An Epistle on Colitis


Abu ʻAli al-Husayn Ibn Sina was born in Bukhara (present-day Uzbekistan) in 980 and died in Hamadan (present-day Iran) in 1037. One of the intellectual luminaries of the medieval world, known in the Latin West as Avicenna, this Persian polymath was often referred to by Muslim authors as al-Shaykh al-Raʼīs (the preeminent scholar), acknowledgment of his status as one of the foremost savants of the Islamic world. A prolific author, Ibn Sina wrote on topics as varied as metaphysics, theology, medicine, psychology, earth sciences, physics, astronomy, astrology, and chemistry. Ibn Sina’s fame in Europe rests principally on this work, al-Qānūn fī al-ṭibb (The canon of medicine), which was 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 was due to the reputation of this work, as well as two of Ibn Sina's other works that were translated into Latin—al-Adwiya al-qalbīya (Cardiac medication) and al-Urjūza fī al-ṭibb (a versified manual on medicine)—that Ibn Sina was sometimes referred to in the Latin West as princeps medicorum (prince of physicians). He may have written Risālah fī al-Qūlanj (An epistle on colitis) around the time of his imprisonment in the castle of Fardajan near Hamadan in about 1023. The work is divided into three maqalat (essays): the first on the anatomy of the viscera, the second on the different types of colitis, and the third on various treatments for these ailments. The work is dedicated to an official, presumably a dignitary from the Buyid dynasty (mid-10th–mid-11th centuries), who is identified in the introduction as the Amir Nusrat al-daula Izz al-mulk. The current manuscript, in taʻliq cript written in black ink, was completed in Jumada al-akhira, 1063 AH (April–May 1653).

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

رسالة في القولنج

Type of Item

Physical Description

22 folios ; 210 x 138 millimeters



  1. A.Z. Iskandar, A Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts on Medicine and Science in the Wellcome Historical Medical Library (London: Wellcome Historical Medical Library, 1967).

Last updated: November 27, 2015