DK. (Johor), SPMJ. (Johor), SPCM. (Perak)
Her Royal Highness Raja Zarith Sofiah Binti Almarhum Sultan Idris Al Mutawakkil Alallahi Shah was born on 14 August 1959 at the Batu Gajah Hospital in Perak. She is the second daughter and the third child of His Royal Highness Paduka Seri Sultan Perak Almarhum Paduka Seri Sultan Idris al-Mutawakkil Alallahi Shah Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar Shah Kadasallah and Her Royal Highness Raja Perempuan Perak, Almarhum Raja Perempuan Muzwin Binti Almarhum Raja Dato’ Sri Ariff Shah.
HRH Raja Zarith received her early education at the Datin Khadijah School in Kuala Kangsar until she completed Standard Six. She continued her secondary education at the Raja Perempuan Kalsom School, also in Kuala Kangsar. In September 1972, she furthered her studies at the Cheltenham Ladies’ College in England until Form Six.
HRH Raja Zarith later enrolled into Davies College in London in 1977. In 1978, she was offered a place at Somerville College at the University of Oxford after she passed the entrance examinations. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1983.
HRH Raja Zarith Sofiah had the opportunity to accompany her parents, the Sultan of Perak and the Raja Perempuan of Perak, to several countries including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Iran, Turkey, Italy and England. She also performed the Umrah together with her parents and other family members in 1980.
HRH Raja Zarith Sofiah is also a talented linguist. She had learned languages including Chinese, French and Italian. While furthering her studies at the University of Oxford, Raja Zarith had chosen Mandarin as her degree course.
HRH inherited her flair for art from her father. Her artwork and designs have been featured several times in souvenir books, among others.
Her friendliness, concern for her subjects and deep appreciation of the sacrifices of the security forces in defending the sovereignty of the country has made Tuanku Raja Zarith Sofiah respected, loved and admired by all, especially by the people of Johor.
In March 1983, her father, HRH the Sultan of Perak awarded the title ‘Seri Paduka Cura Si Manja Kini’ to HRH Raja Zarith Sofiah.
In 1982, Tuanku Raja Zarith Sofiah married HRH the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, who was, at that time, the Tunku Mahkota Johor. The solemnisation ceremony was held at the Ubudiah Mosque in Kuala Kangsar on 22 September 1982. The sitting-in-state ceremony was held at the Iskandariah Palace in Bukit Chandan, Perak on 12 September 1983. The sitting-in-state ceremony on the groom’s side was held in Johor Bahru from 19 to 20 September 1983. Tuanku Raja Zarith Sofiah was 23 years old when she married the Tunku Mahkota Johor. The royal couple is blessed with six children, five princes and a princess. The eldest prince, Tunku Ismail is currently the Tunku Mahkota Johor. Her other children are Tunku Aminah, Tunku Idris, Tunku Abdul Jalil, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tunku Abu Bakar.
After marrying HRH Sultan Ibrahim, she was awarded the title, ‘Her Royal Highness the Consort of Tunku Mahkota Johor Raja Zarith Sofiah’. Upon the demise of Almarhum Sultan Iskandar Ibni Almarhum Sultan Ismail, Tunku Mahkota was proclaimed the next Sultan of Johor with the title of HRH Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, while Tuanku Raja Zarith Sofiah carried the title of HRH Raja Zarith Sofiah binti Idris Shah.
HRH Raja Zarith Sofiah is the Chancellor of University of Technology, Malaysia (UTM) and a Fellow at the Language and Linguistic Faculty at the National University of Malaysia (UKM).
Tuanku’s community activities include being Patron of the Johor Cerebral Palsy Association, Malaysian English Language Teachers Association and Royal Adviser of the Malaysian Red Crescent Society. On 28 November 2012, Tuanku consented to the launch of the Raja Zarith Sofiah Negeri Johor Foundation. The foundation was established to raise funds to conduct various education programmes. It also aims to spread the Islamic way of learning.
In February 2012, Her Royal Highness delivered a lecture at Somerville College, University of Oxford, entitled “We Are Like You: What Malaysian Muslims Have In Common With Other Communities Around the World.” She participated in the May 2012 Ditchley Roundtable Conference, jointly organised by the Oxford Centre of Islamic Studies (OCIS) and the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM). She also delivered a keynote address at the ‘3rd Sultan Qaboos Award for Voluntary Work’ on 5th December 2013 in Muscat, Oman, and for the 2013 PCORE (Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason) Forum in Kuala Lumpur entitled “Unity & Multiculturalism : Building A Future Together.”
Tuanku Raja Zarith Sofiah has played a key role in developing the future direction of the Malaysian education system. She has actively participated in forums and collaborated with foreign experts to discuss ways to strengthen the Malaysian education system. HRH Raja Zarith Sofiah is also a prolific writer. She has authored children’s story books as well as the ‘Mind Matters’ column in an English daily newspaper. ‘On Common Ground’, a book compiling 80 of Her Royal Highness’ selected articles as published in the column On Common Ground and Mind Matters in the New Straits Times and The Sunday Star respectively from 2000 to 2012 was launched in October 2013.