Unravelling the History of Science in the Islamic World
Traditional views portray science in Islam as standing little chance of surviving—much less thriving—in a religiously oriented civilization seen as hostile to rationalism. These ideas have influenced the modern discourse about Islam, both outside and in the Islamic world.
A number of international scholars have challenged these notions. Extensive, in-depth studies have emphasized the longevity of Islamic scientific work, and the integration of Greek and other ancient scientific traditions into Islamic thought and institutions. Among these scholars is Dr. Jamil Ragep, Canada Research Chair in the History of Science in Islamic Societies. His research is contributing to our understanding of these scientific traditions in Islam.
Thanks to the Canada Research Chairs Program, Ragep has expanded his widely recognized research on the history of astronomy and cosmology. He has already shown that Islamic scientific traditions lasted much longer than previously thought—from the 8th to the 19th century—making significant inroads into religious schools (madrasas) and teachings. A new relational database of his own design has allowed Ragep to document these claims more precisely. The database also serves as the basis for a wider international collaborative effort, the Islamic Scientific Manuscripts Initiative.
In addition, Ragep is studying the background of the Copernican Revolution, which saw a shift in how we viewed the universe, starting with Copernicus’ claim that the sun was at its centre. By focusing on the scientific revolution’s aspects with Islamic roots, he and his collaborators will shed light on the multicultural background of modernism.
By pointing to the complex historical relation between science and religion in Islamic societies, Ragep hopes that his work will contribute to today’s debate on rationalism, secularism and Islam.