Malaysia’s strongest will ,
was known by its strongest warriors
Abdullah was the first Malay writer to depart from the traditional Malay literary style by writing in the colloquial language. Unlike courtly writing, it was realistic and lively, incorporating many Malay idioms and proverbs. A. E. Cooper, who translated “Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah”, says, “his ‘direct reporting’ acts as a pleasant cool douche after the lushness of Malay romances”.
“Hikayat Abdullah” (“Abdullah’s Story”, translated by John. T. Thomson in 1874), his autobiographical work was written between 1840 and 1843 and published in March 1849. With vignettes of early years of British colonization, it is an important source of the early history of Singapore soon after it was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles. There were two earlier English translations by John Turnbull Thomson and Rev. Dr. William G. Shellabear, but these works are regarded as out-of-date.
“Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah ke Kelantan” (meaning “The Tale of Abdullah’s Voyage to Kelantan), describes his experiences on a 1837 trip from Singapore to Kelantan. For his early literary contributions he is regarded as “Father of Modern Malay Literature”.
“Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah ke-Negeri Jeddah” (meaning “The Tale of Abdullah’s Voyage to Jeddah”), the last book was published posthumously.
Despite Abdullah’s obscurities, misrepresentations of fact and occasional solecisms in his books on his literary and pilgrimage to Mecca, Munshi Abdullah became the first local Malay to have his works published, and thus has gained the title of being the “Father of modern Malay Literature”, his writings remain an inspiration for modern Malay literature. His diary was brought back by a friend after Abdullah died, and so his last journey was published posthumously. Munshi Abdullah Avenue is named after him.
Author: Vernon Cornelius-Takahama