Abdul Sattar Edhi – Pakistan’s Greatest Humanitarian Asset

Amidst the pool of messages, pictures, breaking news and Facebook ads, I find myself trying to deal with this incredible loss that has been inflicted upon not just Pakistan but on all existing humanity.

I find it rather sad that, perhaps like the vast majority of the Pakistani population, I never met the glorious Edhi sir. However, I have always been aware of the work he has done for the masses. Every year twice or thrice, me and my sisters would clean out our cupboards and send all good clothes that we did not wear anymore to the Edhi centre. That was our association with the foundation.

“In Pakistan, unmarried girls without responsibilities should be encouraged to work, you lock them up. After producing children they acquire outside help and go out to work themselves, and another woman leaves her own off-spring to tend to theirs. This is a disruptive and disorderly cycle.”

On the 8th of July, towards the later end of the day, I heard the news of Edhi sahab being shifted to a ventilator. In all honesty, my reaction was, “He will survive, such great men always survive all adversity.” In this naivety, I had completely forgotten that he too, was a mere mortal. And just after an hour or two of this announcement, the media broke the news of his soul departing this world.

Image Source: The American Muslim

But did he pass away without glory? He died as he lived: generously. As per his will, his eyes have been transplanted to give sight to two blind people. Such is the glory of this man whose generosity knows no bounds.

Unlike several prominent figures in our country, Edhi sir was an exception because he actually did what he believed in. In fact I believe it would be unfair to compare him to anybody at all. He didn’t want for someone to give him a wad of cash so he could turn his name into the empire that it became. Being a 20 something young adult, he was first seen on the corner of a road asking people for donations to help others. He bought a worn out van from the money he collected, the sole purpose of the van being to ensure any unattended, unidentified, unclaimed corpses in the city could be transported to a more humane end under the ground as opposed to rotting in an open field under the sun.

“The Holy Book should open in your souls, not in your laps. Open your heart and see God’s people. In their plight, you will find Him.”

He believed that his job was to provide a roof above the heads of the destitute, the desolate, the ignored, the rejected by society, unwanted and the broke. He was a man of principle and moralistic values driven by ethics. He lived his life with this belief that the only way he could ensure his life would be of purpose would be by dedicating it to ensuring someone else’s life was slightly better because of him.

Image Source: Tribune

Edhi sir lived by four simple principles: simple living, punctuality, hard work and above all, prudence. He showed the world that truly there was nothing in this world a simple act of humanity could not better if not fix. He didn’t wait around for someone to come and pat him on the back, he never hung by the hope that someone from across the world would recognize his ability and intention and make him a global star. He only saw the shadow in the eyes of the mother rejected by the world, or the callouses under the bare feet of children who had been pacing the streets day in and out with not even a morsel of bread to live by. He didn’t sit in a high tower and watch the people rehabilitate themselves. He sat with them, dined with them and grabbed them by their hands guiding them towards a better life.

“So, many years later there were many who still complained and questioned, ‘Why must you pick up Christians and Hindus in your ambulance?’ And I was saying, ‘Because the ambulance is more Muslim than you’.”

A man funded by nothing more than the desire to serve humanity, I don’t think the world fully understands the loss that has been inflicted upon them. I am truly at a loss of articulate thinking, everything I read or say fails to deliver what Edhi sir actually meant to Pakistan and to the world. The richest poor man to have ever stepped on earth, Edhi sir proved that he was the very soul and core of Pakistan.


Image Source: Daily Pakistan

“One time there was a student at Punjab University in Lahore who came down with cancer and his friend came to me for help. I stood outside on the street in Lahore and asked the people in that city for help. Within four or five hours, I received more than 40 million rupees [more than US $670,000].”

The only way we can truly ensure that his legacy lives on forever is by supporting his cause in kind and spirit. We have forgotten the essence of generosity. We think once we have donated enough money, we have acquired the status of being generous and that’s that. Generosity includes sympathy, empathy, kindness, a helping hand, a guiding hand. It is more in spirit than anything else.


Image Source: Pakistan Today

This one quote from Edhi’s biography is a well-rounded summary of Edhi’s ideology.

“An opportunity to motivate the people will be lost if the money arrives in bulk from one source. Lack of this spirit is the major dilemma confronting social uplift.”

Here is a petition going on to name the new Islamabad International Airport after Edhi sahab’s name which of course would be a befitting tribute to the legend himself. If you support the cause, please sign it by clicking here.

And we end this with the most beautiful of notes as quoted by Edhi sir himself.

“Never take anyone’s death to heart Bilquis. Remember God by the equality with which He implements it. Nobody is different, the richest to the poorest, from here to the end of the globe face it equally. What an example of equality.”



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