Thank you for contacting About Islam. I feel that you brought up several great questions.
When we look at the Islamic textual sources, it is clear that we must be Muslims of good belief and character for several reasons.
What does the Quran say?
The Quran suggests that some “people will prefer blindness over guidance” like the people of Thamud (peace be upon him). (Quran 41:17)
And Allah continues, “And We saved those who believed and used to fear Allah.” (Quran 41:18)
The Quran also says in my favorite chapter,
I swear by time, indeed mankind is in loss, except for those who have believed, do righteous deeds and advise one another to the truth and to steadfast patience. (Quran 103:1-3)
I honestly love this chapter since it contains nothing but these three verses. The meaning of this chapter is extremely powerful.
Allah (SWT) is swearing by time—which humans only have so much of honestly—to remind us that we are in a state of spiritual loss unless we believe AND do righteous deeds AND advise each other to the truth and steadfast patience.
We do these good deeds because Allah (SWT) asked this of us as believers.
Forever in Jannah or Jahannam
Muslims do not get a “Get out of Hell for Free” card just for believing in Islam.
Do people think once they say, “We believe,” that they will be left without being put to the test? (Quran 29:2)
The people of the Hellfire can be categorized into two groups essentially: monotheistic (those believing in the One-ness of God) and non-monotheistic individuals.
Monotheistic people may serve a term in the Hellfire and then enter Paradise, if Allah wills. Nobody knows the amount of time one will spend in Hell for their sins, either.
But, non-monotheistic people do not have the benefit of leaving the hellfire once they enter.
They will wish to get out of the Fire, but never are they to emerge therefrom, and for them is an enduring punishment. (Quran 5:37)
Earning the pleasure of Allah (SWT) will keep us from Hell. Earning the displeasure of Allah (SWT) will result in the opposite. We should be careful.
Even though Hell will contain people from these two groups, the only people who have the opportunity to enter Paradise after that are those who believe in Him, do good deeds, and pursue the ultimate spiritual truth.
How did the Prophet discuss the interaction between deeds and our faith?
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said,
Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little. (Bukhari)
Essentially, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) clarified to us that good deeds are important – extremely important -.but ultimately, our deeds are judged by Allah (SWT).
Moreover, let’s not forget that even a Prophet of God is not automatically saved from the Hellfire based on his good deeds alone!
“The deeds of anyone of you will not save you (from the (Hell) Fire).” They said, “Even you (will not be saved by your deeds), O Allah’s Messenger?” He said, “No, even I (will not be saved) unless and until Allah bestows His Mercy on me. Therefore, do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and worship Allah in the forenoon and in the afternoon and during a part of the night, and always adopt a middle, moderate, regular course whereby you will reach your target (Paradise). (Bukhari)
He (SWT) is the only one who may choose to forgive, forget, or hold that sin against you on the day of Judgement.
Show Mercy to Others If You Want God’s Mercy
It was narrated from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Sahih Muslim that there was a thirsty dog walking around a well.
Suddenly a prostitute from the prostitutes of Bani Isra’il happened to see the thirsty dog, so she drew water from the well in her shoe and gave it to the dog to drink.
And she was pardoned because of this! She had committed a serious sin, but Allah chose to show the same kindness to her that she showed this dog.
Consider This Life, Too!
Even if we were to approach this scenario from the worldly life rather than the Afterlife, we would see that this still isn’t the best way to spend life.
It seems that more and more millennials are choosing to stay home versus going to the club.
Nobody wants to suffer from cirrhosis, so it’s great that Allah (SWT) has forbidden us from drinking.
In a world where modesty is under fire for being unnecessary and oppressive, and Muslims find themselves in a sea of people trying to confuse halal (permitted) and haram (forbidden actions), we must remain steadfast.
I implore you to believe in the mercy of Allah:
Our Lord, and admit them to gardens of paradise which You have promised them and whoever was righteous among their fathers, their spouses and their offspring. Indeed, it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. (Quran 40:8)