The man who needs no introduction and all the praise is the savior of humanity not only in Pakistan but the world over. Regardless of creed, class and religion Abdul Sattar Edhi selflessly served the poor and the neglected segment of society. No words can ever praise him enough, nor anyone in the 21st century held a superior stature than Abdul Sattar Edhi in the country. He was an example for every man, woman, child and the elderly because he just gave, gave and gave without any greed for an award, praise or gratitude. He never let any political or monetary influence derail him from his thinking and was widely known as “The Richest Poor Man”. He lived for the people, the country and he lived with them in his simple and down to earth manner.
Abdul Sattar Edhi, the founder of Edhi Foundation, was a philanthropist at heart and action who donated his life in serving the poor, orphans, widows, disable, mentally ill, drug abuse victims and anyone who was deprived of basic needs, care and attention. He never took a single day off since 1951, the day he founded Edhi Foundation. His identification was through his charcoal blue Shalwar Kameez that we wore for the last 30 years of his life. Such simplicity was the essence of his life.
Edhi wanted to raise the bar of Pakistan in the international arena. And his belief is what got him to build the largest Voluntary Ambulance network in the world. He has saved over 20,000 abandoned babies, more than 50,000 orphans are housed in ‘Edhi Homes’, and 250 Edhi centers provide free food, shelter, and health services to thousands of people every day. All the welfare work carried out by this altruistic personality and his organisation was because of donations from generous Pakistanis.
He once said, “Mujhe koi ameer chanda naheen deta.”
Edhi was born on January 1, 1928, in Bantva, British India. At age 11, he was left to take care of his ailing mother who had suffered a stroke. It was then that the thought of developing a humanitarian society came into existence.
While many still look outside their country for inspiration, of great learned people, Abdul Sattar Edhi was and has been the biggest inspiration for the youth and everyone who had ever worked with him. Even though he had no formal education, yet he educated all through his humanitarian acts. His entire focus was towards being a good human being.
Saana Tahir, a lecturer at one of Pakistan’s prestigious University, teaches community service as a subject. She started teaching after being inspired by Abdul Sattar Edhi. She mentioned how readily available Edhi was for everyone. He had come as a guest speaker, and his primary focus remained in telling the youth to become a good human being. She recalls him saying “sub sey phelay insaan banoo”, a simple yet such a profound message left for the entire nation.
Most of all as narrated by Ms. Tahir, Edhi “did not exaggerate or tried to please anyone. He was such a simple and honest man.” He repeatedly pointed out that, “Taleem sey insaan naheen bante; aur agar Taleem sey Insaan bantay tou log jaisa aik doosray kay saath bartao kertay hain woh na hota”.
Edhi’s work was shaped up by the belief that humanitarianism is his religion. His work was never limited to any particular religion or sect. He recounted that once a Hindu flew over from India to donate 7.5 lacs to the Edhi Foundation. Another time, some Christians were staying in one of the Edhi homes, and Bilquis Edhi arranged for them to have a Bible and a separate room to worship. He has seventeen homes and is open for every needy regardless of their race and religion.
Whenever someone asked him about how we can be more humane, Edhi’s answer was to adopt simplicity. He always woke up early for Fajr to recite the Holy Quran. He eats but half a roti, some rice and milk with sugar during the day and proudly owns two pairs of clothes.
The life of Abdul Sattar Edhi holds numerous lessons for everyone to reflect upon. But I would like to highlight a few lessons for all of us to keep his legacy alive.
Anyone can become a ‘Change Agent’. Change comes from within. The more humble and down to earth you are, the more positivity attracts you. Edhi Sahib started as a hawker and ended up founding Pakistan’s biggest charity organization.
Start small and gain the trust of your people. Create small-scale service outlets and spread out.
Have the heart and the will to become the change that you want to see. The hardest step is the first step. Once, you have taken that there will be thousands to follow and help you out.
Compassion for humanity has no meaning, has no boundaries, and definitely no doubts. It is an act of compassion for humanity.
One needs to be passionate about what they want to achieve in life. Without passion there is nothing. No family would ever stop you from your cause as long as you are true and honest to your passion and goals.
The most important lesson that Edhi has left us with is that even one single individual can make an endless difference to the environment around them. He has changed the hearts of all in Pakistan. He has changed the meaning of welfare system in Pakistan. If one man can achieve so much, imagine the force that would carry his legacy forward can achieve?
Just like Ms. Tahir’s students were able to relate to Edhi Sahaab with their passion, many have started to work towards creating their very own sustainable humanitarian projects. One such project is named the ‘Robin Hood’ Army initiative that collects excess food from restaurants and distributes it to the poor and needy each week. A few started teaching practical skills and imparting vocational skills to children on the street.
Think about it If all of us imitate even a tenth of the good deeds he did, poverty will be eliminated and wealth will be evenly distributed! A single humanitarian act each day by each Pakistani was his dream! Let us all unite to take his legacy forward!
Long Live the Legacy of Abdul Sattar Edhi. There will never be another like you. January 1, 1928 – July 8, 2016.