Islam today is facing challenges from within and from the wider world. The critical problems are the fundamental tensions within Islam. The attitudes and criticisms common in the outside world can be ignored as misguided or hostile, but the tensions within Islam throughout the world must be confronted. In a simple geographical sense, Islam has to come to grips with its changing centres. The religious centres define the heartland: Saudi Arabia maintains its guardianship of the shrines at Mecca and Medina, and the conduct of the hajj, against the claims of Shii Iran, the Shii tradition, and other sects disillusioned with Saudi Arabia's credentials within the ummah. Saudi Arabia enjoys much of its strength to repudiate other claims because it remains the economic centre of the ummah. It takes a combination of the incomes of Kuwait, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Yemen even to come close to Saudi Arabia's oil wealth. However, this wealth is based on finite resources, and in the years to come the economic centre will shift to those parts of the Muslim world with sustainable resources and reproductive assets. West Asian financial investments recognise this long-term problem, but they remain overwhelmingly located in the Western and non-Muslim economies. The intellectual centre of Islam is Al-Azhar in Cairo. The ideas and attitudes taught here are spread throughout the ummah, particularly through the population centres of Islam: Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Malaysia. The relative power of the different centres is shifting. Over time the claims on and against the heartland from and by the peripheral Muslim communities will exacerbate the tensions already present. The conservative centre will be under greater pressure from the more vigorous, prolific and liberal Muslim societies on the periphery.
Despite the ideals promoting an equitable and productive material life, the overwhelming majority of... [continues]
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