This article brings together insights from efforts to develop a global history of science and recent historical and sociological studies on the relations between science and religion. Using the case of the late Ottoman Empire as an example, it argues that 'science and religion' can be seen as a debate that travelled globally in the nineteenth century, generating new conceptualizations of both science and religion in many parts of the world. In their efforts to counter arguments that represented Islam as the enemy of science and progress, young Ottoman intellectuals wrote many texts addressing a specific European author, or an imagined, broad European audience in the mid- to late nineteenth century. These texts described a 'science-friendly' Islam of which not only Europeans but also 'ignorant Muslims' were unaware. Using examples from the Ottoman press, the article demonstrates how this effort involved separating Islam from the lived reality of Muslims, transforming the religion essentially into a text that referred to scientific facts or that instructed adherents to appreciate science. In their contributions to the debate on science and religion, these young intellectuals thus also defined themselves as the legitimate interpreters of Islam in the 'age of science'.