//This biography is extracted from Edhi’s book Khuli Kitab//
Edhi was born in 1928 in a small village of Bantva near Junagarh, Gujrat (India). After the partition of India and Pakistan, Edhi and his family moved to Karachi on 6th Sept 1947.
From the early age of his life, Edhi’s mother taught him to help the poor. She would give him two pennies out of whichs he asked him to spend one penny to help someone. She also used to feed the poor and give all she had to Edhi to give it to the ones who needed it.
At the age of 13, Edhi left his studies and started his philanthropic journey. He was always moved by the sufferings of the people and would do his best to help everyone.
Edhi’s father was a simple man. He always preached to his children to live a simple life and don’t get lost in the glamor of the world.
A Small Dispensary to Edhi Foundation
In 1951, Edhi set up a small dispensary in Mithadar Karachi from his savings. He also placed a small can of tin to let people put in their donations. His dispensary was open 24/7. He also used to eat and sleep there so that he missed no one who came here for help.
After two years of travelling to West, he came back to Karachi with ideas to grow his small dispensary. First he set up a maternity home to save women from dying. Later, he started training women to become a nurse. Along with training, he also used to give stipends to women to let them support themselves.
When Edhi’s mother got ill and was unable to go from one place to another, Edhi left everything to serve his mother. He fed her, washed her, and prayed all the time for her recovery. And after a few months of severe illness, she left the world.
After the loss of his mother, Edhi became more dedicated to his cause. The mission to serve humanity became the only thing he wanted in his life.
From the initial days of his dispensary, he decided to serve people regardless of their cast, religion, and gender. He found no work of less value. From cleaning the nalas and gutters to helping the poor, he used to do everything himself and expected no one to help him. People would say him a crazy person but nothing affected him and he remained firm on his cause.
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First Edhi Ambulance
In 1957, the majority of people got affected by the “Hong Kong Flu.” To Serve in this hard time, he placed 13 camps to treat people. From injections to medicines he did his best and made sure no one remains deprived of his welfare services. This was the first huge welfare work after the launch of his dispensary. It gave him more strength and also recognition in his entire community.
People started coming forward to give more donations to him and he gathered Rs, 20,000 in funding.
He used this money to buy an old van so he could reach out to the people immediately. That was the first Edhi Ambulance. People would call him atheist, communist, and judge him for helping non-muslims, women, prostitutes, animals, widows, and victims but he paid no heed to them and kept working on his mission silently.
In 1962, he participated in the election campaign and won from his residential place Mithadar community. But later discovered that, he’s not made for this political activities and resumed his social work.
Marriage to Bilquis Edhi
Bilquis came into his life when he was 32. She joined “Edhi dispensary” for work and became an active social worker with time. Edhi was also looking for a partner who can accept the way he is and can also share his work. On 19th April, 1966 he got married to Bilquis Bano.
It wasn’t an ideal marriage for both. Bilquis adopted Edhi’s lifestyle and also started working more passionately with the cause instead of celebrating the “honeymoon period.” She became a prominent worker and started travelling with Edhi to serve the poor, heal the sufferings of the wounded ones, and also to lead the women department of the foundation.
Bilquis was a charismatic person. She wanted to travel with Edhi to have some good time together but she found it contrary to Edhi’s nature and dedicated herself to his cause. She became a role model for other women of the foundation because of her dedication and kind personality.
In 1972, an earthquake hit Basham. Both Edhi and Bilquis along with their team and necessary staff headed to Basham to save the people and their losses.
After he returned to Karachi, he heard news of the passing of his father which made Edhi more sad and alone.
But still he continued his charity work. Whether it was flood, earthquake, sudden unforeseen crisis or viral disease, he and his team never stopped working.
He also got the opportunity to perform Hajj in the era of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto where he went as an ambulance driver and his wife as nurse. There he prayed to Allah to let him dedicate his life for the service of humanity.
In 1978, due to the war in Afghanistan, many people migrated to Karachi for a living. The Edhi foundation took care of the people by making emergency help centres at different locations.
Things kept going and one day an incident disturbed Edhi a lot. Some people in his community stoned a child because of the fatwa issued by the scholars community. To help more children like that, he placed a cradle (“Edhi Jhoola”) in front of his foundation and asked people to send these children to his foundation instead of stoning or killing them.
This act fueled his haters and they started calling him “Kaafir”. Edhi kept his cool and defend himself by saying Islam doesn’t allow anyone to become the food of animals or be left unhandled. He’s doing what he seems best to serve mankind.
Not only this, he also offered a great help to animals by dedicating a space and some doctors at his foundation to treat donkeys, birds, pigeons, cats, and dogs.
Started from an old mobile van, Edhi foundation expanded into 500 ambulances all over Pakistan with only one mission to serve humanity.
In 1988, an overseas Pakistani who was inspired by the foundation, presented an aircraft to the Edhi foundation in charity.
Edhi also set up his offices outside Pakistan. Edhi Foundation is one of the biggest charity organizations in Pakistan that’s recognized worldwide. It has also carried out relief operations in Africa, Middle East, the Caucasus region, Eastern Europe and the United States.
In his book, “Khuli Kitab”, Edhi has shared his complete journey from his early life , children, sufferings, and how he setup Edhi foundation step by step. It’s an Urdu translation of “Edhi: A Mirror to the Blind.”
Lessons from Abdul Sattar Edhi
It took him 30 years from a small dispensary to the world’s biggest network. He faced many challenges even death threats, abuse, bashing from the people but he never gave up.
He spent his whole life in two pairs of simple clothes and shoes. Despite being the owner of the world’s biggest foundation, he never claimed it as his property. He always said it’s for the poor people and he doesn’t own a single penny out of it.
Neither did he take a salary from his foundation. He also taught his wife and children to adopt simplicity and help people as much as they can.
Edhi as a Leader
More than 7000 people work for the Edhi Foundation. But none of them work against their will. Like Edhi and Bilquis, all his team members are dedicated to the cause and work day and night to overcome people’s sufferings. The response time of Edhi ambulance is 3 to 5 minutes. From child care to arranging the coffins, giving food and shelter to the needy, the foundation works in every area to help people as well as animals.
Unknown Facts About Abdul Sattar Edhi
- He never took donations from the government or any international organization.
- He was a true patriot. For his work, he travelled worldwide but he found Pakistan the most beautiful place, especially Karachi.
- Edhi never took revenge from people who mistreated him, in fact he worked hard and let his work speaks for himself.
- He was offered to join politics but he refused because according to him it would distract him from his mission.
- Edhi worked tirelessly to end poverty in Pakistan.
- He deeply suffered when he lost his 4 year grandson Bilal in a train accident.
- He received more than 250 awards local and international from his services but he never bragged about it anywhere.
- Before proposing Bilquis, he has proposed to other girls but they all refused because of his beard, simplicity and the nature of his work.
- He strongly supported women and also helped them to be independent.
Due to his philanthropic services, he was called as “Molana Abu” by the children of his foundation. He’s also given the title “Angel of Mercy” and “Father Teresa” for his humanitarian services.
He wasn’t educated but knows how to have patience, gratitude, simplicity, ignorance, and leadership skills.
He died on 8th July 2016 at the age of 88 but his mission continues. The seeds he sowed from the early stage of his life is still helping many homeless, poverty-stricken people in the world.
He’s survived by his wife Bilquis Edhi, and children Faisal, Qutub, Kubra, and Almas.
Also, he’s the third Pakistani after Quaid-e-Azam and Gen. Zia Ul Haq to receive military honor at burial ceremony. Millions of people attended his funeral and still he’s alive in the hearts of many.
Abdul Sattar Edhi is a great example of how being human can make any place best for living. You don’t need a lot of money and an elite lifestyle to live a great life. You only need to be kind, generous and emphatic towards everyone.
His book is available on Daraz.pk and Amazon.com.
I prefer books and diaries more than phones and Facebook. Soulfully connected to Pakistan. And I passionately believe that I can change the world through blogging.