Munshi Abdullah (1795 – 1852)

Munshi Abdullah (1795 – 1852)
September 2, 2020 Editor

Scholar, Teacher

Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir was born in 1795 in Melaka. Even though he was a Malay, he felt Arab and Indian. His father provided him a strict upbringing and he was brought up as a scholar. He learned Tamil, English, Hindi, and Malay.

He began his career by copying documents and writing petitions. He later taught the Malay to British and American soldiers. Abdullah also acted as a translator for Sir Stamford Raffles. As a teacher and language scholar, the nickname “Munshi” made him a well-known figure in his lifetime.

Abdullah assisted in the translation and printing of the gospels in Malay. He transcribed Hindu folklore. However, he is best known for his autobiography, Hikayat Abdullah. It was written in 1843 and published in 1849. The stone records the heritage of Singapore shortly after it was established by Raffles. His other book, Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah, shares his story on a trip from Singapore to Kelantan in 1838.

Abdullah departed from the traditional Malay literary style by writing in a colloquial style. It is realistic and lively, introducing many Malay idioms and proverbs.

Abdullah died in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 1852 during his hajj. After his death, his journals were published. Abdullah’s works are an inspiration for modern Malay literature.