Message from the Head of the Unani Section

The Unani medical system originated in Greece compounding the humoural theory of Hippocrates who is still considered as father of medicine even by the west. The Hippocrates Oath exhibits the fact that our ancestors respected human beings by approaching the sick compassionately without regarding their social status, race, religion and friction.

This system was enriched, fortified and disseminated by Arabs to the rest of the world and hence it is also named as Greco-Arab medicine. Avicenna, Galen and Ibn Hythem whose contributions towards the upliftment of the system exhibits through their treatises. The “Canon of Medicine” comprising four volumes extensively describes the entire Medical practices is not only an evidence to boast the value and efficacy of Unani Medicine, but the existence of this system even in the 21st century is the clear evidence.

This system was introduced to Sri Lanka when the Arabs sailed to the country for the purpose of trade. The history reveals that these Arab physicians were consultants to the rulers of the country.

Having realized the value and efficacy of this system the government of Ceylon entertained and treated the Unani Medical system, as an Indigenous Medical system of the country. Subsequently institutionalized Medical education commenced in 1929 to promote and disseminate this system. Another milestone was achieved by elevating this institute to the University level in 1977. University of Colombo now offers a degree programme leading to Bachelor of Unani Medicine and Surgery (BUMS).

The Institute of Indigenous Medicine (IIM) of the University of Colombo is directly responsible for teaching and training the graduates as per the rules and regulations stipulated in the curriculum. The salient feature of the BUMS curriculum is that in addition to the principles and therapeutic components, the subjects of modern Medical sciences are also included to inculcate sound knowledge and skills to face whatever the challenges the graduates encounter in their clinical, teaching and research areas. In addition to the undergraduate programme the postgraduate division of the Institute conducts courses leading to postgraduates diploma and the Master of Philosophy under the direct supervision of the higher degree committee. Further the postgraduate division has commenced “Certificate course in Pharmacy” for the compounders saving in the government sectors in December 2009 and is also taking every effort to commence the MD programme in the near future.

Dr. (Ms.) M.I. Manuha
Senior Lecturer
BUMS (Hons.), M Phil Unani (Colombo)



History of Unani Medicine begins with the age of Pericles (562-430B.C) and it was developed during the Arab civilization. Hence, it is also known as Arab medicine. The Arabs, who were seafarers in mediaeval time, had commercial links mainly with India, but later they resorted to direct trade with Sri Lanka. As a result, many of them settled down in Sri Lanka, especially in the coastal areas. The Muslims of Sri Lanka disseminated & preserved this system even in this 21st century. Its dominating figure was Boharath (Hippocrates 460-360 B.C) who is still preferred to as the “Father of Medicine”, and he was the authority of the humoral theory. The great Philosopher Arasthu (Aristotle 384-322 B.C) was the next prominent figure in Unani Medicine. Jalinoos (Galen 131-210 B.C) introduced his Anatomical knowledge to the Arabians. Since then there have been so many authorities who contributed towards the development of Unani system. Ibn Sina (Avicenna 937-1037) was the most famous Physician and Philosopher in Unani Medicine System. Among his contribution to medicine “Canon of Medicine” which is an encyclopedia and text book of medicine is the best.

During the 1st century arbians brought this system to Sri Lanka and the Muslims developed the same. History reveals the fact that Arab Physicians were the family consultants to kings of various kingdoms of the country. Having felt the efficacy and the value, the Unani system was intermingled with the traditional systems of medicine of Sri Lanka as Ayurveda was absorbed into the traditional medical system of country. All the traditional medical systems of Sri Lanka were brought under an umbrella by the 1961 Act of Ayurveda. Accordingly the term “Ayurveda” includes Ayurveda, Unani, Sidda and other traditional systems of Medicine indigenous to the Asian countries.

Successive foreign invasions and the resultant strife sapped the strength of the monarchy, and Ayurveda which for centuries before had enjoyed royal patronage became a casualty in common with other ancient arts and crafts. It was only at the beginning of this century that the organized training of Ayurveda physicians was resumed.

The Ceylon Social Reform Society was formed with the aim of reviving local arts and Sciences, including Ayurveda. The revival of Ayurveda became a high priority of the society it was handicapped by the lack of funds. In the absence of patronage by the colonial government, it had to depend on private contributions to promote its aims. Subscriptions totaling Rs.131, 000 were promised. The money was placed in a deposit under the name, Oriental Medical Science Fund. It was administered by a board of trustees with Pual E. Pieris as chairman. In 1916, the trustees mooted the idea of establishing an Ayurveda hospital.

In 1917, the board of trustees selected G. P. Wickramarachchi and R. Buddadasa to be trained in Culcutta. Their selection was prophetic (development of Ayurveda) and  their subsequent contribution to the profession was outstanding. Pundit Wickramarachchi, established his own school at Gampaha in 1929.

The board of trustees continued to send students to India till 1929. When the College of Indigenous Medicine was established in 1929 the Unani system was also established along with the Ayurveda and Sidda sections at the College of Indigenous Medicine due to the untiring efforts of Dr. K. Balasingam and Sir. Razik Fareed. Dr. M. A. Ahmed and Dr. H. M. Jaffer were invited from India as lecturers in Unani. They were instrumental in organizing and establishing Unani at the college. It must be stressed that Dr. H. M. Jaffer along with Sir. Razik Fareed then a member of the Board of Indigenous Medicine strived to keep the Unani section at the college. Dr. H. M. Jaffer was the chief lecturer in the Unani section. Dr. M. H. M. Hafeel, Dr. M. A. M. Jalaldeen, and Dr. M. I. William succeeded him to the posts of Head of Unani section. They all strived hard to develop the Unani section during the period.


To be a partner in providing health care services to mankind by using Unani medical methods and materials .


To produce efficient Unani graduates to provide the best health care services of the country and produce competent teachers and researchers aimed at the national needs while strictly adhereing to the ethics of Hippocrates.