Abdul Sattar Edhi has passed away, he lived his life without fanfare, and in his passing and the simplicity of his life and achievements we have to pause and reflect on the life of the man known as the Angel of Mercy. More often than not people who establish successful charitable foundations do so after making their millions. Its almost like a sort of redemption for them in their act of giving, which is great, but for Edhi, as he was fondly known, giving came at an early age. When he was 19 he lost his mother and vowed to help all those in distress. With his life saving of Rs 5,000 he started a free dispensary in Karachi and convinced medical students to volunteer and started with free treatment of the poor.
Today the Edhi Foundation is the largest charitable Organization in Pakistan and entirely fund by donations. Till a couple of years back it was revealed that the Edhi Foundation had rescued 20,000 abandoned infants, cared for 50,000 orphans and trained 40,000 nurses. Today the Edhi Foundation runs 330 welfare centres all over Pakistan. In addition they run centres for abandoned women and children, clinics and centres for mentally handicapped children and numerous food kitchens for the poor. The Edhi Foundation has more than 1,500 ambulances in the country and remains the most effective emergency medical response force in a land where the Government's efforts in comparison are miniscule.
Sattar Edhi, while a devout Muslim, was shunned by many radical Muslim groups, also perhaps because of his outspoken style. While he shunned publicity the few occasions he was cornered by the media to comment he spoke his mind. When during a wave of sectarian attacks on Christians and Hindu's in Pakistan he was questioned by a radical Muslim cleric as to why does he bother to send his ambulances to save the 'infidels"? Sattar Edhi's answer was very simple "Because my ambulances are more Muslim than you."
His wife, Bilquis, once asked him why on the Festival of Eid he does not sacrifice a goat, and his answer was "It is not about sacrificing a goat or an animal to show God I love him. It is more important to sacrifice greed and our ego and give of ourselves to God, that is the real truth of the message of sacrifice." Throughout of his life he only possessed two pairs of clothes, only replacing them when they were torn and faded. He lived throughout his life in a two bed run down apartment next to the dispensary with an austere lifestyle. He or his family never took a single penny as expense or salary from the Foundation. His trips were specifically planned with donations for just the trip, and that too he was a man who rarely travelled.
Edhi did not like creating controversy, briefly having been arrested in Lebanon by the Israeli's when he was in the South of Lebanon helping the poor. In 2008 he was detained at JFK airport for 16 hours as Homeland Security struggled to figure out if his charity was on the banned list. When asked about the incident he said, 'I don't know why I was detained, perhaps my beard and clothes, but it does not matter they have to do their job and I have to do mine.'
This amazing man, while nominated for the Noble Peace Prize never really begged for recognition or for money, somehow he set an example of his life and effort that made one attracted to his cause. He stayed away from politics and it would be hard to find a political statement by him. He often said they (the politicians) have their agenda, I have mine but mine is between God and him.
How can we remember this man? His funeral at the National Cricket Stadium was attended by General Raheel the chief of the army along with all senior commanders; they knowing more than anyone else that Sattar Edhi was and remain the most sincere Pakistani who walked the earth. It was no surprise that he was given a 19 gun salute at his funeral by the armed forces, something reserved of head of states. In a sense he was the head of state of the humanitarian face of Pakistani's. Sadly he is gone, and more sad is the fact that the world who see's Pakistan as a land of violence and terror and intolerance CNN would not be running a story on this man'; who saved more lives than anyone in that troubled land.
Abdul Sattar Edhi showed how to care, he set the example of emergency medical care that needs to be emulated, more than anything he told us to be a good Muslim you have to be a good humanitarian; a vital message in a world where many Muslims are too busy tearing each other and people of other faiths to pieces. Edhi was more interested in making sure the torn pieces of flesh from bomb blasts and angry gun fire were put back together; and that too without ever considering a persons religion. He once said to someone who met him that if you are Hindu, a Christian, a Muslim or whatever, the colour of the blood is the same. Do we not see why this is so? Because God wants us to help everyone as we all have the same colour the same faith in Him on the inside."