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The relationship between Christianity and Islam

23-minute slide presentation plus Q&A session delivered to sixth form school pupils in Poynton


Delivered 10 February 2020. Posted 12 April 2020

I regularly speak to teenage school pupils, arranged by the charity Speakers for Schools. A recurring topic is the relationship between Christianity and Islam.

My talk evolves over time, and below is the most recent version, delivered at Poynton High School to a sixth form group of religious studies and sociology students.

The age and subject interests of the students led to some good questions.


Presentation outline

Other website pages mentioned during my talk

During my talk I mentioned some other pages on my website.

Triangulating the Abrahamic faiths – measuring the closeness of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

My count of mentions by name in the Quran is on my 2016 page "My reflection on Christmas." I have reproduced the relevant paragraph below.

As a free question for your next pub quiz, ask them “Which prophet is mentioned most often by name in the Quran?” I counted by searching the Tal Itani translation, chosen simply because I have a PDF copy and the counting is not affected by the existence of footnotes. The results were: Moses 136, Abraham 72, Jesus 25, and Muhammad only 12.

A guide to Quran translations into English

I have reviewed two of the books mentioned in the bibliography:

"In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World" by Tom Holland

"Islam – Past Present and Future" by Hans Kung


How the presentation was recorded

My first presentation recording was done on the spur of the moment, just putting my iPhone 6 on the table and relying on its built in microphone. See my page Lecture: The Quran recognises religious freedom.

Once I found recording presentations worthwhile, I purchased a high quality Sennheiser digital lapel microphone which plugs into the lightning port of my iPhone. That produces a much better recording.

The slides

I am happy to share the original PowerPoint slide presentation.

A partial transcript of the question and answer session

The question and answer session was also recorded. However, I am not publishing the full audio recording for two main reasons:

  1. While the sound quality of my responses is very clear, the questioners were some distance from the microphone. Accordingly, in many cases their questions are almost inaudible.
  2. I respect the privacy of those asking the questions. I do not have their written consent to publish their recordings. In many cases, I do not even know who they were, so cannot seek permission.

Instead, I have listened to the Q&A session and, where I regard the questions as being worth sharing, have written down a condensed version of the questions. I have then published the audio of my answers.

1. As a religious believer, how do you manage to put your faith to one side to have an academic debate about religion with someone else?

During my answer, I briefly mentioned a concept in mathematics called finite fields.

Recording of my 90-second answer

2. What is your view of homosexual relationships?

During my answer I mention the book "Homosexuality in Islam: Critical Reflection on Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Muslims" by Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle.

I also mention one of the charities which I support: The Inclusive Mosque Initiative.

Recording of my 2-minute answer

3. Has being a Muslim affected your education?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

4. You have explained that after being brought up as a Muslim, you became an agnostic, an atheist and a Christian. What drew you back to Islam?

During my answer I mention that my "About me" page details my religious history.

I also explain why, taking a very high level view, I believe that “At its heart, Islam is Judaism without a Chosen People, a universalised form of Judaism.”

Recording of my 2-minute answer

5. Thinking about Israel, can you see a time in the future when peace comes to the Middle East?

Recording of my 16-second answer

6. Where do you think Middle East peace might spring from?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

7. In recent years has there been a change in the relationship between Christianity and Islam?

During my answer, I talk about the Salman Rushdie affair which Wikipedia calls The Satanic Verses controversy.

Recording of my 90-second answer

8. You mentioned the academic perspective of religion and the believer’s perspective of religion. Is the academic perspective a threat to the believer’s perspective?

During my answer I mention "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins.

My views about are set out in more detail on my page "The theory of evolution and religious texts."

Recording of my 3-minute answer

9. With the rise of scientific thought, do you think that religion will continue to have a place in society.

Recording of my 2-minute answer

10. Do you regret the time when you did not have your faith, or was that important to get you to where you are now?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

Q&A session from a previous presentation on this subject

For the convenience of readers, I have reproduced below the Q&A session from my talk on 29 November 2019 at The Co-operative Academy of Stoke-on-Trent as they are also interesting and different.

1. Do Muslims think that Christians go to Heaven or Hell?

Recording of my 2-minute answer

In my reply, I loosely quote a verse of the Quran from memory. I have reproduced it precisely below.

Quran 2:62

VERILY, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians - all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds - shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.

Muhammad Asad translation

I also refer to my website page "Teaching Muslims religious intolerance".

2. What is your point of view on Christmas?

Recording of my 2-minute answer

In my answer, I mention the "Thought for the Week" broadcast I gave on BBC Radio Manchester on 25 December 2018. You can read it on my page "Jesus continues to inspire us today".

3. What would you say to a Christian who believes that Jesus was God?

Recording of my 2-minute answer

During my response, I make the comment “I’ve never met a Mormon who I didn’t think was a good person.”

You can read the background in the "My comments before starting the presentation" section of my page "Lecture: The Quran recognises religious freedom" which contains the religious freedom lecture I gave at Brigham Young University's London Campus.

4. What is your opinion on celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad?

Recording of my 2-minute answer

In my response, I mention my Thought for the Week broadcast which you can read on my website page "Reflections on the death of Svetlana Alliluyeva".

One of the slides of my presentation also contains the message from the Quran I mention in my answer.

Extract from Slide 21 (of the presentation in Stoke-on-Trent)

AND NO BEARER of burdens shall be made to bear another's burden; and if one weighed down by his load calls upon [another] to help him carry it, nothing thereof may be carried [by that other], even if it he one's near of kin.

Part of Quran 35:18 Muhammad Asad translation

5. What is Islam’s view on war, and does it differ from the Christian viewpoint?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

My response mentions additional coverage on my website page Review of "Qur’anic Concepts of the Ethics of Warfare: Challenging the Claims of Islamic Aggressiveness" by Joel Hayward.

6. Do Christians think that Muslims go to Heaven?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

In my response I mention the Roman Catholic document "Nostra Aetate".

I also mentioned a particular Roman Catholic doctrine. For more on that I recommend reading the article "What “No Salvation Outside the Church” Means".

7. Do Christians and Muslims believe in the same God?

Recording of my 30-second answer

In my answer I did not recall the quote precisely enough. While the American general concerned was under the incorrect impression that Christians and Muslims pray to different gods, he did not use the term "Monkey god."

Full details are set out on the Wikipedia page for General William G. Boykin and the quote I recalled incorrectly was actually "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

8. You said that you don’t believe in the importance of the hereditary principle. How do you feel about the monarchy?

Recording of my 45-second answer

9. Can Muslims vote in democratic elections, or is democracy un-Islamic?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

10. Is smoking weed haram?

"Weed" is slang for cannabis or marijuana. "Haram" means religiously prohibited in Islam.

I used my answer to get over a wider educational message about how to think about religious questions, before answering the one posed by the pupil.

Recording of my 3-minute answer

11. Is it haram to have medical cannabis?

Recording of my 45-second answer


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