It’s not religion that matters most of all.  It is not even just belief alone.  It is faith submissively expressing itself in obedience, respect, and love. 

Such is the message of today’s short surah, “The Private Rooms.”   

The desert Arabs say, “We have faith.”  [Prophet] tell them, “You do not have faith.  What you should say instead is, ‘We have submitted,’ for faith has not yet entered your hearts.” . . . The true believers are the ones who have faith in God and His Messenger and leave all doubt behind, the ones who have struggled [jihad?] with their possessions and their persons in God’s way: they are the one who are true. . . . They think they have done you [Prophet] a favor by submitting.  Say, “Do not consider your submission [islam] a favor to me; it is God who has done you a favor, by guiding you to faith, if you are truly sincere.”  (49:14-15, 17)

As we read through this surah we read of Muslims who treat Muhammad with such disrespect that they stand outside his “private rooms” and yell for his to come out (49:4).  When he is talking, they shout over him, presumably not laking what he is saying (49:2).  They have forgetten Muhammad is God’s chosen Messenger, not just one of the guys (49:2). 

People are believing any report they hear, without showing the accused brother or sister the respect to find out if it is true first (49:6).  Of course, this causes tension and even arguments, which they are all only too willing to get into (49:9-10).  Offensive remarks, name-calling, back-biting, mockery, looking down on other Muslims, trying to catch people doing something wrong, jumping to conclusions about each other — too many were engaging in this kind of unsuitable behavior (49:11-12). 

And yet these same Muslims were quick to say they have faith (49:14).  No, they have religion.  No, they wear a label that identifies themselves as one of the group.  Do they believe in Allah?  Sure, it seems they do, but that belief has had little effect on their life.  They have a religion called “Islam,” but they have completely missed what “islam” really is: submission. 

Sure, they have “submitted” to Muhammad, in the sense that they do not rebel against his authority.  But real submission requires a heart that is tender and kind to others.  A true submitter has “struggled” or “done war” with his own “person” or will or desires, so that he treats others with respect and love.  A true believer would not act the way this group is acting. 

That is a great message!  And universally applicable, regardless of your religion.

The Apostle Paul of the Bible said it this way:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:6)