Imam Journal of Applied Sciences

: 2018  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 73--74

The Canon of Medicine

Md Hashmat Imam 
 Regional Research Institute of Unani Medicine, Patna, Bihar, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Md Hashmat Imam
Regional Research Institute of Unani Medicine, Patna - 800 008, Bihar

How to cite this article:
Imam MH. The Canon of Medicine.Imam J Appl Sci 2018;3:73-74

How to cite this URL:
Imam MH. The Canon of Medicine. Imam J Appl Sci [serial online] 2018 [cited 2019 Oct 14 ];3:73-74
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Full Text

Editors : Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina

Edition : 1999

Publisher : Great Books of the Islamic World

ISBN : 9781871031676, 1871031672

Pages : 748

Price : 6134 INR


The Canon of Medicine (Arabic: Al-Qānūn Fīt-Ṭibb) is a grand encyclopedia of medicine, consisting of five books compiled by Persian physician-philosopher Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina (980-1037 A.D.) who has been called the “prince of physicians” generally known as Avicenna in the West.

Avicenna began writing this book in Gorgan at the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea and continued its composition in Rayy, an important medieval city south of modern Tehran. The Canon was completed in Hamadan even further southwest, where Avicenna died in 1037 A.D. This book is in Arabic language translated into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century and remained part of the standard curriculum for medical students until the late 17th century. It appears that for well over 700 years, no medical book ever written had been studied so thoroughly over such a long period.

The Canon of Medicine is a milestone and turning point in the field of medicine. This book was printed for the first time in Rome in 1593. In the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent, the Canon in the Arabic and its Urdu translations (by Ghulam Hussain Kantori, Allama Kabiruddin, and Rizwan Ahmed) is still being used by hakims as the vade-mecum of Unani Tib. An English translation of book 1 by O. Cameron Gruner, from its Latin versions was published by Luzac, London in 1930. At present, only translated version is available in market [Table 1]. This book is more logical and systematic than any other medical treatise, and it contains reference to the works of earlier physicians, supplemented and modified by personal observation and conclusions of Avicenna himself. This is a codification of the whole of the ancient Muslim knowledge. It is both the epitome and summation of Greco-Arabian medicine. The father of modern medicine Sir William Osler (1849-1919 A.D.) described the Canon as “the most famous medical textbook ever written” noting that it remained “a medical bible for a longer time than any other work."{Table 1}

The Canon of Medicine is organized into five books as follows: Book 1 is entitled al-Umur al-kulliya fī ’ilm al-ṭibb (general medical principles) and covers the basic principles of medicine; Book 2 is entitled al-Adwiya al-mufrada (Materia Medica) and lists approximately 800 individual drugs of vegetable and mineral origin; Book 3 is entitled al-Amrāḑ al-juz'iya (special pathology) and discusses the diseases of individual organs; Book 4 is entitled al-Amrāḑ allatī lā takhtaṣṣ bi ’udw bi ’aynihi (diseases involving more than one member) and discusses medical conditions that affect the entire body, such as fevers and poisons; Book 5 is entitled al-Adwiya al-murakkaba wa al-aqrābādhīn (formulary) and lists some 650 medicinal compounds as well as their uses and effects.

This book is superbly organized and very well written not only the most important and influential single text in the history of medicine but also it is the main work of reference for a major traditional school of medicine that is still alive and has much to teach us today.