Writers' Articles

Wisdom as Wide as the Texas Sky


"Everything's bigger in Texas."  That's what they say.  And when one gazes at the seemingly endless blue sky on a sunny spring day or when one hears the slow, deep rumbling of thunder in the distance and see the massive grey almost black clouds approaching just before a lightening-filled storm, it sure seems true enough.  And the churches, well some of them certainly are "Super Size".  But just because something may be bigger, doesn't make it better.

Growing up in Texas, I was blessed to have been raised in a church that truly was striving to live by the letter and spirit of the Bible such that it caused me to reflect, develop an understanding of God, and know that the One Who created us would not leave us without guidance.  Thus I strove to be a good person.  But like the wide, empty grey skies of winter in Texas, there was a huge void in my heart and soul.  Not knowing what it was that I needed in order to fill it, I prayed for wisdom.

From childhood, my dreams were sporadically haunted by fear, and my purpose in life seemed a distant mystery.  Taking pleasure in reading profound words of famous people, studying mythology in high school as well as continuing to go to church brought me to the realization that each and every moment and deed was connected to the next and powerfully influenced my future.  The goal then was more than ever to find out what my destiny, that purpose, the filling of the void in my heart and soul was.  I continued to pray for wisdom.

Before long I was off to university and more alone than ever.  Awaking to the silence of the dawn, I would turn to God asking Him to guide me.  And so once again I searched...this time in student religious centers near my dorm.

I couldn't even consider the Catholic one though because of all the statues, which I could not believe were anything but idols, the very "graven images" God spoke of being forbidden in the first of the Ten Commandments.  I tried the Methodist experience at the encouragement of a friend, but found it too driven by emotion with all the music and acceptance of speaking in tongues as a part of a religious experience.  So as in high school, I tried to find what I sought in the Baptist church.

The people were very kind, patient, and helpful.  But the void remained.  The depth of understanding, the completeness of a religious way of life, a connection with the hearts of other believers, and a growing closeness to God were never there.

And then one day on a canoeing trip organized by my church, the doors to that better life, that spiritual fulfillment, cracked open and a glimmer of light shown through by way of a young Muslim man I met who himself was just coming to the stage where he was reflecting on the meaning of his life and his beliefs.  Through our conversations, I found a glimmer of hope.

And then one evening this young man brought a book he had checked out from our very own university library.  It was a book of a mere forty sayings.  I don't recall ever before hearing of the person whose sayings were recorded there, but once we started reading and discussing each one of the simple statements made by this man, I was mesmerized.  It was as if with each word I was that much more enveloped by a flowing light of knowledge and understanding.  I had been blessed with finding someone whose every word was as full of Truth and Wisdom as the Texas sky is wide.  My prayers had been answered, and they continue to be with all the more I learn of this Mercy, Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him), that God has sent to mankind.

As a native of Texas who converted to Islam at age nineteen, Najla Tammy Ilhan strives to share glimpses of the wisdom she has found in the seventeen years since


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