Sultanate of Kedah
Kedah in present-day Malaysia
Protectorate of the United Kingdom (1909-1941; 1945-1946)
|Mudzaffar Shah I (first)|
o 1909-1915; 1918-1919
|Historical era||Early modern period|
o Conversion to Islam
|9 July 1909|
|16 February 1942|
|18 October 1943|
o Japanese surrender; returned to United Kingdom
|14 August 1945|
o Added into Malayan Union
|31 March 1946|
|Currency||Native gold and silver coins|
Straits dollar (until 1939)
Malayan dollar (until 1953)
|Today part of||Malaysia|
1 Remains as capital until today
2 Malay using Jawi (Arabic) script
Part of a series on the
|History of Thailand|
|Sultan of Kedah|
since 12 September 2017
|installation 22 October 2018|
|Style||His Royal Highness|
|Heir apparent||Tunku Sarafuddin Badlishah|
|First monarch||Mudzaffar Shah I (first)|
|Residence||Istana Anak Bukit, Alor Setar|
The Kedah Sultanate is a Muslim dynasty located in the Malay Peninsula. Originally an independent state, it became a British Protectorate in 1909. Its monarchy was abolished after it was added to the Malayan Union but was restored and added to the Malayan Union's successor, the Federation of Malaya.
The information regarding the formation of this sultanate and the history before and after its creation comes from the "Kedah Annals". The Kedah Annals were written in the eighteenth century, over a supposed millennium after the formation of the Kedah Kingdom. It describes the first king of Kedah as arriving on the shores of Kedah as a result of an attack by a mythical gigantic beast. It states that the nation was founded by the offspring of Alexander the Great; who maintained ties with Rome throughout his reign (oddly two centuries after the decline of the Roman Empire due to sacks by the Visigoths and Vandals in 410 and 455).
The Kedah Annals also provide us with very unreliable information regarding the sultans of Kedah. Listing the first sultan of Kedah as Sultan Mudzafar Shah I centuries before the partitioning of the Abbasid Caliphate into distinct sultanates and almost three centuries prior to the contradicting claims of the Terengganu Inscription Stone. This claim also directly contradicts the fact that the Buddhist Srivijaya kingdom was in direct control of Kedah at the time that Sultan Mudzafar Shah I allegedly converted the region to a sultanate.
Around 170 CE a group of native refugees of Hindu faith arrived at Kedah, joining them soon were peoples from nearby islands and from the northern Mon-Khmer region.  Ancient Kedah covered the areas of Kuala Bahang, Kuala Bara, Kuala Pila and Merpah, and the inhabitants of Kedah appointed Tun Derma Dewa and Tun Perkasa as their village chiefs.
In 630 CE, Maharaja Derbar Raja of Gemeron (now known as Bandar Abbas) in Persia was defeated in battle and escaped to Sri Lanka, and he was later blown off course by a storm to the remote shores of Kuala Sungai Qilah, Kedah. The inhabitants of Kedah found him to be a valiant and intelligent person, and they made him the king of Kedah. In 634 CE, a new kingdom was formed in Kedah consisting of Persian royalty and native Malay of Hindu faith, the capital was Langkasuka.
Based on the account given in Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa (also known as the Kedah Annals), the Sultanate of Kedah started in year 1136 when King Phra Ong Mahawangsa converted to Islam and adopted the name Sultan Mudzafar Shah. However, an Acehnese account gave a date of 1474 for the year of conversion to Islam by the ruler of Kedah. This later date accords with an account in the Malay Annals where a raja of Kedah visited Malacca during the reign of its last sultan seeking the honour of the royal band that marks the sovereignty of a Muslim ruler.
In 1770, Francis Light was instructed by the British East India Company (BEIC) to take Penang from Kedah. He achieved this by giving assurance to Sultan Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Adilin II that his army will protect Kedah from any Siamese invasion. In return, the Sultan agree to hand over Penang to the British. In 1786, Light negotiated with the new Sultan of Kedah Sultan Abdullah Mukarram Shah over the cession of Penang to BEIC. However, Light made the agreement without the consent of his superiors in India. BEIC did not provide military support, as promised by Light, when Siam attacked Kedah. The Sultan demand Light to return Penang back but Light was reluctant to hand it back. Light offer compensation for the damage but was refused by the sultan. In 1790, Sultan Abdullah planned to launch an amphibious invasion of the Island of Penang to recapture it. The BEIC with the help of British military made a preemptive strike and attacked Kedah's navy and fort in Seberang Perai, damaging them. The Sultan signed a ceasefire agreement in 1791 with Light. On 6 June 1800, George Alexander William Leith and Sultan Dziaddin Mukarram Shah II signed a peace agreement and allowed the BEIC to occupy Seberang Perai and name it as Province Wellesley. In exchange for the acquisition, the annual payment to the Sultan of Kedah was increased from 6,000 to 10,000 Spanish dollars per annum. To this day, the Malaysian federal government still pays Kedah, on behalf of Penang, RM 10,000 annually as a symbolic gesture.
After the death of Sultan Abdullah Mukarram Shah the 20th Sultan of Kedah in 1797, the thrones were given to his half brother Sultan Dziaddin Mukarram Shah II. However Sultan Dziaddin was forced to abdicate in 1803 by the King of Siam and was replaced by his nephew Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin II. This sparked a succession crisis as crown prince, Tunku Bisnu claimed to be the rightful heir to the throne. Fearing civil war, the Siamese Kingdom reconciled the two parties by appointing Tunku Bisnu as ruler of Setul, thus establishing the Kingdom of Setul Mambang Segara in 1808. In 1892, the kingdom was reunified with Kedah Sultanate. However the assimilation of Siamese people and culture in Setul had weakened Kedah rule over it. The Anglo-Siamese Treaty in 1909 finally ended Kedah rule over Setul, as the Siamese and British agreed to exclude Setul from Kedah jurisdiction, thus separating Kedah and Setul.
The list of rulers of Kedah as given here is based to some extent on the Kedah Annals beginning with the Hindu ruler Durbar Raja I. According to the Kedah Annals, the 9th Kedah Maharaja Derbar Raja converted to Islam and changed his name to Sultan Muzaffar Shah, thereby started the Kedah Sultanate. The historicity and the dating of the list of rulers however is questionable as Kedah may have remained Hindu-Buddhist until the 15th century when its king converted to Islam.
The beginning of the use of the title sultan in Kedah is attributed to a visit by a Muslim scholar from Yemen, Sheikh Abdullah bin Ja'afar Quamiri, to Durbar Raja II's palace at Bukit Mariam in 1136. The audience resulted in the king's conversion to Islam. He adopted the name "Mudzaffar Shah" and established the sultanate of Kedah, which continues to rule today.
The source for the list of sultans given here is the official genealogy given for the Sultan of Kedah. There are however discrepancies with the Kedah Annals as it lists only 5 sultans from the first convert Mudzaffar Shah to Sulaiman Shah who was captured by Aceh in 1619, in contrast to the twelve listed here. The rest of the list largely follows as that given in the Kedah Annals with the exception of a few changes and more recent updates in the 20th and 21st century.
|1||Mudzaffar Shah I||1136-1179|
|5||Mahmud Shah I||1280-1321|
|7||Sulaiman Shah I||1373-1423|
|8||Ataullah Muhammad Shah I||1423-1473|
|9||Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Adilin Mu'adzam Shah I||1473-1506|
|10||Mahmud Shah II||1506-1547|
|11||Mudzaffar Shah III||1547-1602|
|12||Sulaiman Shah II||1602-1626|
|13||Rijaluddin Muhammad Shah||1626-1652|
|14||Muhyiddin Mansur Shah||1652-1662|
|15||Dziaddin Mukarram Shah I||1662-1688|
|16||Ataullah Muhammad Shah II||1688-1698|
|17||Abdullah Mu'adzam Shah||1698-1706|
|18||Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah I||1706-1710|
|19||Muhammad Jiwa Zainal Adilin Mu'adzam Shah II||1710-1778|
|20||Abdullah Mukarram Shah||1778-1797|
|21||Dziaddin Mukarram Shah II||1797-1803|
|22||Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah II||1803-1821|
|-||Siamese invasion of Kedah||1821-1842|
|(22)||Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Shah II||1842-1845|
|23||Zainal Rashid Al-Mu'adzam Shah I||1845-1854|
|24||Ahmad Tajuddin Mukarram Shah||1854-1879|
|25||Zainal Rashid Mu'adzam Shah II||1879-1881|
|26||Abdul Hamid Halim Shah ll||1881-1943|
|28||Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah||1958-2017|
The Nobat musical instruments of Nagara and Nepiri were introduced to Kedah by Maharaja Derbar Raja. The instrument is also called semambu. The band is led by the king, and it consists of drums, a gong, a flute and a trumpet. Today, Nobat is a Royal orchestra, played only during royal ceremonies such as inaugurations, weddings, and funerals. The building which houses the instruments and where the ensemble rehearses is known as the Balai Nobat, literally the Office of Nobat, in Alor Setar city proper.