Hikayat Abdullah

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A page of the Hikayat Abdullah written in Malay in the Jawi script, from the collection of the National Library of Singapore. A rare first edition, it was written between 1840 and 1843, printed by lithography, and published in 1849.

Hikayat Abdullah was the major literary work of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, a Malacca-born Munshi of Singapore. It was completed in 1845 and first published in 1849,[1] making it one of the first Malay literary texts being published commercially. Abdullah’s authorship was prominently displayed in this text and the contents were conveyed in simple, contemporary Malay. Unlike typical classical Malay literary works that contains fantasies and legendary stories, the Abdullah’s work dealt with realism.[2]

The work has been described as Abdullah’s autobiography and contains his personal but perceptive view of Singapore and Malacca society at the beginning of 19th century,[3] it recounts a glimpse of his early childhood in Malacca, his own experiences like an operation performed upon him by an English surgeon or his visit to an encampment of Tiandihui, a Chinese secret society in the interior of Singapore, and about events like the founding of Singapore Institution, the demolition of the old A Famosa fort in Malacca, and the visit of Lord Minto, the Governor-General of India to Malacca. Most of the work also contains his personal observations of the personalities of his time, the officials of the British East India Company like Sir Stamford Raffles, Colonel Farquhar and John Crawfurd, Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor Sultanate, European and American missionaries and traders, and the Chinese merchants of the early Singapore days.[1] The book was published in Roman script in 1915 by William Shellabear.[4]

An early English edition of the work was translated by J.T. Thomson (H.S. King, London, 1874), though this is considered to be incomplete and inaccurate. [5]

A more authoritative English edition was translated by A.H. Hill and published in the Journal of the Malayan Branch Royal Asiatic Society (Volume XXVIII Part 3, June 1955). The society stocks reprints of this translation for sale.[6]


  1. ^ a b L. F. Brakel (Author), M. Balfas (Author), M. Taib Bin Osman (Author), J. Gonda (Author), B. Rangkuti (Author), B. Lumbera (Author), H. Kahler (Author) (1997). Literaturen (Asian Studies). Brill Academic Publishers. p. 143 & 144. ISBN 978-90-04-04331-2. 
  2. ^ Keat Gin Ooi (2004). Southeast Asia: a historical encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. p. 116. ISBN 1-57607-770-5. 
  3. ^ Barbara Watson Andaya; Leonard Y. Andaya (1984). A History of Malaysia. London: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 313. ISBN 0-333-27672-8. ISBN 0-333-27672-8. 
  4. ^ Hunt, Robert. 2002. International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 26.1: 31.
  5. ^ National University of Singapore, Literature Department, accessed 14 May 2012
  6. ^ The Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, accessed 14 May 2012

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