QUESTION: There are reactionary movements in different parts of the world. These are waged against established systems, and their perpetrators argue that they do it on behalf of Islam. What is your take on such movements?
Reactionary movements have never been beneficial to the larger society, nor have the perpetrators of such movements been able to achieve their goals. Whether these movements have been Islamic or non-Islamic, they have only achieved minimal success.
With respect to Islam and reactionary movements in the Muslim world, it is important for Muslims to remember that their first duty is to represent Islamic thought in the best possible way, which can be realized only through long term investments in education. If this course have been taken instead of reacting with hatred and revenge against those who harmed Islamic values, the Muslim world would have flourished.
More than half a century has passed since the 1950s, when such reactionary movements emerged in some Muslim countries. If the youth of the time, who were involved in those movements, had been encouraged to enroll in schools and colleges, they might today be ministers, or even the leaders of their countries as prime ministers or presidents. Yet, with the exception of a few, those involved in such reactionary movements were always displeased and vanished without making any lasting achievements.
I want to make a second point: whatever objective may be sought, it should never be on the account of destruction – and it should never harm the unity of a nation. That is, while trying to "build" something, we should not cause destructions which may have lasting consequences for future generations. Otherwise, not only will our objectives fail, but we will be severely condemned by future generations; worst of all, our hopes for a serene afterlife will also perish.
Believers may, of course, pursue some worldly aspirations. Yet, even if such aspirations are within the permissible domain of faith, they cannot be the essential purpose or an ideal of believers. In the case of Islam, for instance, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, did not utter a word referring to such aspirations, especially during the Meccan period of his teaching.
On the contrary, the verses that were revealed during that period and the hadith always emphasize the truths of faith. His Companions suffered under desperate oppression along with the Prophet, yet they never had any worldly expectation that could blur their pure intentions. Believers of today should follow their example and intensify their efforts in the service of faith, which is the true message of the scriptures, and thus attain God's good pleasure. Pursuing worldly expectations is no different than bargaining with God, which is an absolutely improper behavior, and is exactly the opposite of what is expected from God's servants. Such expectations result in a vicious cycle at each turn of which saving oneself becomes even more difficult. I wholeheartedly believe that those who seek worldly gains in return for their good work and make these gains their ultimate goal lose God's endorsement. They fail and they will always fail, even if they sacrifice their lives and all their possessions for such a goal. The ultimate goal should be nothing else but God and His good pleasure. For seekers of His good pleasure, God will eventually deliver them to their destination and will not condemn them to devastation.
Worldly assets are claimed by many people. Among these, those who are stronger will oppress others to attain these assets, or to not lose them. Oppressing others by crude force is quite natural for them, for they do not have a hereafter to invest in. So, they never want to lose their material prosperity which they want to secure even for their grandchildren.
Many instances have proved that the powerful oppress the weak when both are after the same worldly aspirations. So, instead of reactionary movements which do not yield any positive result, believers should be involved in teaching others about themselves and seeking God's good pleasure.