Professor Ahmed Ragab

Professor Ahmed Ragab

Richard T. Watson Assistant 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


The Richard T. Watson Assistant Professor of Science and Religion at Harvard Divinity School, affiliate assistant professor at the department of the history of science, and director of the Science, Religion and Culture program at Harvard Divinity School.

Ragab is a physician, a 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. In 2010 he received his PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris. He was a postdoctoral fellow, then a lecturer of the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. He joined Harvard Divinity School in July 2011 as the first Richard T. Watson Assistant Professor of Science and Religion at Harvard Divinity School. In 2012, Ragab inaugurated the Science, Religion and Culture program at Harvard Divinity School, which he continues to direct.

Ragab’s work spans various fields and disciplines. He studies the history of science and 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 various questions related to science and religion in the US with a focus on US Muslim communities.

Ragab’s research on the history of science, medicine and culture in the Islamic world includes his history of medieval Islamic hospitals, and his research on the epistemic authority of medieval Muslim women with a focus on women-reporters of prophetic traditions. He also worked on sex and gender differentiation in medical thought in the region, on the development of anatomy and dissection and their relation to religious practices in the Ottoman context. He investigates medical thinking and physician-patient encounters in the medieval and early modern context.

In his most recent book projects, Ragab investigates the history of prophetic medicine the medieval as well as the modern Islamic world. Prophetic medicine is a body of literature that collects sayings by prophet Muhammad (prophetic tradiiotns), which included medical and health-related pronouncements and advice. Ragab’s work investigates the rise of this literature, the role it played in the history of medical thought and practice and in the development of prophetic traditions, and its resurgence from the seventies of the twentieth century till now, the new developments related to this resurgence and the social and political significances of this literature. In another book project, Ragab investigates the development of views on science and Islam from the early nineteenth century. The project looks at how debates on science and Islam coincided with the introduction of modern science in the region and allowed for recasting the meanings of both science knowledge and religious knowledge. Ragab explains the historicity of the relationship of science and Islam and the role played by the coupling science-and-Islam in the formulation of new scientific discourses in the region.

Ragab was trained in epidemiology and medical sociology, and worked on infectious and epidemic diseases. He has a special interest in gender, ethnic and religion-based disparities in disease burden, and in the gender, ethnic, and religious dimensions of treatment modalities, and healthcare policy. He worked with the French Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (National Institute of Health and Medical Research), the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research) on various topics related to infectious, endemic and epidemic diseases specifically, H1N1, H1N5, Hepatitis C and HIV. Some of these projects include: "Public Policies, Professional Practices and Agents' Conduct Regarding the Risk of Avian Flu (Egypt, France, India, Niger, UK, Vietnam)" from 2006-2009. Along with that project he worked on similar projects on H1N1 in 2009, on Hepatitis C and HIV from 2008-2010.

He was elected a member of the Commission on History of Science and Technology in Islamic Societies and a member of the International Society for Science and Religion.

Links, publications and other matierals:

The Medeival Islamic Hospital: Medicine, Religion and Charity. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015:

Translation (to English and French) of Aḥmad ibn Khalaf al-Murādī’s “Kitāb al-Asrār fī Natāʿij al-Afkār”: The Book of Secrets in the Results of Ideas. Milano: Leonardo3, 2009

Books in Preparation:

With Katharine Park, Knowledge on the Move: Cultures of Science in the Medieval World [In preparation for publication by Chicago University Press]


“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,” in Women and Islamic Cultures: Disciplinary Paradigms and Approaches 2003-2013, edited by Suad Joseph, Boston, Leiden: Brill, 2013

“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;jsessionid=2o2hkfonotd5n.x-brill-live-03

“Madman Walking: the image of the mad in Egyptian press”, Egypte-Monde Arabe, Troisième Série, 4, 2007. Pp. 227-246

Book Sections

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

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,” “Islamic Theories of Spontaneous Generation and Evolution” in Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, ed. Muriel Gargaud. SpringerOnline

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, vol. 2, 2012.

Book review of “The World of Pharmacy and Pharmacists in Mamluk Cairo by Leigh Chipman,” Speculum, 87:1, January 2012. Pp. 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, ed. Daniel A. Madigan, and Maria Massi Dakake, London: Routledge [manuscript in preparation]

“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, ed. Ulrika Martensson and Filip Ivanovic, London: Ashgate Series on Science and Religion, [manuscript in preparation]

“Pilgrimage, Geography and Genealogy: The epistemology of places in Islamic scientific and religious discourses”, Fragments: Journal of History (Manuscript in preparation)