The Development of Munshi Abdullah's Framework of Modernity in Malay Literature: A Critical Observation

  • Rahimah Hamdan Jabatan Bahasa Melayu, Fakulti Bahasa Moden dan Komunikasi, Universiti Putra Malaysia


The West introduced modernity in literature to relevantize their contribution to scholarship in the Malay Archipelago. This led to the acknowledgement of Munshi Abdullah as a key reformer. Despite various scholarly discussions concerning the modernity of Munshi Abdullah’s writing, there has been no systematic idea in relation to the framework of the modernity of his writings. Thus, this study aims to organise scholars’ views on Munshi Abdullah’s modernity in Malay literature from the colonial era to now and create a framework for it. This study employs a qualitative method in the form of grounded theory. It is a method of deriving theories directly from gathered data that is systematically analysed using comparative analysis. The findings outline the framework of modernity in literature by Munshi Abdullah based on two concepts; realism and individualism. Realism emphasises logical thinking and the rejection of superstitions, while individualism highlights on individual viewpoints and the rejection of institutional authority. Through the construction of this framework, studies concerning modernity in traditional and modern literary works can be carried out systematically. Lastly, this study may broaden the audience’s understanding of the modernity of Munshi Abdullah’s writings, which, up until now, has not been supported by a clear framework.



Abdullah Abdul Kadir Munsyi. (2004). Hikayat Abdullah. Yayasan Karyawan.
Ahlstrom. S.E. (1972). A religious history of the American people. Yale University Press.
Alan Chong. (2018). Ethical political economy: Lessons from the Malay World’s Hikayat Abdullah (1849). Asian Journal of Comparative Politics. 3(3), 219–231.
Al-Attas, Syed Muhammad Naquib. (1969). Preliminary statement on a general theory of the Islamization of the Malay-Indonesian archipelago. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
Al-Attas, Syed Muhammad Naquib. (1972). Islam dalam sejarah dan kebudayaan Melayu. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Al-Attas, Syed Muhammad Naquib. (1993). Islam and secularism. International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC).
Baharuddin Ahmad. (2020). Introductory notes on Munshi Abdullah’s Hikayat Binatang. Al-Shajarah, 25(1), 155–162.
Baldick, C. (2001). The concise Oxford dictionary of literary terms. Oxford University Press.
Chun Tie, Y., Birks, M., & Francis, K. (2019). Grounded theory research: A design framework for novice researchers. SAGE Open Medicine, 7.
Cohn, B.S. (1996). Colonialism and its forms of knowledge: The British in India. Princeton University Press.
Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative inquiry. Aldine.
Goriaeva, L.V. (2019). How an arab scribe became a Malay writer: The life of Abdullah bin Abdulkadir Munsyi (1797/7-1854). Vostok (Oriens), 3, 183–190.
Harbison, H. (1964). Christianity and history. Princeton.
Harper, T. (2013). Afterword: The Malay world, besides empire and nation. Indonesia and the Malay World, 41(120), 273–290.
Hemmings. F.W.J. (1974). The age of realism. Penguin Books.
Ho, D.Y.F. & Chiu, C.Y. (1994). Component ideas of individualism, collectivism, and social organization: An application in the study of Chinese culture. Dlm. U. Kim, H.C. Triandis, C. Kagitcibasi, S.C. Choi, & G. Yoon (Eds.). Individualism and collectivism: Theory, method, and applications, pp. 137–156. Sage.
Hogan, R. (1975). Empathy: A conceptual and psychometric analysis. The Counseling Psychologist, 5(2), 14–18.
Ismail Hussein. (1966). Sejarah pertumbohan bahasa kebangsaan kita. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
Johnston, A. (2014). The protestant reformation in Europe. Routledge.
Koenraad, W.S. (1962). Individualism in mid-nineteenth century (1825-1860). Journal of the History of Ideas, 23(1), 77–90.
Logan, J.R. (1848). Contents and index. Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, 2, iii-xi.
Lukes, S. (1971). The Meanings of “Individualism”. Journal of the History of Ideas, 32(1), 45–66.
MacCulloch, D. (2005). The reformation. Penguin Books.
Milner, A.C. (1980). A missionary source for a biography of Munshi Abdullah. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 53(1), 111–119.
Mohd. Akhtar Khan. (1987). Individualism: Origin and evolution. The Indian Journal of Political Science, 48(1), 126–132.
Mohd. Zariat Abdul Rani. (2013). Development and meaning of “progress” in Malay Literature: A preliminary discussion. Dlm. Jelani Harun dan Ben Murtagh (Eds.). Esei penghargaan kepada Profesor Emeritus V.I.Braginsky, 628-658. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
Morgan, G. Jr. (1942). Individualism versus individuality. Ethics, 52(4), 434–446.
Morris, P. (2003). Realism. Routledge.
Mullet, M.A. (1999). The Catholic reformation. Routledge.
Mundhenk, R.J., Fletcher, L.A.M. (Eds.). (1999). An anthology of Victorian prose. Colombia University Press.
Noriah Taslim. (2007). From ethnocentrism to eurocentrism: The position of Abdullah’s discourse on the Malays. Malay Literature, 20(1), 20–33.
Noriah Taslim. (2016). Kolonialisme dan fenomena sastera abad peralihan. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Punch, K. F. (1998). Introduction to social research: Quantitative and qualitative approaches (1st ed.). SAGE Publications.
Putten, J. V. D. (2006). Munshi Abdullah and the Missionaries. Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, 162(4), 407–440.
Realo, A., Koido, K., Ceulemans, E. & Allik, J. (2002). Three components of individualism. European Journal of Personality, 16, 163–184.
Skinner, C. (1959). Prosa Melayu baharu. Longmans, Green & Co. Ltd.
Skinner, C. (1978). Transitional Malay literature: Pt 1, Ahmad Rijaluddin and Munshi Abdullah. BKI, 134, 466-487.
Sweeney, A. (1987). A full hearing, orality and literacy in the Malay world. University of California Press.
Traill, H.F.O.B. (1979). An Indian protagonist of the Malay language: Munshi Abdullah, his race, and his mother tongue. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 52(2), 67–83.
Traill, H.F.O.B. (1981). Aspects of Abdullah Munsyi. Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 54(3), 35–56.
Triandis, H.C. (1993). Collectivism and individualism as cultural syndromes. Cross Cultural Research, 27(3), 155–180.
Ungku Maimunah Mohd. Tahir. (1987). Modern Malay literary culture: A historical perspective. Research Notes and Discussions, 62. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Ungku Maimunah Mohd. Tahir. (1997). R.J. Wilkinson dan pensejarahan kesusasteran Melayu moden. In Shafie Abu Bakar and Mohamed Anwar Omar Din (Eds). Peradaban Melayu. Jabatan Persuratan Melayu, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Ungku Maimunah Mohd. Tahir. (1999, 24–27 August). Kerangka konseptual kemodenan sastera melayu satu penilaian kembali tulisan Barat. [Kertas kerja]. Seminar Antarabangsa Kesusasteraan Bandingan. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Kuala Lumpur.
Ungku Maimunah Mohd. Tahir. (2000). The construction and institutionalisation of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir Munsyi as the father of modern Malay literature: The Role of Westerners. In D. Smyth (Ed.). The canon in Southeast Asian literatures, 99–114. Curzon Press.
Ungku Maimunah Mohd. Tahir. (2009). Dinamika pemikiran sastera Melayu. Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
Ungku Maimunah Mohd. Tahir (Ed.). (2010). Kedudukan ilmu dalam kesusasteraan: Teori dan praktis. Institut Alam dan Tamadun Melayu, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.
Waterman, A. S., & Waterman, C. K. (1971). A longitudinal study of changes in ego identity status during the freshman year at college. Development Psychology. 5,167–173.
Wilkinson, R. J. (1907). Papers on Malay subjects: Malay Literature, Part 1: Romance, history, poetry. The Federated Malay States Government Press.
Winstedt, R. O. (1940). A history of Malay literature, with a chapter on modern developments by Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 17(3), 1–243.
Zainal Abidin Ahmad. (1940). Modern developments. Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 17(3), 142–162.
How to Cite
HAMDAN, Rahimah. The Development of Munshi Abdullah's Framework of Modernity in Malay Literature: A Critical Observation. Malay Literature, [S.l.], v. 36, n. 2, oct. 2023. ISSN 2682-8030. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 24 july 2024. doi: