Raja Sarina Iskandar (centre) and Raja Safia Iskandar with their grandfather, Almarhum Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, on his birthday in June.

EVERYONE dies but not everyone leaves the world in the same way. For nearly a month now, the rakyat of Kedah have lost their long-reigning sultan of almost six decades — 59 years to be precise.

Kedah may have lost a sultan but its royal family has suffered double the loss as we not only lost our ruler, but someone who has been the head of our family for as long as we can remember.

Almarhum Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah was a well-respected monarch. He was known for his punctuality, discipline and relentless dedication to both Kedah and Malaysia.

Many may remember him as the sultan who was king twice, but for my siblings and I, we will always remember him as our kind and loving Tok (grandfather).

Sultan Abdul Halim led no fairytale life: he lost his mother at the age of 7, and when his father died when he was 31, he not only had to take on the heavy role of being a sultan, but was forced to become a father figure to both his children, and his younger siblings from Almarhum Sultan Badlishah’s second marriage, many of whom were two decades younger than him.

Sultan Abdul Halim was also the first sultan to become Yang di-Pertuan Agong twice. I have always known that he worked hard to perform the duties he was entrusted with, but it was only when I moved in with him at Istana Negara that I witnessed the highs and lows of his everyday life.

Hardly anyone knew that he was frequently ill and the hospital was a common place for him in between functions. He did not want his health condition to be known by the public as he strongly disliked people fretting over him.

Our family used to worry so much over his health and no matter how much we advised him to slow down, he would always say that it was his duty; he made it his mission to finish his term as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

A part of me believes that one of the reasons his health rapidly deteriorated after his term as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong ended is because he had already fulfilled all his commitments on earth, and it was simply time for him to get the final rest that he deserved.

His funeral was emotional to witness; there is something distinctive about royal funerals that moves you to the core.

Perhaps it was the 21-gun salute that woke us up early in the morning, marking the first day of mourning for the state of Kedah.

Perhaps it was seeing the flags waving at half-mast.

Perhaps it was the sea of black and white flocking to the Istana to pay their final respects to their sultan of 59 years — commoners are required to wear black while members of the mourning royal family wear white.

Perhaps it was the elite military men who were on duty to protect, to carry and to bury the late sultan.

Perhaps it was the 89-gun salute as the sultan’s hearse makes its journey from the palace to the Makam DiRaja (Royal Mausoleum) — 89 shots to symbolise the late sultan’s age.

Perhaps it was the honour and respect given to the sultan even in his death. Not many know that we are still required to sembah and salute the late sultan’s body, as protocol states that he is still sultan of the state for as long as his body is not buried.

Perhaps it is the spiritual aspect of when a sultan passes away. We believe that not all sultans are given daulat (sacred power) by Allah the Almighty. But, if a sultan is gifted with daulat, Allah will give signs to his rakyat of what is to come. And there were many signs before our Tok passed away.

Perhaps it was the Proclamation Ceremony of the new sultan before the burial.

Perhaps it was the thunderous, spine-chilling sounds of the Nobat DiRaja.

Perhaps it was seeing thousands of Kedahans lining up the 11km roads from the Istana to the Makam DiRaja, all to witness their late sultan’s final journey.

Perhaps it was all of the above coupled with the heartfelt emotions from his loved ones and those who looked after the late sultan.

But, ultimately, it was seeing the outpouring of loyalty, love and prayers from his rakyat that comforted our family.

It showed us that every single sacrifice that he has ever made, whether it was his time with his family, or his health, it was all worth it.

My siblings and I grew up knowing that our Tok’s love for the rakyat was deep, but we truly underestimated the rakyat’s love for him.

We did not think there would be people travelling from all corners of Kedah, and even Malaysia, to stand by his grave to recite Al-Fatihah. We saw kids in their school uniforms, even days after his funeral, dropping by the makam before and after school just to extend their prayers to their late sultan.

To the sceptics who question the relevance of Kesetiaan Kepada Raja dan Negara in our Rukun Negara, perhaps they would have changed their minds after seeing the masses of people in tears, paying their last respects to Almarhum on the day of his funeral.

To all Kedahans, THANK YOU for showering your love on Almarhum. He may have sacrificed a lot, but it was all for the love of his state. There was nothing he loved more than to serve you, his rakyat. An era has ended but his love forever remains in Kedah, the abode of peace. Al-Fatihah.

RAJA SARINA ISKANDAR and RAJA SAFIA ISKANDAR are the granddaughters of Almarhum Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah

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