Harvard Divinity School: The Medieval Islamic Hospital: Medicine, Religion, and Charity

Book written by Ahmed Ragab

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

Ahmed Ragab is 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.


Ahmed Ragab is the Richard T. Watson Assistant Professor of Science and Religion at Harvard Divinity School

Ragab is a physician, 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. In 2010 he received his PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from L’École Pratique des Hautes Études 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.

Harvard University

John W. Weeks Bridge and clock tower over Charles River in Harvard University campus in Boston with trees, boat and blue sky

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 traditions), 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 until 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 2008–10.

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.

Read further

Suggested Reading

The Muslim Times has an extensive collection on the theme of Religion & Science

The Muslim Times has an extensive collection on the theme of Muslim Heritage


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s