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)

A Poem on Prophet Muhammad by Iqbal

 A Poem on Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) by Allama Iqbal

He slept on a mat of rushes,
But the crown of Chosroes lay beneath the feet of his followers;
He chose the nightly solitude of Mount Hira,
And founded a nation, law and government;
He passed his nights with sleepless eyes,
That his Millet might sleep on Chosroes throne
In the hour of battle, iron was melted by the flash of his sword.
At prayer time, tears fell like drops of rain from his eyes.
In his prayer for Divine help, his Amen' was a sword,
Which extirpated the lineage of kings.
He inaugurated a new Order in the world,
He brought the empires old to an end:
In his sight the high and the low were one,
He sat with the slave at table one;
He burnt clear the distinctions of birth and clan.
His fire consumed all this trash and bran.

The life of the Prophet after prophecy by Al `Uthaimeen

 

في مبدأ حياة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بعد البعثة


A khutbah by late Muhammad Saalih Al `Uthaimeen

Summary

1)     The early Muslims.
2)     The Prophet calls his tribe and family to Islam.
3)     Quraish harasses the Prophet.
4)     The death of Khadijah and Abu Taalib.
5)     The harassment of the people of Ta’if.
6)     The Ansaar (residence of Madinah) embrace Islam, and the message of Islam spreads.

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'Adl, Ihsan and Qurba

The first part of verse 16:90 says:

             "Allah enjoins justice, generosity and kind treatment with kindred."

The verse 16:90 is being recited in Jumuah khutbas every Friday in millions of Masajid throughout the world since the time of Umar bin Abdul Aziz (may Allah T'ala be please with him).

The first of these three commandments of Allah T'ala is justice which has two aspects.
To make such arrangements as may enable everyone to get one's due rights without stint. Justice does not, however, mean equal distribution of rights, for that would be absolutely unnatural. In fact, justice means equitable dispensation of rights which in certain cases may mean equality. For example, aII citizens should have equal rights of citizenship but in other cases equality in rights would be injustice. For instance, equality in social status and rights between parents and their children will obviously be wrong. Likewise those who render services of superior and inferior types cannot be equal in regard to wages and salaries. What AIIah enjoins is that the full rights of everyone should be honestly rendered whether those be moral, social, economic legal or political in accordance with what one justly deserves.

 

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Differentiate 'God's will' and 'God's good pleasure'

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According to the Holy Qur'an, there is a great difference between 'God's will' and 'God's good pleasure'. The failure to differentiate between the two often gives rise to serious misconceptions. If a certain thing takes place in accord with the universal will of God, and thus by His sanction, that does not necessarily mean that God is pleased with it.

Nothing at all takes place in the world unless God permits it to take place, unless He makes it a part of His scheme, and unless He makes it possible for that event to take place by creating its necessary conditions. The act of stealing on the part of a thief, the act of homicide on the part of a murderer, the wrong and corruption of the wrong-doer and the corrupt, the unbelief of the unbeliever and the polytheism of the polytheist - none of these are possible without the will of God. Likewise, the faith of the believer and the piety of the pious are inconceivable without the will of God. In short, both these require the will of God. But whereas the things in the first category do not please Him, those in the second do.

Even though the will of God is oriented to ultimate good, the course of the realization of that good is paved with conflict between the forces of light and darkness, of good and evil, of what is sound and pure on the one hand and what is corrupt and defiled on the other. With larger interests in view, God has endowed man with the disposition of obedience as well as of disobedience. He has created in man Abrahamic and Mosaic as well as Nimrodic and Pharaonic potentialities. Both the pure, unadulterated human nature and the satanic urges are ingrained in man's being and have been provided with the opportunity to work themselves out by coming into conflict with each other. He has granted those species of His creatures who are possessed of authority (viz. man and jinn) the freedom to choose between good and evil. Whosoever chooses to act righteously has been given the power to do so, and the same is the case with him who chooses to be evil. People of both categories are in a position to use material resources within the framework of the broader considerations underlying God's governance of His universe. God will be pleased, however, only with those who are working for good. God likes His creatures to exercise their freedom of choice properly and commit themselves to good of their own volition.

Unlike the angels, who carry out God's commands without resistance from any quarter, the task entrusted to men is to strive to establish the way of life sanctioned by God in the face of opposition and hostility from evil-doers and rebels against Him. In the framework of His universal will, God allows even those who have chosen the path of rebellion to strive for the realization of their goals, even as He grants the believers every opportunity to strive along the path of obedience and service to God. Despite this granting of freedom and choice to all there is no doubt that God is pleased with, and guides, directs, supports and strengthens the believers alone because their overall direction is to His liking. Nevertheless, they should not expect that by His supernatural intervention God will either force those who are disinclined to believe into believing or that He will forcibly remove the satanic forces - among both men and jinn - who are resolved to spare neither their mental and physical energy nor their material resources to impede the triumph of the Truth. Those determined to strive in the cause of the Truth, and of virtue and righteousness are told that they must prove their earnest devotion by waging a fierce struggle against the devotees of falsehood. For had God wanted to use miracles to obliterate falsehood and usher in the reign of the Truth, He would not have required human beings to accomplish the task. He could have simply seen to it that no evil one remained in the world, leaving no possibility for polytheism and unbelief to exist. (Tafheemul Quran)

Short Quotes

Superiority only in Rightousness

On a certain occasion the Prophet (s.a.a.w.) was travelling on his camel over hilly terrain with a disciple, Uqba Bin Aamir. After going some distance, he asked Uqba to ride the camel, but Uqba thought this would be showing disrespect to the Prophet (s.a.a.w.). But the Prophet (s.a.a.w.) insisted and he had to comply. The Prophet (s.a.a.w.) himself walked on foot as he did not want to put too much load on the animal. [Nasai]