The couple were engaged for nine months and were chaperoned the few times they met.
Arranged marriages were the norm at the time, and Taib, who was already married with four children, agreed to take on the task.
A few days later, Taib brought Tun Razak to Convent Holy Infant Jesus in Johor Baru on the pretext of picking up his daughter, Kalsom. Taib’s real intent was to let Tun Razak catch a glimpse of Toh Puan Rahah, then a 19-year-old Form Five student at the same school.
Toh Puan Rahah was the youngest child of Mohamad Noah Omar, who was the then Johor Umno chairman. Tun Razak must have been smitten by the sight of Toh Puan Rahah because not long after the visit to the school, Taib and his wife visited Toh Puan Rahah’s parents to make a formal marriage proposal on his behalf.
As Toh Puan Rahah told others later, when her parents showed her a photograph of her suitor, she thought he looked slim and handsome. She accepted the proposal.
The two were engaged for nine months and were strictly chaperoned the few times they were able to meet during that period. When Taib finished telling the story, Tun Razak told his guests that it had not just been his father who wanted him to marry.
Pahang Sultan Abu Bakar Riayatuddin Al-Muadzam Shah had also told him that it was time for him to settle down. The sultan had pointed out that as all the state’s district officers were married, it was sumbang (inappropriate) for Tun Razak, as state secretary, to remain a bachelor.
Tun Razak and Toh Puan Rahah married on Sept 4, 1952, and went on to have five sons, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
In an essay she contributed to the book Tun Abdul Razak: A Personal Portrait, Toh Puan Rahah described her husband’s down-to-earth nature.
“He was always kind and so calm, very seldom ruffled,” she wrote. “There was a lot of give and take between us. He hardly ever raised his voice — not to me, not to his children and, certainly, not to the household staff. He would advise rather than reprimand, showing us where we went wrong. He won our hearts, and it was easy to win his.”
By the time Tun Razak died in 1976, the couple had been married for 24 years.
The writer, a trustee of the Tun Razak Foundation, was the first director-general of the Implementation, Coordination and Development Administration Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department, responsible for monitoring the progress of programmes and projects under the New Economic Policy, reporting directly to the prime minister. He was also Tun Razak’s special assistant