There are things that we all hold dear to us. In many ways, it is the thing that you hold dear that forms your character. Perhaps that is why Abdul Sattar Edhi’s character is what distinguished him the most. This is because what Edhi held most dear, was his desire to help other people.
Who Was Abdul Sattar Edhi?
Soon after Pakistan had gained independence in 1947, there was a surge of muslim immigration from India into Pakistan. Edhi was such an immigrant, who at the time was very young, and very poor. Edhi was one of the many beggars who stayed on the paved streets of Karachi, Pakistan.
Later in 1957, there was an outbreak of the flu in Pakistan. It was then that Edhi took it upon himself to help those around him. “The flu had spread in Karachi, and there was no one to treat them. So I set up benches and got medical students to volunteer. I was penniless and begged for donations on the street. And people gave,” said Edhi in an interview with NPR.
Edhi then started his own solely operated ambulance service using the donations given to him. During the beginning years of Edhi’s service, he would tend to the wounded and ill, and wash and bury the dead. This hard work soon led Edhi to be respected in his community, and gave rise to the Edhi Foundation. Donations started to increase, which allowed Edhi to expand his impact to far more lives. Under the Edhi Foundation, the social resource provided a 24-hour ambulance response service, which is currently composed of 1,500 ambulances.
The Edhi Foundation is also responsible for the creation of several orphanages, free nursing homes, rehabilitation centers for addicts and mentally ill, gave yards, women’s shelters, and blood banks. During all of this time, Edhi has refused to accept a salary for his work and will only accept private donations to help others through his foundation.
A Man Who Would Not Be Discouraged
Edhi believes that charity is one of the central tenets of Islam, and is known for his compassion for people suffering regardless of who they are or where they’re from. Edhi’s wife, Bilquis, also runs a maternity ward along with her husband. They have both faced criticism by others for their charity. Edhi’s ambulances and the volunteers operating them have been attacked before, and the cribs used to accept unwanted children have been criticized for encouraging childbirth out of wedlock.
“They call him an infidel, saying that he does not say his prayers,” stated Belquis in an interview with The Guardian “What we are doing should be done by the government and should be appreciated, but instead we’re blamed.” Despite this, Edhi still kept his belief that everyone deserves help when they need it. “My religion is humanitarianism, which is the basis of every religion in the world.” said Edhi.
In one instance, Edhi’s headquarters was robbed at gunpoint by eight men. Edhi was in distress after the incident, as many people who were not able or were unwilling to use a bank kept their valuables with him. However, within a few days donations allowed him to pay back those who trusted him.
The Fall of A Saint
On July 8, 2016 Abdul Edhi died of kidney failure at the age of 88. His funeral was attended by thousands of political leaders, rescued patients, and friends.
During Edhi’s lifetime, he received many awards for his actions including:
- A 1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award
- A 1989 Nishan-e-Imtiaz Award
- A Lenin Peace Prize and a Balzan Prize in 2006
- Nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year
The amount of caring and impact that Abdul Edhi has had on those around him is unmeasurable. We would like to thank Edhi for his service and caring, he will be dearly missed.