Malacca was graced by a famous Malaccan Malay scholar
& teacher by the name of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir commonly known as
Munshi Abdullah. He was a great scholar and teacher and was born in Malacca
in 1795 and died in 1852.
Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir was born in Melaka in 1795.
Although he had Arabic and Indian blood, he deemed himself a Malay. His
father was strict and Abdullah was brought up as a scholar, studying Arabic,
Tamil, Hindustani, English and, of course, Malay.
He started his career with his father, copying documents
and writing petitions. He later taught Malay to Indian soldiers and British
and American missionaries. Abdullah was also interpreter and scribe to
Sir Stamford Raffles, for whom he had high regard. His proficiency in languages
and reputation as a teacher earned him the nickname Munshi, meaning tutor.
Abdullah assisted the Christian missionaries in translating
and printing the gospels in Malay. He also translated Hindu folktales.
However, he is best known for his autobiographical work, Hikayat Abdullah
(Abdullah's Story). It was written between 1840 and 1843 and published
in 1849. It is an important source of the early history of Singapore soon
after it was founded by Raffles. His other book, Kisah Pelayaran Abdullah
(The Tale of Abdullah's Voyage), describes his experiences on a trip from
Singapore to Kelantan in 1838.
Abdullah was the first Malay writer to depart from traditional
Malay literary style by writing in colloquial language. Unlike courtly
writing, it was realistic and lively, incorporating many Malay idioms and
proverbs. In the words of A. E. Cooper, who translated Kisah Pelayaran
Abdullah, "his direct 'reporting' acts as a pleasant cool douche after
the lushness of Malay romances.
His sudden passing
Abdullah died suddenly in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 1852
during his pilgrimage to Mecca. His diary of this last journey was published
posthumously. The writings of Munshi Abdullah remain an inspiration for
modern Malay literature.