Professor Ahmed Ragab

Professor Ahmed Ragab

Richard T. Watson Associate Professor of Science and Religion
Director of the Science, Religion, and Culture Program
Professor   Ahmed Ragab


  • PhD, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes 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 an historian of science and medicine, and a scholar of science and religion. He received his M.D from Cairo University School of Medicine in 2005, and PhD from the Ecole Pratiques des Hautes Etudes 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” (Under contract with Princeton University Press) 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” (under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press), 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”.




The Medieval Islamic Hospital: Medicine, Religion and Charity (Cambridge, 2015)

Piety and Patienthood in Medieval Islam (Routledge, 2018)

Medicine and Religion in the Life of an Ottoman Sheikh: Al-Damanhuri’s “Clear Statement” on anatomy (Routledge, 2018—in production)


Books in Preparation (under contract)

 [Co-authored with Katharine Park] Communities of Knowledge: Science and Religion in Europe and the Lands of Islam (Under contract with Princeton University Press)

Around the Clock: Time in medieval Islamic clinical cultures (Under Contract with Johns Hopkins University Press)


Peer-reviewed Articles (published or forthcoming):

 “Illness and the city: Preliminary notes on the place of hospitals in Muslim pietistic spaces,” Journal of Islamic and Muslim Studies, 2018 (forthcoming)

“Two students and a corpse: The semantics of disgust in the making of colonial knowledge,” History and Technology, 2018 (forthcoming)

 “In a clear Arabic tongue: Arabic, Science and the Medieval Islamicate Linguistic Regimes,” Isis: A Journal of the History of Science Society, 108:4, 2017

“Rethinking Knowledge-Making: The Islamicate Postclassical Age and the Making of Decline,” Journal of Early Modern History, 21, 2017. Pp. 1-12.

“Monsters and Patients: An Archeology of Medicine, Colonialism and Modernity,” History and Theory, 55:4, 2016. Pp. 112-30.

“One, Two or More Sexes: Sex Differentiation in Medieval Islamicate Medical Thought,” Journal of the History of Sexuality, 24: 3, 2015. Pp. 428-54.

“History of Science,” Women and Islamic Cultures: Disciplinary Paradigms and Approaches 2003-2013, edited by Suad Joseph, Boston, Leiden: Brill, 2013. Pp. 151-75.

“Prophetic Traditions and Modern Medicine in the Middle East: Resurrection, Reinterpretation, and Reconstruction,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 132:4, 2012. Pp. 657-73.

“Epistemic Authority of Women in the Medieval Middle East”, HAWWA: Journal of Women in the Middle East and Islamic World, 8:2, 2010. Pp. 181-216.

“Madman Walking: The Image of the Mad in Egyptian Press”, Egypte-Monde Arabe, Troisième Série, 4, 2007. Pp. 227-246.


Book sections (published or forthcoming)

“Sira and Asbab al-Nuzul: Context as Commentary” in The Routledge Companion to the Quran, Daniel A. Madigan, and Maria Massi Dakake (Eds.), London: Routledge, 2019 (forthcoming)

“Eliminate the Muslim: Timeplay in the making of postcolonial future ethnoreligious identities” Harvard Divinity School Bulletin, Spring 2018

“Islam and Science” in Routledge Companion to Religion and Science, ed. James W. Haag, Gregory R. Peterson, Michael L. Spezio, London: Routledge, 2011. Pp. 45-57


Commentaries, Book reviews and Encyclopedia Entries

“Hospitals,” In Peter E. Pormann (ed.), 1001 Cures: Contributions in Medicine and Healthcare from Muslim Civilisation (Manchester: Foundation for Science Technology and Civilisation, 2017)

"Al-Andalus, Cosmological Ideas." In Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Ricardo Amils, et. al. (Eds). Berlin: Springer, 2015

"Planetary Theories and Cosmology, Islamic Theories." In Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Ricardo Amils, et. al. (Eds). Berlin: Springer, 2015

With Allyssa Metzger. "Ikhwan Al-Safa." In Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Ricardo Amils, et. al. (Eds). Berlin: Springer, 2015

With Allyssa Metzger. "Al-Tūsī, Nasir Al-Dīn." In Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Ricardo Amils, et. al. (Eds). Berlin: Springer, 2015

With Allyssa Metzger. "Al-Bīrūnī, Abū Rayḥān." In Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Ricardo Amils, et. al. (Eds). Berlin: Springer, 2015

"Commentary on De Pee." Fragments: Interdisciplinary approaches to the study of ancient and medieval pasts 2, (2012)

"Leigh Chipman, the World of Pharmacy and Pharmacists in Mamlūk Cairo. (Sir Henry Wellcome Asian Series, 8.) Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2010. Pp. Ix, 318; Tables. $154. Isbn: 978-9004176065." Speculum 87, no. 01 (2012): 196-97

Articles and Book Sections in Preparation

 “Islam as a postcolony: History and modernism in the making of ethnoreligious identities” [Under review]

 “Scientific Expertise and the Making of Islamic Legal Opinions: An Analysis of ‘medical Fatwas” [In preparation]

“Translation and the Making of a Medical Archive: The Case of the Islamic ‘Translation Movement’” [In preparation for a special issue of Osiris Journal)

Select Unpublished Lectures and Papers

“Muslim Futures: Science Fiction, Islam and the Making of Ethnoreligious Futurity,” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Boston, November 2017

“A Beau Ideal for Whosoever Hopes for God”: Piety, Medicine, and Prophetics in the Medieval and Contemporary Middle East,” American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Boston, November 2017

“Making Local Medicine: Colonial Discourses and the Making of Modern Medicine in the Middle East,” Middle Eastern Studies Association Annual Meeting, Washington D.C., November 2017.

“Islam, Science and History in the Making of a Postcolony,” in Roundtable: Rethinking Histories of Science and Medicine: Beyond Eurocentrism and Postcolonialism, History of Science Society Annual Meeting, November 2017.

“Prophetic Medicine: Medical Piety in the Medieval and Modern Islamicate Societies,” Keynote address, North American Association of Islamic and Muslim Studies, Boston, September 2017.

“‘Eliminate the Muslim’: Science Fiction in the Making of Muslims as Future Subjects,” The Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Study of Science, Boston, August 2017.

“Names to Remember: Memory and Amnesia in Medicine’s Historical Epistemology,” Keynote Address, Medicine and Knowledge in the Middle East Workshop, City of New York University—Graduate Center, March 31st, 2016

 “How to be a Patient: Patienthood and Medical Thinking in the Medieval Islamicate World,” Yale Lectures in Medieval Studies, November 5th, 2015

“In the Search of a Good Story: Origins and Continuities in Writing the History of Science,” Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Minnesota, October 15th, 2015

"From Plague to Ebola: The Social Life of Epidemics and the Making of Global Health,” The Annual Da Vinci Lecture, Marshall University, November 7th, 2014

“A House for the Sick and Poor: Hospitals, Religion, and Charity in a Topography of Public Health,” Keynote address at “Religion as a Social Determinant of Public Health” conference, Emory University, November 6th, 2014

“Beyond Conflict and Harmony: Religion and Science in the Twenty-First Century” at Cleveland City Club, March 7th, 2014

“Knowledge Will Set You Free: Critique as an Ethic of Liberation,” Keynote address at Harvard Divinity School Diversity and Exploration Program, November 2013

“Religion and Global Health” at Harvard Global Health Institute, October, 2013

“Scientific Expertise and Islamic Legal Opinions” at STS-IGLP workshop on expertise in Science, Technology and Law, Harvard Kennedy School STS program, Harvard Law School, April 18-19, 2013

“Hospitals as Road Posts in an Urban Map” at Urbanism, Spirituality and Wellbeing Initiative Panel “Themes in History”, Harvard University, April 11, 2013

“Animals for People and People for Animals: Animals in Medieval and Early Modern Islamicate Sciences” at “Communities like You: Animals in Islam;” the Fifth Annual Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Conference at Harvard University, April 5-6, 2013

Recorded talks: