From Issue: 950 [Read full issue]
Usefulness of Morality
Morality is not profitable in the common sense of the word. Can we say that the maxim "Women and children first!" is useful from the social point of view? Is it useful to do justice and to tell the truth? We can imagine numerous situations in which injustice or falsehood are profitable. For example, religious, political, racial, and national tolerance are not useful in the usual sense of the word. To destroy the adversaries is more profitable from the pure rationalistic point of view. Tolerance, if it exists, is not practiced out of interest but out of principle, out of humanity, out of that "aimlessly purposeful" reason. The protection of the old and decrepit, or the care of the handicapped or the incurable patient is not useful. Morals cannot be subjected to the standards of usefulness. The fact that moral behavior is sometimes useful does not mean that something has become moral because it has proved useful in a certain period of human experience. On the contrary, such coincidences are very rare. Optimistic belief in the harmony of honesty and usefulness has proved naive and even harmful. It has a destructive effect on people, for they are continually witnessing the opposite. A truly righteous man is one who accepts sacrifice and who, when facing the inevitable temptation, will remain true to his principles rather than his interests. If virtue were profitable, all intelligent crooks would hurry to become examples of virtue.
"Islam Between East and West" - Alija Ali Izetbegovic, p. 128