Short Answer: Faith and good deeds about sums up the answer to your question in a nutshell! God sent us prophets to guide us to the right path, to increase our faith and show us how to live it out. We all have a free will but will have to answer to God someday for the way in which we used the gifts of knowledge, common sense, and guidance he gave us. The result of that meeting will determine our eternal abode.
Salam Dear Dawn,
Thank you very much for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
Faith and good deeds about sums up the answer to your question in a nutshell!
Islam teaches that all humans are the ambassadors of God on earth.
It also teaches us that we have been appointed as God’s ambassadors to use the blessings of God for our own benefit.
The Beauty of Free Will
We have freedom of will and action—of course, within limits. So, we can choose what to do or what not to do.
Unlike other creatures of God, we can observe closely the world around us, use logic and reason, do research, think, calculate, speak, write, dream, sing, and pray.
God commands us to make use of our God-given faculties to lead a good life here, indeed to create a better world.
When we become aware of the fact that our life and the world in which we live are the gifts of God, we become responsible beings.
Then we do not waste any one of these gifts of God.
One of the things for which we are answerable is the wasting of the resources available to us.
Knowledge, skills, technology, and even time are immensely valuable resources for us to use carefully and wisely.
He Sent Us Prophets
Even while we are reasonable beings, we commit mistakes, we forget, we slip, we fail, we make wrong choices and decisions.
In fact, we are badly in need of guidance in many things, particularly in the matter of making the great choices of our life.
And God has given us guidance through His prophets. That was how religion was born.
It is in the Books of God and the teachings of His prophets that we can get divine guidance.
They teach us that we have to acknowledge our origin, that we have been created by the One and Only God.
Once we accept this, we have to lead a life in obedience to God. How do we do this?
The prophets taught generations of people who lived in times of old, how to lead such a life.
Prophet after prophet came to teach God’s guidance, and finally one prophet came to complete and perfect the divine guidance; he was the Last Prophet, Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
The Word of God revealed to Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is known as the Quran.
The whole corpus of the teachings of the Prophet, which forms an example and explanation of the Word of God, is called the Sunnah of the Prophet.
Deeds are As Important as Faith
Islam teaches that all of us must order our lives in the mold of the Quran and the Sunnah.
This means that we have to believe in God, the Prophets, and the Day of Judgment, to mention the most important of the beliefs.
And then we need to live a life of obedience to God as commanded by God in the Holy Quran and shown by Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, in his Sunnah.
Those who imagine that they can do without divine guidance, or ignore that guidance, are the arrogant ones who do serious and fatal wrongs in life and waste the gifts of God.
They are answerable before God.
There is a Judgment Day when all of us will have to stand before God and account for all our actions.
Those who have accepted God and His guidance are the successful ones on that Day.
Those who rejected God and His guidance are the losers. Now where do we find the guidance of God?
Those of us who fail in this go to hell, and those who succeed in this get to heaven.
Thus in Islam, both faith and good works are of equal importance; indeed they are two sides of the same coin.
In other words, faith without good works is a dead letter; and good works without faith are not really good works, for they are utterly futile.
And God knows best.
Thank you again for your question and please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam’s archives)