Zainal Abidin Ahmad (writer)

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Zainal Abidin Bin Ahmad
Born (1895-09-16)16 September 1895
Batu Kikir, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia
Died 23 October 1973(1973-10-23) (aged 78)
Other names Za'aba
Movement Malayan Academic Movement
Religion Islam

Zainal Abidin Bin Ahmad (16 September 1895 – 23 October 1973) or better known by the moniker Za'aba, was a Malaysian writer and language experts of Minangkabau origin. He modernised the Malay language with the publication of a series of grammar books entitled Pelita Bahasa in 1936 at Sultan Idris Training College. The book modernised the structure of the classical Malay language and became the basis for the Malay language that is in use today. The most important change was in syntax, from the classical passive form to the modern active form.


Born in Kampung Bukit Kerdas, Batu Kikir, Jempol, Negeri Sembilan, Za'ba received his early education at a Malay school in Linggi. He then continued his study at St. Paul's Institution, Seremban and was the first Malay to take and pass Senior Cambridge test in 1915.

Za'aba started his career by becoming a teacher at :

Za'aba loved reading and had excellent talent to write. Most of his writings were published in local newspapers and magazines. He published a series of monographs in Malay Language, including Pelita Bahasa (Light of language) and Ilmu Mengarang Melayu (Malay Writing Skills). His other writings include Cerita-Cerita Shakespeare (Shakepesare stories in Malay) that was published by Percetakan Gudang Chap, Singapore.

He wrote a lot essays in the form of social criticisms against the ills of the Malay society and against the British colonial rule. His hidden hands had a role in the formation of the Malaysian ruling party UMNO (United Malay National Organisation).