The Fallacy of Utilitarian Morality

Allah T'ala says in the Holy Quran:

 إَنَّ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءنَا وَرَضُواْ بِالْحَياةِ الدُّنْيَا وَاطْمَأَنُّواْ بِهَا وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنْ آيَاتِنَا غَافِلُونَ

أُوْلَـئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمُ النُّارُ بِمَا كَانُواْ يَكْسِبُونَ

 

Surely those who do not expect to meet Us, who are gratified with the life of the world and content with it, and are heedless of Our signs,their abode shall be the Fire in return for their misdeeds. (The Holy Quran, 10:7-8)


The statement that is being made here is that rejection of the doctrine of the Hereafter necessarily entails the punishment of Hell, and the argument that is being proffered in support of it is that those who are oblivious to the Hereafter commit, because of their disbelief in it, evil deeds which can only lead to them suffering the torments of Hell. This argument is corroborated by the entire record of man's past. It is quite clear that the lives of those who do not believe that they will not be held to account by God for their deeds; who work on the assumption that life is merely confined to the span of worldly existence; who measure human success or failure only in terms of the extent of material comfort, fame and power that a person is able to enjoy; who under the influence of such materialistic notions do not even care to pay attention to those signs of God which point to reality, assume an altogether wrong direction with the result that their life is vitiated. Hence they live a totally unbridled life, develop the worst possible character traits, and fill God's earth with injustice and corruption, with sin and transgression, and ultimately end up meriting the punishment of Hell.

The above argument about the Hereafter is drawn from human experience itself. Although in the present verse the argument is found only in an implicit form, it is spelt out at several other places in the Qur'an. The argument essentially is that unless man's character rests on the consciousness and conviction that he will have to render an account for all his deeds to God, both man's individual and collective behaviour will fail to have sound basis and direction. It would seem, therefore, to be worth asking: why is this so? Why is it that once this consciousness and conviction are altogether ended or greatly enfeebled, the human character turns to iniquity and corruption? Had affirmation of the Hereafter not been in conformity with reality, and conversely, had its denial not been opposed to it, then the evil consequences flowing from the denial of the Hereafter would not have been found with such unfailing regularity. If adherence to a proposition invariably leads to good results, and failure to adhere to it invariably leads to evil consequences, then this definitely proves the proposition to be true.

In an attempt to refute the above argument it is sometimes contended that even atheists who reject the Hereafter and follow a materialistic approach to life often lead lives that are on the whole good and decent, that they hold themselves free from corruption and injustice. Not only that but also that their actual conduct is characterized by righteousness and benevolence. However, only a little reflection will make apparent the fallacy underlying this argument. For if one were to examine any atheistic or materialistic philosophy or ideology one will not find in them any basis for righteous behaviour which draws such lavish praise from so-called 'righteous' atheists. Nor can it be established by logical reasoning that an atheistic philosophy of life provides any incentive to embrace such virtues as truthfulness, trustworthiness, honesty, faithfulness to one's commitment, benevolence, generosity, preferring the interests of others to one's own, self-restraint, chastity, recognition of the rights of others, and fulfilment of one's obligations. The fact is that once God and the Hereafter are relegated to oblivion, the only practicable course left for man is to anchor his morality on utilitarianism. All other philosophical ideas which are expounded are merely theoretical embellishments and have no relevance for man's practical life.

As for utilitarian morality - no matter how hard we might try to broaden its scope - it does not go beyond teaching man that he ought to do that which will yield to him or to his society some worldly benefit. Now since utility is the criterion of all acts, such a philosophy tends to make man cynical, with the result that in order to derive benefits, he will not differentiate between truth and lie; between trustworthiness and treachery; between honesty and dishonesty; between loyalty and perfidy; between observing justice and committing wrong. In short, a person under the spell of utilitarian ideas will be ready to do a thing or its opposite, depending on what serves his interests best. The conduct of the British is illustrative of this stance. It is sometimes contended that though the British have a materialistic outlook on life and generally do not believe in the Hereafter, they are more truthful, fairer, and more straightforward and faithful to their commitment.
The fact, however, is that the tenuous character of moral values under a utilitarian moral philosophy is amply illustrated by the character of the British.

For their actual conduct clearly shows that they do not consider moral values to have any intrinsic worth. This is evident from the fact that even those values which are held by the British to be good in their individual lives are brazenly flouted when they act as a nation. Had the qualities of truthfulness, justice, honesty and faithfulness to one's committed word been regarded as intrinsic virtues, it would have been altogether out of the question for the elected rulers of Britain to cynically violate all moral principles in governmental and international affairs and yet continue to retain the confidence of the British people. Does such a behaviour of a people who do not take the Hereafter seriously prove that they do not believe in absolute moral values? Does it also not prove that, guided by concern for material interests, such people are capable of following mutually opposed views simultaneously? (The same arguemnt can be made against the United States and many other governments and societies of today.)

Nevertheless, if we do find some people who, in spite of their not believing in God and the Hereafter, consistently adhere to some moral virtues and abstain from evil, there should be no mistaking that their righteous conduct and piety represents the continuing influence which religious ideas and practices have over them - even if unconsciously - rather than their subscription to a materialistic philosophy of life. If they possess any portion of the wealth of morality, there can be no doubt that it was stolen from the treasure-house of religion. It is ironical that such persons are now using the same wealth derived from religious sources, to promote an irreligious way of life. We consider this an act of theft because irreligiousness and materialism are altogether bereft of morality. (slightly edited version of text taken from Tafheemul Quran)

Harry Potter: Facts about Fiction

The following is a four years old article by Khalid Baig, but with a new movie out, it is worth reading before one decides to go to the cinema. (July 10, 2007)

  

Harry Potter: Facts about Fiction

By Khalid Baig

As expected there was much frenzy around the latest Harry Potter book. Bookstores and clubs around the world arranged special midnight parties and other events in celebration of the launching of the long-awaited fifth book in the series. A grandiose countdown was held in Times Square for the coming of the fifth book.

The book was set to break many old records. Online bookseller Amazon had already received one million pre-orders of the new book, its largest pre-order ever. Scholastic, the American publisher had ordered 8.5 million copies as the largest first printing ever. Worldwide, 13 million copies of the book had rolled off the presses in a massive print run.

The other books in the Harry Potter series have been translated into more than 55 languages, including Urdu, Persian, and Turkish. Nearly 200 million copies of the first four books have been sold in 200 countries.

What is all this craze about?

The series chronicles the growing up of a young orphan wizard named Harry Potter who attends a secret magic boarding school called Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Harry is a very unique wizard. His parents are killed while he is a baby by a wicked powerful wizard named Voldemort, but generally called "you-know-who" or "he-who-must-not-be-named". Voldemort fails in his attempt to kill Harry and instead is nearly destroyed when his magic rebounds on him. Harry is left with a lightning shaped scar on his forehead.

Harry is sent to live with his "muggle" (non-magical people) relatives for the next ten years. He lives a miserable life, tormented by his aunt and uncle and his spoiled cousin. They attempt to keep him from knowing that he is a wizard.

Then, suddenly a letter arrives from Hogwarts on his eleventh birthday, changing his life completely. Harry finds out he is a wizard and rather famous for his encounter with the evil lord Voldemort. Despite opposition from his aunt and uncle, Harry goes to the wizard boarding school where he meets new people, including his best friends Ron and Hermione. Harry discovers that he has both admirers and enemies.

Each book details the events of one school year.

The main characters in the story have few noble qualities; they lie with impunity, use profanity, don't respect their elders, break rules regularly, and are unrepentant.

While the books are characterized by most people as innocent fantasy and entertainment, they contain many evil messages - not all of which are subtle.

The books glorify magic and sorcery. Harry and his classmates regularly cast spells, brew potions, learn to tell the future, communicate with the spirits of the dead, train magical animals, and ride brooms. They study astrology, crystal gazing, numerology, transfiguration, and divination. Darker things occur as well such as murder, human sacrifice, drinking of unicorn blood, etc. The fight between good and evil in this book is actually a conflict between "good magic" and "evil magic", both of which are evil.

The books are in effect promoters of paganism. They glorify magic and paganism while non-magical people, called Muggles, are despised and portrayed as boring, narrow-minded, and paranoid of magic.

Not surprisingly, the main characters in the story have few noble qualities; they lie with impunity, use profanity, don't respect their elders, break rules regularly, and are unrepentant.

And for all these qualities and more, the books are popular and are having an effect. It is the "in" thing to purchase the book. And not just the book. Children have gone crazy over Harry Potter memorabilia, surrounding themselves with Harry Potter T-shirts, posters, toys, costumes, wands, hats, etc.

The media has been glorifying the book that glorifies sorcery.

Welcome to the world of capitalism and paganism, where superstitions and the occult reign supreme in the hearts and minds of people, and where the twin forces have forged an "alliance of the willing" that is doing its "magic" on a global scale.

Capitalism is all about maximization of profits and if that requires appealing to the lowest instincts and the darkest recesses of human nature, so be it. Millions of dollars have been spent on advertising the latest craze on billboards, buttons, bumper stickers, and posters etc. U.S. publisher Scholastic alone has planned a $4 million marketing budget for this single book - among the largest advertising budgets ever for a book.

The media machine --- equally adept at political, cultural, and commercial propaganda --- has been doing its part faithfully, paying a great deal of attention to the smallest events relating to the coming of the fifth book. It has been glorifying the book that glorifies sorcery.

Even if it were innocent entertainment (which it is not) the extreme devotion would be unjustified. But this culture is given to extremes and incidents of mass craziness are nothing new in it. The cabbage patch dolls craze in the 1980s was similar to current craze over the Harry Potter books. The Cabbage Patch Dolls were the fad of the 1980s. The most distinctive feature about them was that each doll looked a bit different from others and came with its own unique name and birthday, "adoption papers," and a "birth certificate." Marketing gimmick and television coverage combined to make sales explode starting in 1983. Chartered planes were used to bring the dolls from the overseas manufacturing plants to meet the ever increasing demand. Fist fights among eager customers often broke out in retail stores when a shipment of dolls arrived. In 1985, Coleco posted record sales of $600 million, thanks to their Cabbage Patch Kids.

When life has no higher purpose, entertainment and fun become the over-riding goal in life. When there is no belief in or clear concept of God as Creator and Master of the universe, superstition, sorcery, and the occult become fascinating.

When life has no higher purpose, entertainment and fun become the over-riding goal in life.

It is a reflection on the state of the society that there has been scarce opposition to this series that promises to become darker with each new release.

The Role of Muslims

In this current state of hysteria, Muslims should have played an important role in opposing this book and exposing the flaws of this culture. It is the duty of Muslims to guide the world, rather than blindly follow the ignorant masses. The Qur'an commands us in Surah Al-Kahf, "And don't obey any whose heart We have permitted to neglect the remembrance of Us, one who follows his own desires, whose case has gone beyond all bounds." [Al-Kahf 18:28]

Yet, unfortunately, we find very little opposition or reflection from Muslims, many of whom have chosen to blindly follow the pop culture. Many Muslims have assured themselves that the books are harmless fiction. Others even claim them to be beneficial because they encourage reading. Reading what? It does not occur to them to ask that question.

Islam prohibits both pointless entertainment (lahw) and sorcery. But countless Muslims seem to be unaware of that. And they are the ones fascinated by Harry Potter.

ref. url: http://www.albalagh.net/current_affairs/harry_potter.shtml

ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION AND THE WESTERN ORIENTALISTS

 

ISLAMIC CIVILIZATION AND THE WESTERN ORIENTALISTS

Taken from "The Life of Muhammad"  by Muhammad Husayn Haykal,
translated by Dr. Ismail Ragi A. al Faruqi

 

Read more...

Reason and Revelation by Khalid Baig

American economist Robert Samuelson recently made an interesting observation about the American society in his Newsweek column: "America's glories and evils are tightly fused together." Quoting sociologist Seymour Lipset, he asserts that America's economic vitality and progress come from the same source as do crime, family breakdown, inequality, and vulgarity. Freedom and individualism have fired economic advance, yet have also inhibited social control. But why the qualities that bring the best in a nation also should bring the worst in it? Is humanity doomed by having its vices and virtues so intricately mixed?

Samuelson does not probe the issue. Instead he seems to be happily resigned to it. "We are burdened as well as blessed by our beliefs," he says. Economics, we may be reminded, is the dismal science.

Actually the world is not doomed by design. Samuelson comes very close to the truth but he confuses approaches or tools with attributes. A tool that works great in one area is also being used in another for which it was never designed. The problem lies with the user who keeps on insisting on its use in the second area citing its success in the first. To put matters simply, it's the free use of reason and intellect that is behind most of America's (and West's in general) phenomenal scientific and material progress. It's the use of the same tool in moral, and religious life that has caused its equally phenomenal moral degeneration!

Every tool has a designated area of application. Outside, it will fail to work. A 4 bit computer is good for some elementary math involving whole numbers. It may multiply 2 by 20 and give the correct answer instantly. But burdened with complex calculations involving several decimal digits, it will give the WRONG answers. A weighing scale meant for gold will not work for iron and vice versa. Their resolution and capacity are inappropriate for those applications.

Same with the tools we use for learning about the world. Our senses and intellect are wonderful things. Science and technology are all about their use. Certainly it was free inquiry driven by reason that led to so many of the discoveries of science. It happened at an accelerated pace during the past four centuries and the results are everywhere around us to be seen.

But a tool that is so great in one area may be totally useless, even dangerous, in another. Pure Reason, uninformed by Divine Guidance, is a defective tool for deciding purpose of life or suggesting its values. What is Right and what is Wrong? These questions require knowledge beyond what we can acquire by using our senses and reasoned analysis. As a direct result, everyone's reasoning is different. That is why philosophers have never been able to agree upon what should be the goal of life. Happiness? Survival? Pleasure? Love? Self-fulfillment? You name it. In addition, it is impossible for us to separate our reasoning in these matters from our feelings. Pure or uninformed reason becomes just a tool to justify what we desire.

Today West's problem is that it has accepted the wrong tool for developing its moral compass. Probably the majority of its people abhor homosexuality. They may know that it is an abomination and evil. Yet today same-sex marriages are getting legal sanction in the West. And they are helpless in trying to stop its advances. Why? Because they cannot argue that it is wrong based on pure reason. It is easier to make a case against smoking in public places, then against the worst forms of immorality. Such is the result when pure reason becomes the accepted arbiter of right and wrong.

There is nothing modern about this either. Several centuries ago, Obaidullah Hasan Qirwani, a leader of the renegade batani cult declared it foolish for a brother to marry his beautiful sister to a total stranger, while trying to be content with a less qualified wife -- another stranger. She would be much more suited to be wife of her own brother, with whom she may be a lot more compatible, he argued. His argument is, no doubt, sickening. But is there a counter argument based on pure reason?

Certainly mankind needs a superior tool for determining the values and purpose of life. A source of guidance that is based on certain knowledge, not conjecture. One that can inform our desires rather than being subservient to them. This is what Prophets, Alayhim assalam, came with. They claimed to have access to the higher source of knowledge, the Divine Revelation. Those who accepted them used reason and observation to verify their authenticity and character. But they accepted Divine Revelation as a SUPERIOR source of knowledge! That is why a son can tell his father:

"O my father! To me has come knowledge that had not reached you. So follow me. I will guide you to a Way that is even and straight." (Maryam, 19:43).

All this is obvious, except in implications. We accept this is Right and that is Wrong because the Revelation TOLD us, not because it PROVED it to us. What is wrong with riba? Gambling? Pork? Alcohol? Revelation told us that they were wrong. Why is hijab necessary? Allah and His Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, ordered that. What are the rights of men and women? Those given to them by Allah and His Prophet, Salla-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. The attribute of the Muslims is that they "listened and followed" (Al-Baqarah, 2:285). It is not that they listened and questioned, and argued, and investigated and then if they felt like it, they followed. That is also THE message of Prophet Ibrahim, alayhi assalm's, sacrifice, a defining event for Islam. For the Qur'an describes the moment when the father and son were ready for the ultimate sacrifice by saying: "When they surrendered" (Al-Saffat, 37:103). Literally it can also be translated: "When they accepted Islam." For pure reason could have raised a million questions about the command for that sacrifice.

Normally it is difficult for us to say "I don't know." It is even more difficult for nations to admit a weakness in their celebrated tools of inquiry. That is the dilemma of the modern world, which sees so much wrong with itself but cannot bring itself to admitting the problem with its basic approach. But a Muslim is the person who has both the wisdom and the courage to surrender before the higher source of knowledge and guidance. For him Revelation informs his reason and his reason controls his emotions. Such is the person who is blessed, but not burdened, by his beliefs.

Reference url: http://www.albalagh.net/food_for_thought/reason.shtml

Ch 4: Successor to Christ (pbuh)

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CHAPTER FOUR

Total Guidance!

"MANY" AND "ALL"

As promised, we will now combine, "I have yet MANY things to say unto you" from verse twelve, with "he will guide you into ALL truth." From John 16: 12 and 13.

If the Christian still persists that the Spirit of Truth of this prophecy is the Holy Ghost then ask him or her whether in their language does "MANY" means more than one? Also if "ALL" in the above verse means more than one? If you get a halting, wavering, hesitant "y-e-s" then close the book. it is not worth pursuing dialogues with opinionated fools. But if you get the answer "yes!" with alacrity then proceed ... If the Christian still persists that the Spirit of Truth of this prophecy is the Holy Ghost then ask him or her whether in their language does "MANY" means more than one? Also if "ALL" in the above verse means more than one? If you get a halting, wavering, hesitant "y-e-s" then close the book. it is not worth pursuing dialogues with opinionated fools. But if you get the answer "yes!" with alacrity then proceed ...

The one prophesied by Jesus (pbuh) was to unravel many things which he had left unsaid, as well as to guide humanity into all truth. There are many problems facing mankind today, for which we are fumbling for answers. Can you please give me one new thing that the alleged Holy Ghost gave to anybody in the past two thousand years, which Jesus Christ had not already given in so many different words? I don

Short Quotes

Cleanliness is ...

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said: 'Cleanliness is half of faith, and [saying] 'Praise be to God' fills the scale, and [saying] 'Glory be to God' and 'Praise be to God' fill up what is between the heavens and the earth, and prayer is a light, and charity is proof [of one's faith], and patience is a brightness, and the Qur'an is a proof for or against you. All men go out early in the morning and sell themselves, some setting themselves free and others destroying themselves.'(Narrated by Muslim)