The Department of Arabic was established in 1945 at the University of Ceylon as a department in the Faculty of Oriental Studies. Initially it had only an undergraduate programme, but in 1956 an MA programme was also introduced. In 1969 Islamic Civilization was introduced as a subject of study in the department.
In 1972, when the university system was “reorganized,” the Department of Arabic and Islamic Civilization was moved to the Vidyalankara Campus of the University of Sri Lanka, at Kelaniya. In 1980 the department was relocated at the University of Peradeniya. The department conducts General, Special, and Postgraduate Degrees in Arabic and Islamic Civilization. Courses are taught in the English, Sinhala, and Tamil languages.