names respectively.[145]


Sultan Iskandar is a fourth generation descendant of Sultan Abu Bakar, who in turn was the son of Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim, the Temenggong of Johor.[η][146] In turn, some of Daeng Ibrahim's patrilineal ancestors were also Temenggongs of Johor serving under their respective Sultans. It is from this ancestral heritage to which the dynastical name of his lineage is known—Temenggong dynasty.[5] The preceding Sultan prior to Sultan Abu Bakar, Ali and his predecessors who ruled Johor from the 17th to 19th centuries, were descended from Abdul Jalil, a Bendahara. Abdul Jalil became Sultan in 1699 after the death of Sultan Mahmud Shah and adopted the title Sultan Abdul Jalil Shah IV. In this pattern, the names of the dynasties which the ruling houses of Johor were known.[147] The Temenggong dynasty is also related to the Bendahara dynasty by bloodline; genealogical records show that Sultan Abdul Jalil IV is also a direct patrilineal ancestor of Sultan Iskandar.[148]

Personal life

The Sultan and his consort posing for a photograph in their residence

As a youth, Tunku Mahmud qualified as a pilot, having trained in handling light and medium aircraft and helicopters. He was also apt in handling motorcycles, reportedly possessing the skills to strip a motorcycle down to its component parts and then reassembling it.[14]

The Sultan is also well-known for his passion in many types of open-air sports, especially golf. In his later years, he spent much of his free time at the Royal Johor Country Club.[14][156] In addition, he also played tennis and squash on a regular basis.[32] Within private circles, Sultan Iskandar was fondly known as "Moody", a testimony to his first name "Mahmud."[27] His son, Tunku Abdul Majid, inherited his interest in amateur golf and once served as the President of the Malaysian Golf Association.[157]

He is involved in the 1988 Malaysian Constituition crisis[158] which the then prime minister Mahathir Mohammad use his killing of an innocent caddy with a golf club as a leverage to hijack the Malaysian judiaciry system by sacking the then Lord of President of the Federal Court of Malaysia (Now known as Chief Justice of Malaysia), Tun Haji Mohamed Salleh bin Abas in an effort to claim his political success.

In addition, he kept a large collection of pets, particularly Peacocks, at his Istana Bukit Serene compound, where he lived with the Sultanah.[15][16] In his youth, Tunku Iskandar resided at Istana Bukit Coombe, located at the top of Coombe Hill. It was built upon Dutch architectural designs, and was later renamed Istana Bukit Iskandar. The palace was later demolished in 1987, six years after Sultan Iskandar succeeded his late father as Sultan.[159]


After undergoing a coronary bypass operation in the United States in 2000, close aides reported that Sultan Iskandar slowed down somewhat in his pace of life and took to playing golf only on an occasional basis.[14] A bout with bronchitis in January 2008 saw the Sultan being briefly admitted and treated in a local hospital.[160]


Sultan Iskandar died on 22 January 2010 at the Puteri Specialist Hospital after being admitted earlier in the day following an illness.[7] Although he died around 7.15 p.m, his death was only officially announced at 11.20 p.m by the Menteri Besar of Johor Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman. He was buried in the Mahmoodiah Royal Mausoleum the next day at 2 pm. Before that, the public was allowed to pay their last respects to Sultan Iskandar from early morning.[161]

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak[162] cut short his visit to India to attend his funeral. Other dignitaries who paid their last respects are the current Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah, Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang, Tengku Mahkota Tengku Abdullah of Pahang, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah of Selangor, Tuanku Muhriz, the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan, Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak, Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah and Regent of Kelantan Tengku Muhammad Faris Petra. Also present were Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.[161]

His son the Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ibrahim Ismail was proclaimed as the next Sultan of Johor also on 23 January.[163]


Sultan Iskandar at the ninth Pasir Gudang International Kite Festival, 2004

α. ^ Al-Mutawakkil Alallah (also spelled in Arabic as Motawakkil Alallah), which means "He who puts his trust in God" is an Islamic title used by the Sultan. (Najeebabadi, pg 465)

β. ^ In Islamic cultures, the title Al-Marhum means "to one whom mercy has been shown. This is used for Muslim rulers who are deceased. (Schimmel (1989), pg 59)

γ. a b c His first name, Mahmud, is also sometimes spelled as Mahmood by some sources. Bowker-Saur, pg 297

δ. ^ In Malaysian royalty, ibni means "son of" in English, derived from the Arabic term "ibn. Most laymen would otherwise use the term "bin" to denote "son of" in their names. Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (1978), pg 390

ε. ^ Section B Planning and Implementation, Part 3 Physical Planning Initiatives, CHAPTER 13, Johor Bahru City Centre, Iskandar Malaysia, pg 6, "... This was followed later by the 21st Sultan of Johor – Sultan Abu Bakar (1862–1895) who laid the foundation for developing Johor into a modern state. ..." NB: Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor is the great-grandfather of Sultan Iskandar.

ζ. ^ On Sultan Iskandar's 69th birthday, various companies and organisations published congratulatory advertisements wishing him well for the birthday. In these advertisements, the Sultan was addressed by his honorary titles and name: Duli Yang Maha Mulia Baginda Al Mutawakkil Alallah Sultan Iskandar Ibni Almarhum Sultan Ismail, D.K. Sultan Dan Yang Dipertuan Bagi Negeri Dan Jajahan Takluk Johor Darul Ta'zim. (His first name "Mahmud" was not mentioned.) Advertisements, 8 April 2001, pg 2–3, 5–7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17–19, New Sunday Times Special (Sultan of Johor's Birthday)

η. ^ The Temenggong is a high-ranking Malay official in ancient times, who is responsible to the Sultan. The duty of the Temenggong is to maintain law and order within the kingdom. In the case of Johor during the 19th century, the Sultan's powers were gradually diminished over the decades and it was under Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim when his authority supersedes those of the Sultan, effectively becoming Johor's paramount ruler. (Sardesai (1989), pg 58)

θ. ^ Haji Othman (2002), pg 24 "... Acheh yang berasal dari keluarga Naqib (ketua golongan Sayyid) di Hadramaut, Yaman, iaitu Sayyid Zainal Abidin bin Sayyid Abdullah Al 'Aidrus ke dalam keluarga Tun Jenal Bendahara Sekudai (putera Tun Seri Lanang) sebagai menantu telah membawa suatu era baru dalam sejarah pemerintahan keluarga bendahara Johor Lama yang merupakan pewaris kepada keluarga bendahara-bendahara Melaka."

ι. ^ The title Tun is an ancient Malay title used to refer to people of royal lineage. In modern Malaysia it is the highest title bestowed upon commoners by the rulers. The title Daing (also spelled Daeng) is a Buginese title; Temenggong Ibrahim inherited this title from his matrilineal Buginese ancestors. (Mackie (1964), pg 157)

κ. ^ Not to be confused with Bendahara Tun Ali (the son of Mani Purindan), the Bendahara of Melaka and the uncle of Muzaffar Shah of Malacca. (Brown (1971), pg 51)

λ. ^ Not to be confused with Tun Mutahir of Malacca, who lived between the 15th to 16th centuries. Tun Mutahir of Pahang lived during the 19th century.


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Regnal titles
Preceded by
Ahmad Shah of Pahang
(Sultan of Pahang)
Yang di-Pertuan Agong
(King of Malaysia)

Succeeded by
Sultan Azlan Shah
(Sultan of Perak)
Preceded by
Sultan Ismail
Sultan of Johor
Succeeded by
Sultan Ibrahim Ismail

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