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

He 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.


Each subsequent book that Abdullah wrote contained a more complex, sophisticated plot than the one that came before it. The plots of Abduallahs novels usually involve a protagonist who must battle ignorance and superstition in order to resolve the conflict.

The usage of Swahili in his novels is celebrated in East Africa, even to the point that they are used as required reading in schools. A list of these novels includes:

  • Shrine of the Ancestors (Mzimu wa Watu wa Kale), 1960
  • The Well of Giningi (Kisiwa 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 Watume Watatu), 1975
  • The Devil's Child Grows Up (Mwana wa Yungi Hulewa), 1976



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