My Dear Brothers,
We are thankful to Allah SWT for giving us the strength to fast, read tarawee and completing the Holy Quran. Without his will it would have not been possible.
I hope we all can take full of advantage of the last few remaining days of Ramadhan as the reality is we are not guaranteed if we will be alive to enjoy the benefits of the next Rahmadhan again.
Brothers, as we all sit here today, I would like to share a story with you that I hope we can take something from. The story was very insightful for me and I wanted to share with you.
More than 130 years ago, in January of 1882 – 10 men and a boy, set sail for New York from an Italian village called Roseto.
They spent their first night in America sleeping on the streets in New York and then went west wards looking for work, eventually finding small jobs near the town of Bangor, Pennsylvania - which is about 200 miles west of New York.
The following year, fifteen Rosetons also left Italy for America, and several members of that group ended up in Bangor as well, joining their countrymen.
Over the years more and more Rosetons began to come to America. They started buying land on a rocky hillside connected to Bangor. They built closely clustered two-story stone houses with slate roofs on narrow streets running up and down the hillside. In the beginning, they called their town New Italy. But they soon changed it to Roseto – in honour of their village back home.
At the same time whilst building their homes, they also built a church, schools, a park, a convent and a cemetery. Small shops and bakeries and restaurants opened along the main street. More than a dozen factories sprang up making blouses for the garment trade.
Neighbouring town Bangor was largely Welsh and English, and the town next to it was overwhelmingly German, which meant—given the difficult relationships between the English and Germans and Italians in those years— Roseto stayed strictly for the Rosetons.
In 1896, a dynamic young priest by the name of Father Pasquale took over at the Church. He set up spiritual societies and organized festivals. He encouraged the people of the town to clear the land and plant fruits and vegetables in their backyards.
Roseto was its own tiny, self-sufficient world—all but unknown by the society around it—and it might well have remained so but for a man named Stewart Wolf, who was a doctor who taught in the medical school at the University of Oklahoma.
One day in 1950, Wolf was invited to give a talk at a local medical society. After the talk was over, he and one of the local doctors met for a chat. During this meeting the local doctor said that he has been practicing medicine for seventeen years and gets patients from all over, but he rarely finds anyone from Roseto under the age of sixty-five with heart disease.
Wolf was taken aback. This was the 1950s, years before cholesterol-lowering drugs and aggressive measures to prevent heart disease. Heart attacks were an epidemic in America. They were the leading cause of death in men under the age of 65. Wolf decided to investigate and got the support of some of his medical students and colleagues from Oklahoma.
They looked at death certificates from residents of Roseto, going back as many years as they could. They analysed medical records. They took medical histories and constructed family trees of each person. Wolf invited the entire population of Roseto and took blood samples.
The results were astonishing. In Roseto, virtually no one under 55 had died of a heart attack or showed any signs of heart disease. For men over 65, the death rate from heart disease in Roseto was roughly half that of the United States as a whole. The death rate from all causes in Roseto, in fact, was 30 to 35 percent lower than expected. Wolf’s team went house to house and talked to every person aged 21 and over.
To their amazement they found that there was no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction, and very little crime. They didn't have anyone living of state benefits. Wolf’s team then looked for other medical related illnesses especially peptic ulcers, which is to do with stomach and the digestive system. They didn't find any of that either. They concluded that the Rosetons were just dying of old age. That's it.
Wolf's first thought was that the Rosetons must have held on to some dietary practices from the Old World that left them healthier than other Americans. But he quickly realized that this wasn't true. The Rosetons were cooking with fat instead of with the much healthier olive oil they had used back in Italy - and food that we now consider as unhealthy were eaten all year-round.
When Wolf had dieticians analyse the typical Roseton's eating habits, they found that a staggering 41 percent of their calories came from fat. Nor was this a town where people got up at dawn to do yoga and run for six miles. The Rosetons smoked heavily and many were struggling with obesity.
If diet and exercise didn't explain the findings, then what about genetics? The Rosetons were a close-knit group from the same region of Italy, and Wolf's next thought was to wonder whether they were of a particularly resilient stock that protected them from disease. So he tracked down relatives of the Rosetons who were living in other parts of America to see if they shared the same remarkable good health as their cousins in Pennsylvania. They didn't.
He then looked at the region where the Rosetons lived. Was it possible that there was something about living in the foothills of eastern Pennsylvania that was good for their health? The two closest towns to Roseto were Bangor, which was just down the hill a few miles away. These were both about the same size as Roseto, and both were populated with the same kind of hardworking European immigrants. Wolf combed through both towns' medical records. For men over 65, the death rates from heart disease in Nazareth and Bangor were three times that of Roseto. Another dead end.
What Wolf began to realize was that the secret of Roseto wasn't diet or exercise or genes or location. It had to be Roseto itself. As Wolf’s team walked around the town, they figured out why.
They looked at how the Rosetons visited one another, stopping to chat in Italian on the street, or cooking for one another in their backyards. They learned about the extended family clans that underlay the town's social structure. They saw how many homes had three generations living under one roof, and how much respect grandparents commanded.
They went to mass at the Church and saw the unifying and calming effect of the church. They counted twenty-two separate civic organizations in a town of just under two thousand people. They picked up on the particular democratic ethos of the community, which discouraged the wealthy from flaunting their success and helped the unsuccessful obscure their failures.
The Rosetons had created a powerful, protective social structure capable of insulating them from the pressures of the modern world. The Rosetons were healthy NOT because of where they were from, but because of the relaxed, stress-free world they had created for themselves in their tiny little town in the hills. This is now called the Roseto effect.
When Wolf first presented their findings to the medical community, you can imagine the kind of skepticism they faced.
Living a long life, the conventional wisdom at the time said, depended to a great extent on who we were—that is, our genes. It depended on the decisions we made—on what we chose to eat, and how much we chose to exercise, and how effectively we were treated by the medical system. No one was used to thinking about health in terms of community.
Wolf had to convince the medical establishment to think about health and heart attacks in an entirely new way. They had to look beyond the individual. They had to understand the culture he or she was a part of, and who their friends and families were, and what town their families came from. They had to appreciate the idea that the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are.
Brothers, does this story sound familiar? Is this not the teaching of our beloved Prophet SAW. Did he not say, A Muslim is the brother of another Muslim? Did he not say, you are not a true believer until you desire for your brother what you desire for yourself?
Can you now see the wisdom behind those teachings? We have so many issues in our Muslim societies. Believe it or not, depression is rife amongst Muslim communities. If we are truly following our Prophet SAW teachings than why is this the case?
Question is, can we create a Roseto in the Chelmsford Muslim Community? I believe, In sha Allah, we can, in fact we can do one better than Roseto because we are bonded by the oneness of Allah SWT and not from a particular village or country.
If we all come together and do our bit for our community, if we share those difficult tasks with others so it doesn’t take a toll on one or few individuals, In sha Allah we can create a flourishing Muslim Community in Chelmsford.
A civic society is a voluntary body which aims to represent the needs of a local community. The people of Roseta had 22 civic societies amongst 2000 people. We here in Chelmsford don’t even have one. Not one single society to help Muslims, and I believe in Chelmsford we have more than 2000 Muslims.
Brothers, let us unite together and enjoy the benefit of a good community. If the people of Roseto can do it, then I am sure we can do it better.
Please ask yourself what you can do for your community instead of what the community can do for you. Let’s be selfless and extend a hand to those people who are in most need.
It’s very easy to judge or criticise people who may be doing something wrong, but the real test is what solutions you can provide them. For example, say you know someone who may be earning Haram income, so instead of pointing fingers, is the true test not to help them with better training and showing them other alternatives? We as a community can do this.
It’s a fact that some families in Chelmsford are struggling to bring up their children in the right Islamic manner, is it not our duty to see how we can help them? It’s a fact, our elderly and certain vulnerable people in our communities are living in isolation, is it not our duty as a community to provide solutions?
I am sure most of us do give money to charity but what about our time and effort? Do we give time to our community? Unfortunately, most of us don’t and we need to change this as a community. If not for others at least do it for your children and future generations. At least do it for yourself and live a happier life.
Brothers, we have an innate feature within ourselves that we are born with – the Fitrah – that always inclines us towards Allah and doing good and being good.
sûrah 30 âyah 30:
Allah says in the Qur’an:
So direct your face toward the religion, inclining to truth. Adhere to the fitrah of Allah upon which he has created all people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know.
However – it is the social environment which cause us to deviate from this natural state and genuine inclination towards doing good. In other words, we naturally want to do good and to help but we get distracted with other matters.
I am sure again most of us have helped our families who are less fortunate back home. Or when you go back to your country and help a local poor person and he then improves his life, the feeling is truly amazing and priceless.
For our young brothers sitting here today, I am sure you have done something good for someone unconditionally not expecting anything back, is the feeling not wonderful?
Today could be Laylatul Qadar, so let’s ask Allah SWT to help us re-find this goodness within us and reconnect with it so we can help where we can. If we come together as a community not only will it benefit us in terms of health but In sha Allah in our hereafter as well.
Brothers, please say In sha Allah that we will do our best to be more proactive and help where we can.
I hope we can learn from this story of Roseto and know it’s possible to make our small community in Chelmsford a much productive, proactive, kind and Islamic, Ameen!
© Copyright Chelmsford Mosque.