Ahmed Ragab

Ahmed Ragab

Richard T. Watson Associate Professor of Science and Religion
Ahmed Ragab


  • PhD, École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris
  • MD, Cairo University


Ahmed Ragab is The Richard T. Watson Associate Professor of Science and Religion at Harvard Divinity School, affiliate associate professor at the department of the history of science, and director of the Science, Religion and Culture program at Harvard University.

Ragab is a historian of science and medicine, and a scholar of science and religion. He received his MD from Cairo University School of Medicine in 2005, and PhD from the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris in 2010. He is the author of The Medieval Islamic Hospital: Medicine, Religion and Charity (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Ragab’s research focuses on the history of medicine, science and religion and the development of cultures of science and cultures of religion in the Middle East and the Islamic World. He also studies and publishes on gender and sexuality in the medieval and early modern Middle East, postcolonial studies of science and religion and other questions in the history of science and religion. His The Medieval Islamic Hospital: Medicine, Religion and Charity (Cambridge University Press, 2015) was the first monographic study of Islamic hospitals. It analyzed hospitals as central institutions of the medieval Muslim city that conditioned the city’s physical, medical and spiritual landscape. The book places the Islamic hospital within localized narratives of need, health and sickness, and discusses how they impacted medical thought and practice at the time. His Piety and Patienthood in Medieval Islam (Routledge Press, 2018) examined the pious construction of patienthood in the early Islamic medieval period. It investigated the deeper history of the prophetic medicine literature uncovering how pious narratives and writings of medical and religious scholars in the classical Islamic period conditioned the ways Muslim patients understood their bodies and experienced diseases, how they approached medical care, and how they perceived their suffering and recovery. Finally, his Medicine and Religion in the Life of an Ottoman Sheikh (Routledge, 2018—in press) traces the life and career of al-Shaykh Aḥmad al-Damanhūrī, who was the rector of al-Azhar university in the second half of the eighteenth century, as a religious scholar with a remarkable scientific and medical career. The book sheds light on the place of science and medicine in Egyptian Ottoman scholarly culture on the eve of colonization.

Ragab is currently working on two new book projects. The first Communities of Knowledge: Science in Medieval Europe and Islamdom (Princeton University Press, forthcoming) is co-authored with Professor Katharine Park (Harvard University). The book looks at the history of medieval and early modern science across traditional boundaries separating Europe and the Islamic world, using objects to investigate the production of scientific knowledge and practice. The book investigates objects as meaning-bearing categories that provoke epistemic investigations, which in turn maintain or disrupt these objects’ coherence. The second, Around the Clock: Time in Medieval Islamic Clinical Cultures (Johns Hopkins University Press, forthcoming), investigates the place of time as an epistemic and cultural category in medical thought and practice. It looks at how time is articulated in a variety of contexts, from understanding seasonal variations and astrological and astronomical changes, to aging, to disease progress and to the place of time in defining gender categories.

Ragab’s work investigates colonial and postcolonial science, technology and medicine in the Middle East. His work discusses debates on progress and reform in the nineteenth and twentieth century, the establishment of new medical and scientific faculties in the region, and the formation of new scientific elites. His most recent works have paid attention to the affective economies underwriting the making of colonial and postcolonial science and medicine. He also investigates the development of views on science and Islam from the early nineteenth century and looks at how debates on science and Islam were connected to the history of colonial science in the Middle East and Islamic world, how the nineteenth-century processes of selecting, editing and printing medieval Islamic texts contributed to creating a new archive of salvaged materials that emerged to influence the production of modern Islamic discourses centered around the notion of a “Golden Age of Islamic Civilization.”

Full CV



Book Sections

Commentaries, Book reviews and Encyclopedia Entries

  • Entries on "Al-Andalus/Ibn Rushd," "al-Biruni," "al-Tusi," "Ikhwan al-Safa (Brothren of Purity)," "Islamic Planetary theories and Cosmology," "Islamic Religious/Theological Cosmologies," and "Islamic Theories of Spontaneous Generation and Evolution." In Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, edited by Muriel Gargaud, William M. Irvine, Ricardo Amils, Henderson James (Jim) Cleaves II, Daniele Pinti, José Cernicharo Quintanilla, Daniel Rouan, Tilman Spohn, Stéphane Tirard, and Michel Viso. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2015.
  • Commentary on "Cycles of Cathay—Sinology, Philology, and Histories of the Song Dynasty (960–1279) in the United States by Christian de Pee." Fragments: Journal of History 2 (2012).
  • Book review of "The World of Pharmacy and Pharmacists in Mamluk Cairo by Leigh Chipman." Speculum 87, no. 1 (2012): 196–97.

Articles and Book Sections in Preparation

  • "Monsters, Fossils and Patients: An archeology of medieval medicine." History and Theory. [Manuscript in preparation]
  • "Sira and asbab al-nuzul: Context as commentary; the text generating context; is chronology discoverable?" In The Routledge Companion to the Quran, edited by Daniel A. Madigan and Maria Massi Dakake. London: Routledge, forthcoming.
  • "Scientific Expertise and the making of Islamic legal opinions: an analysis of ‘scientific’ fatwas." [Article in preparation]
  • "Epistemes, Technes and Hermeneutics: the making of the ‘Scientific Interpretation’ of the Quran." In Deliberating Religion, Science and Progress in the Global Public Sphere, edited by Ulrika Martensson and Filip Ivanovic. London: Ashgate Series on Science and Religion, forthcoming.
  • "Pilgrimage, Geography and Genealogy: The epistemology of places in Islamic scientific and religious discourses." Fragments: Journal of History. [Manuscript in preparation]


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