Faith provides the ideological foundation for human existence and the criterion through which to categorize good from bad, right from wrong and righteousness from impropriety.
Through faith we bind ourselves to a system of belief that impacts the personal, social, economic, religious and spiritual dimensions of our lives.
Faith offers a moral framework and an ethical standard for our behavior in this world.
In Islam, the belief is that God revealed the true path to humanity throughout history via the agency of prophets and messengers such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus with Muhammad being the final of these messengers (peace be upon all of them).
The terms iemaan and 'amal-us-saalihaat are so often conjoined in the Qur'an that the reader is convinced they are intertwined. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said; " Faith and Good Action are partners. One is considered incomplete without the other."
The Qur'an considers life as a test of deeds (Qur'an 67:2) and in Islamic tradition all good deeds are considered 'ibaadah, a form of worship. Since human beings have been created primarily for 'ibaadah it is obvious that all actions of a believer must be of the highest ethical standard. From this we understand that worship is not limited to mere ritual but to all expressions of goodness and righteousness.
Actions must be inherently good not just apparently good. (Giving charity for show may appear good but the intention is to show off, whereas giving charity purely out of compassion is genuine.) The most famous Prophetic tradition in all of Islam therefore is: "Actions are by intentions and God rewards according to intention."
Good deeds in Islam are of such great significance that salvation is dependent on good actions that emanates from sincere intentions.
People will be held individually accountable in the hereafter for all their willful actions (ie. actions they did by choice not by force), and each will be receive retribution accordingly.
"Whosoever does righteous deeds, male or female, who have faith, to such God will grant a higher existence in the hereafter that is good and pure. They will be rewarded according to the best of their actions." (Qur'an 16:97)
Sadullah Khan is the Director of Islamic Center of Irvine. He has presented lectures on Islamic Civilization at California State University at Dominguez Hills. He is a frequent lecturer for the Academy of Judaic, Christian and Islamic Studies at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). He is also an advisor to the Chancellor's Committee on Religion Ethics and Values at UCLA and serves as Director of Muslim Affairs at USC (University of Southern California).