Interfaith Explainer: The Difference Between Intrafaith, Interfaith, Multifaith and Interspirituality

  • Intrafaith, interfaith, multifaith and interspirituality are words that mean very different things. Yet, they are sometimes used interchangeably and without distinction. The following definitions should help people discern and understand the differences.

Intrafaith = Within

When someone proposes an intrafaith conversation, it means a conversation within a specific faith or religion, for instance, Christians speaking with Christians from other denominations. Also known as ecumenical, these interactions can be critical for social cohesion, as exemplified by interactions between Evangelicals and Catholics, Sunni and Shia Muslims, Orthodox and cultural Jews, and many more.

Interfaith = Between/Among

Interfaith refers to relations between faiths, spiritual paths, or even worldviews. It does not have to be restricted to religion alone because one way to define faith is as “complete trust, confidence or strong belief in someone or something.”

Interfaith work is usually about improving relations between people of different faiths, but it can also revolve around working with people of other faiths. For example, many interfaith organizations—some of whom started as ecumenical organizations—pool their resources and help those who need food and housing.

Interfaith has nothing to do with uniformity, conformity, or sacrificing one’s beliefs. The goal of most interfaith work is to foster harmonious diversityThe Parliament of the World’s Religions is a fantastic example.


The centrality of the Muslim world to Shakespeare’s work

Ignored for centuries, the presence of Muslims are prominent in the oeuvre of one of Britain’s most quintessential figures.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), England’s most famous playwright and symbol of Britishness, was closely connected to the Islamic world through his extensive body of beloved work.

“Without Islam, there would be no Shakespeare,” Mathew Dimmock, Professor of Early Modern Studies (English) at the University of Sussex, matter-of-factly states.

“Without Tudor and Jacobean England’s rich and complex engagement with Islamic cultures, the plays written by William Shakespeare would be very different, if they existed at all,” Dimmock told TRT World.

Due to Queen Elizabeth I’s political and trade alliances with the Muslim world, in particular the Ottoman Empire and the Moroccan Kingdom, the influence of Muslim culture on England was immense and this penetrated into literature and theatre.


With Ms. Marvel, Disney+ Gives Us a Muslim Superhero. Great! But …

Kamala Khan is just an ordinary teen with an extraordinary twist.

Is it her powers? Her ability to stretch or create matter out of thin air? Nah. We’re talking about Marvel, after all. You can’t throw a rock in Times Square in the Marvel Cinematic Universe without hitting a superpowered individual. And given that Kamala is the protagonist of an MCU show called Ms. Marvel, well, the biggest twist would be if she didn’t have superpowers.

No, what makes Kamala Khan (played by Iman Vellani) truly special in Marvel’s ever-growing entertainment universe, is her faith. She’s a Muslim.

Her beliefs add a lot to Ms. Marvel, a miniseries that landed on Disney+ June 8. Kamala’s Islamic faith, and those of her family, add texture and humanity and, sometimes, even humor to the story. And in an odd sort of way, Kamala’s religion makes her more relatable to Christians who might be watching. Because while Islamic and Christian belief systems may be quite different, both types of adherents are balancing their devotion with the day-to-day realities and temptations of life. Living in faith is hard, and the pain points feel similar.

Kamala, like many a teen growing up in a conservative Christian household, treats her faith as a bit of an afterthought in Ms. Marvel. Yeah, sure, it’s important. It’s part of who she is. But she’s got grades and boys and family issues to deal with—not to mention these new superpowers. She goes to the mosque, but she’s almost always late. Her conservative mom can drive her a little bit crazy: Kamala would very much like to dress as Captain Marvel for something called “AvengersCon,” but Mom isn’t having it.

“You’re not going to dress like all those other girls in those skimpy outfits,” mother Muneeba tells her. “That is not you.”


Most American Muslims believe gun laws need to be stricter, says survey

Most American Muslims believe gun control laws should be stricter, a new report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (Ispu) has found.

According to the poll, 65 percent of Muslim respondents believe existing gun control laws need to be stricter, slightly higher than the 64 percent of Jews and Catholics that were polled.

Muslims are more likely than Protestants (54 percent), white Evangelicals (30 percent), and the general public (57 percent) to hold this view.

According to the survey, white Muslims were more likely than white Americans in the general public to believe gun laws should be stricter. But Black Muslims were more likely than Black Americans to believe laws covering the sale of firearms should be less strict.

The report, which will be released in full in August, comes just two weeks after 21 people, mostly children, were killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

According to data from the Washington Post, more than 311,000 children in America have experienced gun violence in school since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. In that same period, 185 were killed and 369 were injured.

“All Americans are unfortunately impacted by gun violence, directly or indirectly. As our local, state and national leadership work to find effective solutions, public opinion is critical to understand,” Meira Neggaz, Ispu’s executive director, told Middle East Eye.

“Our work researching American Muslim opinions, in comparison to other groups in the country’s faith landscape, uncovers that most groups and the majority of Americans are aligned in their concern about the current state of gun laws.”

to gun safety laws that we have seen in decades.”


Minnesota Muslims find safe place to recover from alcohol addiction: the mosque

Munira Maalimisaq was a nursing student when a volunteer stint at a detox center opened her eyes to alcohol abuse among Somali community members

In the midst of her struggle with alcoholism, a local 20-year-old Somali woman didn’t know where to find help. She was overwhelmed with guilt while attending mosque for religious observances.

“That’s a feeling you tend to feel when you’re in a situation that you shouldn’t be in,” said the woman, who asked not to be named because of the stigma that substance abuse carries in the Muslim community.

Alcohol abuse carries stigma in practically all communities. But for many Muslims, that is often magnified because Islam prohibits alcohol consumption of any kind.

The same place that caused the woman deep shame later offered her a lifeline. She noticed a group of people meeting in the mosque regularly to support each other. Soon, she was attending the weekly meetings and sharing her own experiences with alcoholism.

“I was a little hesitant at first, but I knew I was in a situation I didn’t want to be in anymore,” she said.

Those meetings were founded four years ago by Munira Maalimisaq. Maalimisaq stumbled upon the unusual concept of bringing substance-abuse treatment to mosques while studying for her nursing degree at Metro State University.

Today, the Muslim support groups draw more than 60 attendees who meet in two groups at two Twin Cities-area mosques.


Why a Presbyterian Elder Defended Muslims Building a Mosque in Middle Tennessee

Eric Treene has gone to court to defend Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and people from other minority faiths for more than 25 years. If you ask him why, he points to the Bible and the Westminster Confession. Treene, an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, is motivated by his faith to defend religious freedom—especially the freedom of those he disagrees with.

Treene was a lawyer for Becket and then, for nearly 20 years, special counsel for religious discrimination in the civil rights division of the United States Department of Justice. He developed and oversaw the enforcement program for the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Since leaving the federal government, Treene has taught the First Amendment at Reformed Theological Seminary and Catholic University and continues to litigate discrimination cases as a senior partner at Storzer and Associates in Washington, DC. This spring, Treene was honored by the Freedom Forum as a “champion of free expression.”

He spoke to CT about the problem of religious discrimination in America and why it’s so important that Christians advocate for religious freedom.

You’ve spent a lot of your career defending religious land use. Why do government officials in America today oppose religious land use?

Usually it’s because they’re zeroed in on developing commerce. A lot of what you see is the demands of the marketplace steamrolling religion.

One of my early cases, for example, was a church that had very carefully gathered several plots of land at a key intersection, but the town wanted Costco to have that spot. The town tried to use eminent domain to seize the property to build a Costco.

Is it because they hate churches? No. Again and again, what we see is discrimination against places of worship not so much out of animus but because they would rather have a commercial property that’s generating tax revenue.

There’s a very powerful economic engine in our society that often trivializes faith. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) is one way churches can push back against that.


Does defending Muhammad mean killing Christians?

A.S. Ibrahim | The death of a college student in Nigeria is the most recent example

Deborah Samuel Yakubu, a Christian student at the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, Nigeria, was beaten to death last month by a group of Muslim students after they accused her of blasphemy against Muhammad.

The Guardian reports that an angry mob considered Yakubu’s comments on social media insulting to Islam’s prophet. After they declared her blasphemous, a group of zealots dragged her from her home and assaulted her. They threw her on the floor, stoned her to death, and burned her body.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and is roughly divided into a majority Christian south and a Muslim north. Yakubu’s murder occurred in northwestern Nigeria.

The Guardian’s report lacks important details from eyewitnesses. Yakubu was a member of the Evangelical Church Winning All. According to David Ayuba Azzaman, senior pastor at The King Worship Chapel in Kaduna, there was no insult against Muhammad, but Yakubu “turned down a Muslim proposal to date her” and that led to the man accusing her of insulting Muhammad.

The Guardian also inaccurately claimed that attacks like this one are “very rare.” According to Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List report, Nigeria is at the top of the list of countries where Christians are killed for their faith, with 13 martyrs a day. The number went from 3,530 murdered Christians in 2020 to 4,650 in 2021. The report ranks Nigeria as one of the most violent countries, where Christians are kidnapped in droves, with the number going up from 990 in 2020 to 2,500 in 2021.

Following Yakubu’s murder, the police arrested two Muslim students. However, hundreds of Muslim youth gathered, took to Sokoto’s streets, lit fires, demanded the release of the two Muslims, and attempted to loot shops belonging to Christian residents.

The incident is heartbreaking. While it clearly shows the rule of the mob in some Muslim-majority lands and how it threatens Christian lives, it also conveys the fragility of Islam when it comes to questioning Muhammad, his character, and teachings.

There is no real evidence that Yakubu insulted Muhammad. The evidence instead indicates she was unjustly and brutally murdered. However, the horrific incident reflects a problem unique to Islam. It highlights how some Muslims react violently to any claims against Muhammad.


Historic first in Australia as two Muslims become ministers

Two Australian parliamentarians became the country’s first-ever Muslim ministers on Wednesday.

Anne Aly and Ed Husic were sworn into government 11 days after new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese led the centre-left Labor Party to an election victory over the incumbent conservatives.T

Husic was made Minister for Industry and Science, while Aly became Minister for Early Childhood Education and the Minister for Youth.

Both ministers held a pink Quran as they took an oath during their swearing-in ceremony.

Husic, who was born in Australia to Bosnian parents, became the first Muslim to be elected to parliament in 2010.



Muslim Call to Prayer Arrives to Minneapolis Soundscape

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The chant in Arabic blasted from rooftop loudspeakers, drowning out both the growl of traffic from nearby interstates and the chatter and clinking glasses on the patio of the dive bar that shares a wall with Minneapolis’ oldest Somali mosque.

This spring Minneapolis became the first large city in the United States to allow the Islamic call to prayer, or adhan, to be broadcast publicly by its two dozen mosques.

As more of them get ready to join Dar Al-Hijrah in doing so, the transforming soundscape is testament to the large and increasingly visible Muslim community, which is greeting the change with both celebration and caution, lest it cause backlash.

“It’s a sign that we are here,” said Yusuf Abdulle, who directs the Islamic Association of North America, a network of three dozen mostly East African mosques. Half of them are in Minnesota, home to rapidly growing numbers of refugees from war-torn Somalia since the late 1990s.

Abdulle said that when he arrived in the United States two decades ago, “the first thing I missed was the adhan. We drop everything and answer the call of God.”

The adhan declares that God is great and proclaims the Prophet Muhammad as his messenger. It exhorts men — women are not required — to go to the closest mosque five times a day for prayer, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Its cadences are woven into the rhythm of daily life in Muslim-majority countries, but it’s a newcomer to the streets of Minneapolis, which resonate with city traffic, the rumble of snowplows in winter and tornado siren drills in summer.


How a Book on Islam Strengthened my Catholic Faith

I do not pretend to be as devout a Catholic as I should be. Too often, I am not even a particularly good one. Nonetheless, I am and was raised a Catholic, so I tend to view nearly every theological topic through a Catholic lens. David Pinault’s The Crucifix on Mecca’s Front Porch gave me the chance to do exactly that. 

I have long been curious about Islam, and The Crucifix on Mecca’s Front Porch provides a Christian – and particularly a Catholic – guide to understanding Islam. Though not impartial, Pinault draws on his own extensive experience to provide an expertly researched and respectful analysis of the theological differences between Islam and Christianity, with particular focus on the two religions’ competing conceptions of the nature of Jesus Christ. The book is simultaneously detailed and readable, and Pinault ably emphasizes the need for Christians and Muslims to learn from one another even as he is careful not to minimize the significant differences between the two faiths.

Pinault, a longtime professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University, has a lifetime of experience researching “comparative Christology and the status of Christian populations in Muslim-majority societies.” He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Egypt, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Yemen, among other places. Pinault’s comparative study of Islam starts with the life of Muhammad, and concludes by addressing contentious contemporary issues such as increasing Muslim migration into Western countries and the rise of Islamic extremist terrorism. 

Pinault draws on his own extensive experience to provide an expertly researched and respectful analysis of the theological differences between Islam and Christianity.

Straightforward about his own status as a Catholic Christian, Pinault critically examines pre-Islamic Arabia, the Koran, the life of Muhammad, the development of Islamic thought, Shia-Sunni relations, and more. Pinault draws from various Islamic primary sources translated from the original Arabic, Persian, or Urdu, many of which he translated himself. He compares and contrasts these materials with excerpts from the Bible and other Christian texts, examples from the life and works of Jesus Christ, and even primary sources written in Latin by Christian crusaders.