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Morality and Utilitarianism
These virtues and the ethical system which they constitute are all founded on the spiritual system revealed in the Qur'an which is essentially related to iman in God. As we have said earlier, this characteristic is the most important feature of Islamic morality. It guarantees the grasp of the human soul by these values and ideals, as well as saves that system from all corruption. Morality founded upon utility and mutual advantage is quickly corrupted as soon as the moral subject is convinced that his personal advantage does not, suffer in consequence of his immorality. In such morality, it is most often the case that the subject is double-faced, showing an appearance different from what he holds deep within him. He would, for instance, seek to appear trustworthy while giving himself the right to use another's confidence as a means for increasing his advantage. He would seek to appear truthful but would not restrain from false pretense as long as this added to his advantage. A morality founded upon such standards falls down as the winds of temptation begin to blow. Its subject is often found pursuing ulterior motives and ever running after the satisfaction of his own prejudices
This essential moral weakness is most conspicuous in our present-day world. How often have we heard of great scandals occurring in this or that part of the civilized world, scandals all traceable to the pursuit of wealth and power on the part of their subjects, and on the weakness of their will to possess true iman and noble morals. Many of these people who fall to the nethermost depths in morality and perpetrate the worst crimes have started out with high morals based upon utilitarianism. They regarded success in life as based upon the observance of these high morals; and so they observed them in order to succeed, not because moral practice is a necessary part of their personal path which they ought to follow even though it might incur serious disadvantage. Hence, when they realized that some deviation from moral uprightness did in fact bring forth a measure of success within the civilization of this age, they allowed themselves to swerve. Many of them have been able to keep their personal code of behavior hidden from the public and, therefore, have never been exposed to scandal. They continue to be respected and esteemed. Others, less adept, have been exposed and have fallen into scandalous involvements which often have ended in personal ruin or suicide.
To found morality on utility and advantage, therefore, is to expose it to eventual but certain calamity. On the other hand, to found it on a spiritual system such as the Qur'an has revealed is to guarantee its permanent strength, its moving appeal, and power to determine man's ethics. The intention behind a deed is itself the measure of its moral worth, the genuine rubbing stone against which it should be tested. The man who buys a lottery ticket designed to build a hospital does not buy it with the intention of doing good and being charitable but in pursuit of material gain. Such act is not moral. Likewise, the man who gives to the insistent beggar in order to rid himself of the nuisance caused, is not on a par with the man who gives to the poor who not only do not insist when they ask, but do not ask at all out of a deep sense of dignity, shame, and self-respect. Furthermore, the man who tells the truth to the judge in fear of the punishment the law metes out to perjurers is not equivalent to the man who tells the truth because he believes in the virtue of truthfulness. A system of morals based upon utility and mutual advantage therefore cannot have the strength of a morality which the subject believes to be essentially related to his human dignity and to his iman in God, a morality founded upon the spiritual system on which his iman in God is itself founded.