Muhammed Said Abdulla

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For other people named Mohammed Said, see Mohammed Said (disambiguation).

Muhammed Said Abdulla or Abdullah (25 April 1918 - March 1991),[1] was a Tanzanian Swahili novelist who is often credited as a pioneer of Swahili literature.


Muhammed Said Abdulla was born in Zanzibar. After working for ten years as an inspector for the Colonial Health Department, Abduall decided to go into journalism; in 1948 he became editor of the newspaper Zanzibari. He later became assistant editor of Al-Falaq, Afrika Kwetu, and Al Mahda. From 1958 to his retirement in 1968 he served as editor of the agricultural magazine Mkulima. 1958 was also the year that his fiction work Mzimu wa Watu wa Kale (Shrine of the Ancestors) won top honors at the Swahili Story-Writing Competition held by the East African Literature Bureau; in 1960 the work was published as a novel.

This novel marked the first appearance of Bwana Msa, a detective character that features in most of his subsequent works. The plots of Abdulla's later novels became progressively more and more complex and sophisticated. These plots usually involved a protagonist who must battle ignorance and superstition in order to resolve the conflict.

Abdulla's usage of Swahili in his novels is celebrated in East Africa, where his novels are used as required reading in schools.


  • Shrine of the Ancestors (Mzimu wa Watu wa Kale), 1960
  • The Well of Giningi (Kisima cha Giningi), 1968
  • In the World There Are People (Duniani Kuna Watu), 1973
  • The Secret of the Zero (Siri ya Sifuri), 1974
  • One Wife, Three Husbands (Mke Mmoja Waume Watatu), 1975
  • The Devil's Child Grows Up (Mwana wa Yungi Hulewa), 1976
  • Bwana Msa's Mistake (Kosa la Bwana Msa), 1984
  • Shadow is living (kivuli kinaishi), 1980


  • Swahili Story-writing Contest (1957-8) Mzimu wa Watu wa Kale[1]


  1. ^ a b Hoiberg, Dale H., ed. (2010). "Abdulla, Muhammed Said". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A-ak Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8.