Zainal Abidin Bin Ahmad (ZA'BA) Zainal Abidin Bin Ahmad (ZA'BA)

Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad or more popularly known as Za'ba was born on 16 September 1895 at Kampung Bukit Kerdas, Batu Kikir, Negeri Sembilan. Za'ba started school at the age of 12 in Sekolah Melayu Batu Kikir. Not long after that, he was transferred to Sekolah Melayu Linggi to further his Arabic and Islamic Studies. In 1915, Za'ba successfully completed his Senior Cambridge. He was the first Malay youth from Negeri Sembilan who completed standard one to Senior Cambridge within a period of six years.

Za'ba started to write seriously while he was serving as temporary teacher at Johor Baharu in 1916. His first article entitled "Temasya Mandi Safar di Tanjung Kling" was published twice by Utusan Melayu. Za'ba's  uniqueness was his ability to incorporate all the various aspects ranging from language, literature, religion, economy, education and politics into his writings. He was also very keen in writing about the backwardness of the Malays which in turn aroused the British colonial government's suspicions.  Although his writing activities were restrained, he remained active. While he was working at the Sultan Idris Training College, Za'ba focused his effort to adopt the Arabic and English grammar into the Malay Language and to use these grammatical rules in the publication of school text books and general reading materials.

Za'ba persisted in his writing career pursuance by revising his published religious articles to be published into a compilation book. His inaugural production Umbi Kemajuan (Roots of Success) was published in 1932. Za'ba was also active in community services. These included being the General Advisor for the Brotherhood of Pen Friends of Malaya (Persaudaraan Sahabat Pena Malaya) in 1937 and also in 1945 as the President of the Selangor Malay Association (Persatuan Melayu Selangor). In 1946, in the congress opposed  against the formation of the Malayan Union, he was appointed as a committee member of the Legislator Committee of UMNO Charter Bill (Jawatankuasa Penggubal Rang Piagam UMNO). In the same year he ended his political career after the UMNO Charter was accepted and passed. In 1947, he started working as a Malay Language lecturer at the University of London. He retired from government service at the age of 55 years old.
Za'ba's  service was indispensable. Therefore in 1953 he was appointed as a senior lecturer at the Malay Studies Department (JPM) at University Malaya, Singapore. Together with Ungku Aziz, he organised the formation of the student's language society and two years later the University Malaya Federation of Malay Language was established.
Za'ba sat for the final examination for the University of London external course and received his Master of Arts Second Class (Lower) at the age of 59 years old. Za'ba officially received the title scholar (Pendeta) in the form of a Malay cap (songkok) in 1956 at the Third Malay Language and Literature Congress in Johor Bahru. All of Za'ba's endeavours that he poured into his work was spurred by his desires to place the Malay Language on a pedestal without ever asking for individual recognition. Za'ba even declined the Pingat Mangku Negara medal of honor - that carries the title Dato' and also the Bintang Kebesaran Brunei. However in 1962, he finally agreed to accept the award of Pingat Mangku Negara that bears the title Tan Sri.

Za'ba has been bestowed by His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong with the Bintang Panglima Mangku Negara title (carrying the honorific title Tan Sri). He also received an honorary Doctorate in Literature at the inaugural convocation of University Kebangsaan Malaysia in 1973.

Za'ba was considered as the pioneer of the Malay language grammatical rules, which was very vague at that time. He contributed further when he was given the responsibility to draft the school curriculum, as a translator, lecturer and during the Japanese era was handed with the responsibility to write books that could be used in Malaya and Sumatra. Tan Sri Dr. Haji Zainal Abidin bin Ahmad or Za'ba departed this life on 23 October 1973 at the age of 78.