The man who lived for others!
Words can never do justice in describing the magnanimous personality of the most celebrated humanitarian who is no more among us but lives by his ideology, that is, ‘my religion is humanity.’ He was Abdul Sattar Edhi, a saint who devoted his entire life in the service of poor and needy. Such personalities never die because they live in people’s hearts. The best way to find oneself is to lose oneself in the service of others, and Edhi was the man who had discovered himself. And he who discovers himself, discovers God.
In the language of psychology, the human brain works in dual mode; a camera as well as a painter. The camera takes the picture as the same as the original but a painter paints a picture of what it should be. So by following that principle, we should ask this question to ourselves whether we are what we should be? Edhi was the man he should have been. And that is why he was satisfied with his departure that he had fulfilled his duty towards his fellow human beings.
For nearly 65 years, Edhi had been giving his humanitarian services to Pakistan’s distressed young and old. He was born in India in 1928 and later his family migrated to Karachi after partition of the subcontinent. At the age of 23, with his little savings, he bought a shabby eight foot square shop in the poor area of Mithadar which later turned into a small dispensary with the help of a doctor which was open for every human being without any discrimination. And from there the journey of self-help started.
Edhi, with his compassionate wife, Bilquis built up a health and welfare center which later turned into a vast network all over the country. This wide ranged network consisted of homes for those mentally ill and physically handicapped, orphaned children and victimized women, blood banks, mortuaries, shelters for animals and the largest network of ambulance service with the number of volunteers crossing 8,000.
It is a well-established truth that sacrifice always pays you back. Edhi, with his wife had sacrificed their lives in the service of others. They had abandoned their worldly desires at the very early stage and devoted their lives to help the poor and the needy. And this prophetic profession led them to the point when they became icons and ideals for the people. All across the country, more than 300 hundred Edhi Foundation centres are working from which thousands of human beings, without any discrimination, are being fed on daily basis.
On visiting some of the centres of Edhi Foundations, one finds a metaled shaded cradle outside the centre on which the words ‘Don’t Kill’ have been inscribed. Prior to the fixing of the cradle, people used to leave their children of the heap of rubbles form where the volunteers of Edhi centres picked them up and brought in the centres. Edhi’s wife, Bilquis cares for abandoned and desperate children and their families are searched out through volunteers by using electronic or print media. When the parents of the lost or dropped children reach the centres, Bilquis Edhi conducts thorough interviews so that the children may go to their real parents safely.
Abdul Sattar Edhi was awarded the humanitarian award in the year 2000. On that occasion, he spoke the immortal words that, “My greatest reward is the smile that flashes on the faces of suffering human beings, and the prize money of all these awards has always been utilised in spreading this smile. I myself am the owner of nothing, except a small 10-foot by 10-foot room that my mother left me in the alley where I first began my work, and the two sets of clothing that I wear.”
The attributes of empathy and compassion built innately by his mother as he himself accepted while narrating his childhood memory in his memoir “A Mirror to the Blind”, that each day before school, his mother would give him two paisas and tell him to spend one on himself and the other on someone in need. And the very first thing she would ask when he returned home was how he had spent the money. “You have a selfish heart, one that has nothing to give,” his mother would scold if he hadn’t found someone to help. His mother was a diabetic who later became paralysed and could only survive till Edhi’s 19th birthday. At her sad demise, he himself stated that all the attributes of compassion and empathy he had been blessed with were owing to her benign and loving mother.
In 1957, during a flu epidemic that caught thousands of people in its grip, he provided free immunizations to the victim of the epidemic by buying the tents on credit. A tin box was placed outside each camp with engraving on them “Pay what you can. Don’t if you cannot.” Within the span of one week, an amount of 30,000 rupees has been collected from those boxes and which was spent on establishing a maternity and nursing school. Soon after, a local business gave some donations in praising his services form which Edhi bought a dented sky blue car to run as ambulance on which it was written “Poor Man’s Van.” At that time, five ambulances were running in entire Sindh province and people had to book them in advance. In that enervated situation, the “Poor Man’s Van” had increased demand. Edhi drove it himself day and night and wherever he found injured people or the unclaimed dead bodies, he took them to the hospital or burial place.
He narrated in his biography that he had a dream that one day he will have helicopters for this purpose. And his dream came true. With his thankfulness to Allah Almighty and his relentless service towards humanity, he remained successful in establishing the world largest health care set up which has two airplanes, one helicopter, more than two thousand ambulances, and forty rescue boats. According to Guinness World Records, it has been considered the largest volunteer ambulance fleet in the world.
He did not accept money from those sources on which conditions were attached. He never took a salary from his Foundation and continued to live off the interest of government bonds. His three abiding principles: live simply, be punctual, act with honesty, are the guide to success.
In praise of his countless services towards humanity, he had been awarded with a great number of national and international awards in which the eminent ones are Lenin Peace Prize, Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service – referred to as the Asian Nobel Prize – the International Balzan Prize for Humanity, Peace and Brotherhood, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, civil decoration from Government of Pakistan in 1989, Honorary Doctorate degree from the Institute of Business Administration Karachi in 2006 and the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance and Non-Violence in 2009.
The special attribute of light is that its single ray is enough to rend the heart of darkness. Edhi was that ray of hope for the orphans and needy. In admiration of his priceless services and immense respect, he had often been called Maulana before his name but Edhi used to say in his brusque but harmless tone that “I am not a Maulana” (Islamic scholar). I’m a revolutionist. I fight against cruelty. I fight against injustice. My mission is humanity. If you don’t have humanity, you have nothing.”
And lastly, he donated his eyes so that he could continue to bless us with his saintly look. The world mourns over his death and this is the great testimony to the fact that how unique and priceless man we have lost. May his mission continue with the same vigour. May his soul rest in eternal peace!