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Unani is Arabic for Ionian, which means Greek. It is a formal medicine that has
been practiced for 6,000 years. Also known as hikmat, Unani Tibb Medicine was
developed by the Greek physician Hippocrates (40 370 B.C.) from the medicine and
traditions of the ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.
When the Mongols invaded Persia and Central Asia many scholars and physicians of
Unani fled to India (herbalniamaths, p.10). Proponents of Tibb el Unani included ibn
Sina (Avicenna) who wrote of Tibb el Unani in his medical classic al-Qanun (meadev,
p.2) and Ishaq ibn Ali al-Ruhawi (1200AD) who wrote Adab el-Tibb, Medical Ethics
(Zikria, p.1).
Hikmat is still practiced today among Muslims of Xinjiang, China as a part of Uighur
medicine in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Unlike modern Western
medicine, hikmat does not hold to mind-body dualism but is rooted in the
understanding that spiritual peace is essential for good health (Periyakoil, p.2). Unani
medicine considers many factors in maintaining health and divides the body in a number
of ways to define this wisdom.
The first way that Hikmat defines the body is to describe it in terms of the four humors
or akhlaat: air, earth, fire and water emanate from the liver forming a subtle network
around the body. In healing, foods and herbs are also classified according to the four
humors. The four humors correspond to four bodily fluids: blood, phlegm, black bile
and yellow bile.
A typical diagnosis of a patient would take the balance of these humors into
consideration. For instance, over-stimulation of wet-hot elements effects nervous
biochemical interactions within the body with glandular ramifications within the blood.
A wet-cold over-stimulation also effects nervous biochemical interactions but with
ramifications for the relationship between the muscular biochemical exchanges and the
bloodstream such as diarrhea and diabetes. Excess black bile in the blood leads to heart
palpitations and constipation whilst excess yellow bile leads to general weakness.
(Hikmat further defines the state of the body into three different stages: health, disease
and neutral. Neutral in the physical body means the state between health and disease
when symptoms have not yet manifested. Disease is said to occur when the functions
associated with the vital, natural and psychic forces of the body are obstructed or
unbalanced due to some form of deviation.


Hikmat also divides the body into seven natural and fundamental components defined
a) arkan elements
b) mizaj temperament,
c) ada organs,
d) ruh vital forces,
e) quwaat energy and
f) afal - action.
Any loss or change in anyone of these components is considered a major factor in
disease or death.
Hikmat also considers the external environment and its effect on the body and also
divides these influences into five categories. It is believed that each of these five
categories must be fulfilled adequately for a person to be able to maintain a proper
balance in the four humors and proper state of health balance. The external environment
and daily lifestyles influences that are considered as major factors in the ability to
sustain and maintain good health are:
a) The air of ones environment
b) Food and drink
c) Movement and rest
d) Sleep and wakefulness and
e) Emotions.
Hikmat states that these factors should be balanced in terms of quality, quantity and
sequence in order to sustain good health. As Rasulullah informed us Allah has sent
down both the disease and the cure and He has appointed a cure for every disease, so
treat yourselves medically, but use nothing unlawful (Sunan abu Dawud, 28:3865).
Beyond diagnosis and categorization skills, hikmat contributed many other clinical
skills to the field of medicine. Furthermore, those that settled in India were not content
with the known drugs and subjected Indian medicines to clinical trials adding numerous
to the hikmat system. After hikmat became established in India, practices evolved to
include brain surgery, laparotomy and plastic surgery. Thus, hikmat became divided
into branches of medicine that covered internal medicine, surgery, gynecology,
obstetrics, pediatrics, toxicology, psychiatry, rejuvenation therapy, sexology, diet

therapy and hydrotherapy.
In the footsteps of both the Quran and hadiths, hikmat sees illness as an opportunity to
serve, clean, purify and balance the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual planes.
Towards this goal, hikmat therapies are natural. Unani Tibb therapies include
appropriate fresh food in order to correct the imbalances, herbal medicines, minerals,
the promotion of codes of conduct conducive to positive health, and appropriate rest as
prevention and cure. Unani Tibb also emphasizes compounds that belong to the human
body and the avoidance of allergy-reducing foods.
The balance between mind and body is also crucial in the metabolic processes and
counseling is usually offered towards this goal. The illness might also necessitate
massage or cold/heat suction cups. Rasulullah (s.a.w.) said, The best medical treatment
you apply is cupping (abu Dawud, 28:3848). Rasulullah (s.a.w.) had himself cupped
above the thigh for a contusion from which he suffered (Abu Dawud, 28:3854). Acute
diseases include puncturing certain reflex points from which a few drops of blood are
Healers who are educated in the Hikmat method of healing are also given unique
instructions to follow with their clients and in their clinics. These unique requirements
stem from the Islamic faith. In Islam, those in authority must conduct themselves in a
manner that they have earned the respect of those that they are responsible for.
Referring to the hakim, physician, al-Ruhawi in his Adab el-Tibb stated: He should
do his best everyday to cleanse whatever issues forth from the orifices of his body,
nostrils, eyes, nose and to wash them with water. Excesses should not be in evidence in
these openings; this occurs with excessive eating, drinking and harmful use of these.
Therefore for this reason, the most beneficial to purify the senses and to cleanse them is
the improvement of food and drink.
To the patient The physician must better his relationship to and endure the distress of
the patient. He must pay attention to any statement heard from them. No matter what the
circumstances, he must acquire information from anywhere or anything, which may
prove beneficial to the recovery of the patient. The hakim must not discourage any
complaints of the patient or display of his distress since these symptoms, which occur,
may be important in the diagnosis of the illness. The physician must show mercy; this is
not possible except by the fear of God. If the physician has these traits, then he speaks
only the truth and does good for all the people.

In hikmat, the mutual respect between patient and physician is half of the treatment and
in Islam taking care of a sick person is a blessing. In following through a course of
treatment, medical visits should be scheduled with prayer times in order to avoid
conflict of interests. For the care provider there needs to be recognition of Islamic
standards of cleanliness (Periyakoil, p.3-5).
By the early 18th century, hikmat formed the basis of medicine in the civilized world
through the translation of al-Qanun. It also formed the basis of the work of Samuel
Hahnemann (1755 1897) the founder of homeopathy. Established in India, the hikmat
system underwent a setback under British rule although it was still very much practiced
by the masses..
Although setbacks continue to occur Unani Tibb is still astrong force in the world. An
amendment of a 1964 Act brought traditional medicines under purview. The decision
was that all medicines including those used by hikmat should be manufactured
according to formulae described in authoritative textbooks. The concern was the
growing commercialism leading that has increased the selling of these medicines over-
the-counter. In turn this has led to the deceptive marketing of unscientific and unproven
therapeutic properties.
As hikmat continues to grow from strength to strength in the midst of a failing modern
healthcare system, training schools are also flourishing further abroad in places like
Australia and the U.S. The American Institute of Unani Medicine was founded in 1986.
Perhaps Islamic Healing is the road to not only improving Muslim healthcare in modern
day health systems, but also showing the way to improving patient-doctor relationships
for non-Muslims as well.
Origins of Unani Natural Healing
Unani medicine was presented as a fully developed system of therapeutics by Hakim Abu Ali
Abdullah Husayn Ibn Sina, known as Avicenna in the West. A brief glance at the
accomplishments of his life confirms the title by which he is known in the East: The Prince of
Born in 980 A.D. near Bokhara, then part of Afghanistan, Avicenna had exhausted all of the
most distinguished teachers while he was still in his teens. Avicenna's father was a religious man
who entertained many learned guests, whose discources the young student also gathered up with
zeal. By the age of ten Avicenna had become a hafiz---one who has committed the entire Qur'an
to memory.

His father recognized and encouraged his son's medical genius from the earliest age, and by the
time he was fourteen, Avicenna had been appointed Chief Physician of the Royal Court, and all
physicians worked under his direction.
When Avicenna was 21, his father died and this event, coupled with the political turmoil of the
early 11th century, forced Avicenna into a period of wandering. Ultimately, he found refuge and
support from the Bujid Prince Shams-ad-Dawlah at Hamadan in Persia. Even such royal
patronage was insufficient to shield Avicenna from the epidemic of political intrigues, and he
was even imprisoned on one occasion.
But his intellect and physical stamina were so great that Avicenna managed to conduct his
work as physician and scholar despite such dislocations and hardships. Writing with his memory
as his primary resource, Avicenna composed an astonishing 276 works, most of them in several
volumes, covering virtually every subject of human thought and endeavor---medicine, natural
history, physics, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, music, economics and moral and religious
Like Hippocrates and Galen, Avicenna considered that God was a "necessary existent" and
himself wrote many books on the nature of Divinity, including the famous Kitab al-Insaf (Book
of Impartial Judgement), in which, at the age of twenty-one, he posed and answered 28,000
questions on the nature of Divinity.
Two of his medical books have earned undisputed and unparalleled fame. The first, Kitab ash-
Shifa' (The Book of Healing), is generally conceded to be the largest work ever produced by an
individual. In this monumental book, Avicenna developed his theories of medicine and its
relevant allied sciences, by expounding the doctrines of logic, natural sciences, psychology,
geometry, astronomy, arithmetic, music and metaphysics.
His fame rests chiefly on his second book Al-Qanun fi'l at-Tibb (The Canon of Medicine),
which the Encyclopedia Britanica regards as "the most famous book in the history of medicine,
in East or West.
The Canon of Medicine
Composed in five long volumes, the Canon drew together all of the medical knowledge that
existed in the world up to his time---including the systems of the Greeks, Europeans, East
Indians, Persians, Arabs, Chinese, Tibetians and others---which he refined and codified into The
Standard Principles of Medicine.

The Canon of Medicine was translated into virtually every other language of the civilized
world: Persian, Russian, Hebrew, French, German and other Romance languages. Twenty-eight
editions existed in Latin alone.
The Canon and other of Avicenna's works became the basis of thought in most of the
Medaevial schools of knowledge, especially that of the Franciscians. The Canon of Avicenna is
the source of authority for all modern therapeutics, and its influence upon the development of
medicine cannot be overestimated. It has maintained its authority through ten centuries of
medical teaching and practice, and today remains the handbook for all practitioners of Unani
Not content merely to compile data, Avicenna set forth the principles upon which medicinal
chemistry, botany, and pharmacy are based, founded hospitals, and developed the chemical
processes of filtration, sublimation and calcination. Of special note is that Avicenna invented the
process of distillation and was the first to distil oil of rose.
Besides his vast grasp of dietetics, Avicenna developed a codified science of urinalysis, pulse
diagnosis, classifications of pain, and an exhaustive pharmacology of hundreds of plant

Origins of Modern Medicine
From the tremendous impetus supplied by Avicenna, during the next several centuries medicine
developed as never before. Muslims took the masses of pathetically ill and established them in
sleek and elegant hospitals. These hospitals were immense structures with courtyards, and
featured lecture halls, libraries, mosques and chapels (they treated people of all religious beliefs),
charity wards, kitchens and dispensaries. All patients were attended by qualified male and female
nurses. The mood at the magnificient Mansur Hospital in Cairo is reflected in the following
account of the amenities arranged for the benefit of all patients:
"Day and night, fifty reciters intoned the Qur'an aloud. At nightfall, musicians played soft
melodies to induce drousiness in the patients. Professional storytellers entertained the sick with
their tales. When the patient left the hospital, he or she was given enough money so that they
would not have to resume work immediately."
By the time of the early 18th century, the Unani system was the basis of virtually all medicine
in the Western civilized world, including Europe. According to scholars, the British Formulary
was based entirely upon the Canon up until the end of the 18th century. Significant influences of
Avicenna can be found in virtually all of the European nature cure movements, and even in the
doctrines and early experiments in homeopathy of Samuel Hahneman (1755-1843), who is
reputed to have known Arabic and traveled widely in the Islamic world and India.

Herbal Medicine in the West
Herbal medicine as it developed in the United States shows little evidence of direct influence
of Avicenna. While many of the European nature cure systems that were transported here were
derived from Unani, contemporary American herbology was perhaps most shaped by Samuel
Thomson. Born in New Hampshire in 1769, he was a self-educated healer who accidentally
discovered the properties of lobelia and cayenne pepper. Simply via intuition, Thomson realized
that most illnesses resulted from lowered life force in the body, and he correctly applied the
intense heat of lobelia and cayyene in combination to raise the metabolic level, a process that lies
at the heart of Avicenna's medicine.
But considering the force and impact of Avicenna on the history and development of medicine
throughout the world, one may legitimately wonder why his system has not gained prominence
in the West today.
There are two reasons. The first complaint against Avicenna came in the late 1700s, from
biologists and scientists who argued that one cannot determine the reality of the humors,
metabolic sub-cellular forces that underlie Avicenna's notion of causes of disease. Since the
humors could not be extractly and measured, when technological advances permitted scientists to
peer into micro life forms, Avicenna's medicine was viewed with skepticism.
Secondly, and even more significantly, Avicenna---while admitting to the existence of bacteria
and viral forms of life---rejected the idea that they were the primary cause of disease, but rather a
result of a disordered metabolism.
It was only during the third quarter of the nineeteenth century (1860-1890), that the basic
conception of disease was altered by the advent of the etiological school, which introduced the
bacteriological origin of disease. In the past, physicians believed that disease symptoms revealed
some organic malfunction. But with the bacterioloigcal school, this idea was discarded in favor
of the notion that there was a 'special cause'---usually a microbe or virus---which was responsible
for the lesion or other symptom. As the microbial theory of medicine gained prominence, not
only Avicenna but also other systems such as homeopathy were swept aside.
For Avicenna and also his contemporary followers, there could be no such thing as a 'single'
cause of disease---be it a germ or other factor. The concept of a single cause or mode of
classification was rejected as an illogical fiction, because common sense and reason compel one
to admit that every morbid condition is the result of not one, but many factors, almost always
occurring in combination.
On first encounter with Avicenna's Canon, one is overwhlemed, awed, by the scope of his
genius. Even more remarkable, is that the 1,000 years since he wrote apparently have dimmed

whatsoever the validity of his doctrines. Indeed, even modern hospital medicine is searching ever
more frantically for the pre-disposing factors of disease.
Avicenna's therapeutics---scientific, perfectly in accord with Nature, including human nature,
and stated with profound clarity---certainly bear close investigation by contemporary alternative
healing advocates.
The Key Concepts of Unani Healing
Unani medicine is based upon two important concepts. First, the Doctrine of the Naturals
establishes the standards of the human body, from which disease states are deduced by deviation
from the norms; second, the Doctrine of Causes identifies and explains the reasons for the
deviations from the norms. Efforts at diagnosis the main symptoms as signs leading to the
underlying imbalance (Avicenna uses the word 'intemperament') that allowed the disease
symptoms to arise in the first place.
Avicenna sets forth six primary factors which are evaluated in depth to discern the cause of a
1) the air of one's environment;
2) food and beverages;
3) movement and rest;
4) sleep and wakefulness;
5) evacuation and eating; and
6) emotions.
While some may feel these six factors are self-evident and simplistic, the exhaustive analysis of
them by Avicenna seems practically miraculous. For example, "air" is not considered simply as
the air one breathes, but includes the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation, atmospheric effects,
seasonal changes, winds and other factors which may influence these elements such as types of
trees and vegetation, mines and mineral deposits in the locale, cemeteries, dead animals, putrid
water, muddy swamps and similar things.
Unani Food & Dietetics
But the heart of Avicenna's therapeutics is found in the importance he places on food and diet.
Avicenna writes: "Most illnesses arise solely from long-continued errors of diet and regimen."

Avicenna views the process of digestion as one by which the nutrient substances (foods and
beverages) are heated or 'cooked' by the body. By this is meant that the foods are altered from
their state when taken into the mouth, and refined, or broken down, into ever-smaller nutrient
parts. The process of heating---the grinding of food by teeth, action of oral enzymes,
hydrochloric acid, and direct heat of the liver---all are part of the body's own 'cooking' of the
nutrients according to Avicenna. Thus, the dietetics of Unani are concerned first and primarily
with evaluating foods according to their ability to enhance or impede this innate metabolic action
of the body. While the Unani physicians agree with developments in biochemistry, such as the
discovery of vitamins, which occurred since the time of Avicenna, they still insisit that the
primary focus and attention must be on total and effecient metabolism.
Foods are said to be either 'hot' (garmi) or 'cool' (sardi). This classification is consistent with
other systems that endeavor to obtain an overview of the metabolic process, such as the East
Indian Ayurvedic medicine, which assigns identical heating and cooling values to foods.
Generally speaking, Avicenna's values of foods corresponds to the macrobiotic yin (cool) and
yang (warm).
Foods that are sardi, or cooling, place several burdens on the body: 1) they are harder to digest
(initial breakdown in mouth and stomach); 2) they are harder to assimilate (absorption of micro-
nutrients into the blood stream and cells; and 3) consequently, they leave a greater residue of
superfluous waste products.
The following chart shows the metabolic values assigned to many common foods by Avicenna.
The Concept of Humours
Like his famous predecessors Hippocrates and Galen, Avicenna also discovered the conceptual
framework for expressing the imbalances that cause disease in the Concept of Humors. The
humors, semi-gaseous, vaporous substances, are considered the 'essence' of the blood, phlegm,
yellow and black bile. These substances admix with the body's fluids and tissues, and are
responsible for maintaining each part of the body in its characteristic, healthy temperament. For
example, blood is said by nature to be warm and moist; phlegm, cold and moist; yellow bile, cold
and dry; and black bile, hot and dry. Likewise each body part and system---organs, nerves, skin,
and so forth---is believed to have a proper, or healthy temperament. Whenever this balance is
disturbed---usually due to incorrect food or exercise---an environment is created in which disease
can arise and flourish. Western scientists admit to a quasi-material "pre-disposing factor" which
permits some to fall ill from bacteria and viruses, while others identically exposed, do not. On
this vital point, Western medicine and Avicenna seem to be in perfect agreement.
All four of these humors arise at the site of the liver as part of the digestive process. See the
topic on Humours in the Doctrines Section for a complete explanation of this important concept.

The quality and quantity of all of the humors are derived from the foods eaten and the
completeness of digestion. For Avicenna, any deviation from the normal, or balanced state of a
humor, would produce changes in the internal biotic environment that permit bacteria to grow to
larger than normal populations, and similar effects, which are identified as the symptoms of
'disease.' The specific disease that might affect any person would depend upon that person's
general state of health, inherent weaknesses and related factors.
According to Avicenna, cancer is due to an imbalance of the black bile humor, which
maintains the temperaments of the by-products of metabolism---the body's waste products.
Hakim Sherif related that cancer was among the most difficult cases to cure. However, he had
only seen two cases in more than sixty years of practice. According to World Health
Organization statistics, the cancer rate for countries subscribing to the Unani dietary principles
are the lowest in the world.
Training of Hakims
The training of the hakim traditionally begins at the age of six or seven and requires about 30
years before the hakim practices alone. The reading of the pulse permits a rather straightforward
assessment of several factors: 1) which humor is out of balance; 2) what is the nature of the
imbalance; that is, excess of heat or coldness, wetness or dryness; and 3) which of the primary
organs are affected.
The typical treatment plan found the the Canon advises changes in diet, prescribes herbal
substances in many forms, and often suggests the inhalation of specific floral fragrances to
balance the emotional and spiritual planes.
The pharmacological Formulary of the Canon lists 282 plants used as medicines, although
Avicenna frequently advised fasting, or otherwise withheld intake of food to cure disease. He
placed herbs in three classes: 1) nutrients (example, basil); 2) medicinal nutrients (example,
ginger); and 3) medicines, or drugs (example, belladonna).
The distinction between food and medicine is frequently blurred in Unani. For example, the
most common remedy for winter coughs is to eat a handful of walnuts and raisins---both from
the heating list of foods.
Sugar, even minimally-refined raw sugar, is considered to be a potent narcotic medicine. The
Hakims of Afghanistan to this day keep sugar under lock and key!
Honey is not only the sweetener of choice, but is considered by Avicenna to be "the food of
foods, the drink of drinks and the drug of drugs." The most well-known herbal formulas of
Avicenna, called "jawarish," are ground and sifted, and preserved in a honey base.

Biochemically, honey is an inert trigger, meaning than it will not support the growth of bacteria.
Thus the volatile oils and other active ingredients in the formulations are preserved against
contamination and loss of potency for at least several years, if not centuries.
The contemporary hakim possesses a unique blend of medical knowledge, psychological insight
and spiritual discipline. The largest facility in the world for the study, treatment and research in
herbal therapeutics is the Hamdard Institute of New Delhi, India. Devoted exclusively to
Avicenna's Unani medicine, the Hamdard Institute under its director Hakim Abdul Hamid is
famous in the Sub-Continent. Strategically-placed warehouses distribute hundreds of thousands
of Unani remedies throughout India. A similar institute exists in Pakistan, under Hakim
Mohammad Said, who is said to have personally treated more than two and a half million
patients over the past thirty years.
At the famed Hamdard clinics, or Dawakhanas as they are called, no fees are charged to
anyone for consultation, exmination, tests, or services. The patient only pays for medicines, a
charge usually very modest, less than a dollar. Indigent patients are given all treatment and
medicine free. For those unable to travel to larger cities with established clinics, a hakim or
hakima (feminine) makes weekly or monthly excursions throughout the countryside
administering to the sick.
Today in America the use of natural, living foods and herbal medicines is rapidly shifting from
the status of ridiculed cult into the mainstream of viable medical choices. It seems inevitable that
as Avicenna's books become widely available, all students and practitoners of natural healing
will discover an immense reward in the special and extraordinary medical genius of the Prince of
Avicenna's View of Heart Disease
In Unani, the heart is considered the most important organ. Avicenna subscribed to and
repeated the Prophetic Tradition of Muhammad in this regard: "There is one organ in the body
which, if it be well, the whole body is well; and if it is ill, the whole body is ill. And this organ is
the heart."
In the Canon Avicenna assesses the condition and state of the heart by eight means:
1) pulse;
2) respiration patterns;
3) form or shape of the chest;
4) hair growth on chest;

5) general feel of the body;
6) other palpable conditions;
7) general strength or weakness; and
8) thoughts and hallucinations.
Among the diseases of the heart Avicenna lists intemperament, inflammation, embolism of
cardiac arteries, functional diseases and discontinuity.
To Avicenna, the heart possessed a greater function than being simply a muscular pump. He
believed that the heart served as the repository of Divine potentialities, and was greatly effected
by emotions such as pleasure, sorrow, joy, grief, revenge, anxiety and exhilaration.
The first purpose in treatment of any cardiovascular disease was to "purify the blood, which
refines the pneuma or vital force." To accomplish this purification, many substances were used,
especially finely ground amber stone, lapis luzuli and shaved gold and silver.
General treatment was both symptomatic and tonic. Avicenna advised single and compound
herbs, smelling salts, teas, foods, change in climate, pastes over the heart and perfumes.
For Avicenna, the breath was the link between the manifest and unmanifest realms, between
God and humans, and he felt the "vital power of the heart is attracted to aromas. In cardiac drugs
great condideration is given to aromas, because the heart is the seat of the production of the vital
force of the body." In fact, Avicenna was so convinced of the value of essential oils in heart
conditions, that he once remarked "all aromatic oils are cardiac drugs."
One very important difference between the oils used by Avicenna and contemporary
"perfumes," is that use of alcohol, even in minute quantities, was forbidden, because it is
believed the alcohol destroys the "essence" or vital force of the floral oil.
Of the 63 cardiac drugs mentioned by Avicenna, 40, or more than half, were aromatic oils.
Attars---non-alcolholic distilled essential oils---of lavender, rose, cinnamon, frankinsence, water
lily, mint, aloeswood and basil were among those often prescribed in heart conditions.
Purgatives were extremely valueable for cleansing the body of toxins, specially in the area of the
heart, but Avicenna urged caution in their use, "because they can remove beneficial elements as
well as detrimental." A tea made from senna pods ranked highest in Avicenna's Formulary of

Intemperament caused by coldness was treated by its opposite, the heating herbs---musk,
amber, saffron, aloeswood and cardamom. Cooling drugs included camphor, sandalwood, rose
and coriander.
For palpitations of the heart, Avicenna advised extracts of fragrant fruits---apple, quince,
guava---specially after meals. Many of the cardiac oils added via the diet---such as clove,
saffron, coriander, mint, cucumber and lettuce.
Timeline Development of Unani Medicine & Science
In The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer identifies the authorities used by his Doctour of Physic: four
Unani physicians --- Ali ibn al-Abbas al-Majusi (Jesu Haly), al-Razi (Rhazes), Ibn Sina
(Avycen) and Ibn Rushd (Averrois). These four Hakims were among the greatest medical figures
of the ancient world. Their authority remained throughout the European Middle Ages, and their
books were the basis of medical instruction in European medical schools, up to even the start of
the 20
The Arab Unani physicians of the eighth to eleventh centuries were the founders of the science
of modern medicine, with an amazing array of discoveries, inventions, medical instruments and
brilliant writings.
The Unani physicians arose from the Islamic culture of 1,000 years ago, and their view was
based upon a concept of medicine as the science by which the functioning of the human body
could be discerned. Their goal is the preservation of health and to assist the body in its role as
self-healer. They place as much emphasis on the maintenance of health as on the art of healing.
Unani medicine actually goes back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) who himself
stated that there was no disease without a cure. There are entire books written on Tibb-ul-
Nabbawi, or Medicine of the Prophet, so extensive were his knowledges of the healing arts.
It is no exaggeration to say that the great Unani physicians were the originators of the study of
medicine as science. They eliminated all superstition and harmful folk-practices from ancient
The Unani system is also responsible for first introducing the concept of professional standards
of practice and the examination of physicians. Moreover, at the core of Unani healing is a moral
code, implicit for both the patient and practitioner.
The first hospitals were built under the auspices of the Unani physicians. They were elegant and
sophisticated structures, supremely functional, with running water and baths, different sections
for the treatment of various diseases, with each section headed by a specialist. Hospitals were
open 24 hours a day to handle emergency cases and did not turn any patient away.

Unani physicians inherited the medical tradition of Hippocrates and the Greeks, but quickly put
the mark of their own genius upon all medicine. Below are some of the important individuals and
landmarks in the development of Unani healing over the past 1,000 years. The list is by now
means exhaustive, but gives a flavor of how Unani has developed over the centuries.