For decades, Tunisian Islamists, like their brethren in the rest of the Arab world, have preached an economic, social, and educational policy rooted in religious ethics. They taught that adhering to the ideals of Islam would ensure economic and social prosperity. For them, giving up on religious values for economic gains is the foremost cause of Muslims’ backwardness. They reasoned that embracing political expediency over religious righteousness is a betrayal of Muslims’ faith in God’s providence.
As a banned political party, Ennahda (and its predecessor Islamic Trend) ideologues had argued for the existence of an indigenous Islamic worldview that people must follow in order to succeed today and in the hereafter. In their mind, the two worlds were linked. They opposed the regimes of Bourguiba and Ben Ali based on these principles. They promised that an Islamist government would not sacrifice religious ideals for economic gains, but it would accomplish progress through and because of Islamic ideals. In other words, Islamists looked to the heavens to solve problems on earth. Some leaders of this Islamist movement and many of its supporters were imprisoned, tortured, and exiled for their views. The movement was in disarray until the historical revolution offered it a second life—a revolution that they did not plan and certainly did not start.
Islamists bring religion down to earth: the end of religious idealism | openDemocracy