The saint we have lost – A humble tribute to Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi

“My religion is humanitarianism, which is the basis of every religion in the world.” Edhi.

Soon it will be the chelum of Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi – 40 days since he departed from this world for his heavenly abode. Is his memory already becoming distant in our tradegy-hardened minds?

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to meet Edhi Sahab at a simple ceremony to

hand over 4 ambulances to the Edhi Trust, donated by a corporate client of ours. It was winter and although it was fairly mild as Karachi winters are, he was wearing a heavy, worn-out trench coat over his usual simple clothes. ‘I feel very cold in winter,’ he had said. And when someone remarked that it was a smart coat, Edhi Sahab had replied matter-of-factly, but with a smile, ‘I bought it in the lunda bazaar of London when I was once on a visit there many years ago; got it quite cheap.’

During the wide-ranging conversation, mainly around his work and the great support which everyday people give him all the time, he narrated an anecdote of how one time he visited a big businessman who had committed a huge donation. The businessman apparently had had a change of heart and regretted that he could not make the donation he had promised and offered Rupees ten lacs (one million), instead of the several times larger promised donation.

I cannot now recall what that amount was. Anyway, apparently Edhi Sahab’s response to him was as direct as it was simple. He thanked the businessman for his offer and told him that if he, Abdul Sattar Edhi, was to stand at any set of traffic lights in Karachi and ask for donations, he will raise ten lacs in half an hour! This was not a boast; Edhi was well beyond anything of the sort. It was just a simple truth and a testament of the unquestioning love and faith the public at large had in him.

Most of us know a little or a lot about Edhi Sahab’s life and his work over several decades in the selfless service of humanity. If you are among those who know little, then you need to make the effort to know a lot more. For surely you will be inspired like never before. This was a man of humble background, with little

education and no high-powered connections, who went on to establish not only the world’s largest private ambulance service, but arguably also the world’s largest holistic humanitarian services network, comprising ambulances, funeral services, graveyard, orphanages, hospital, schools, animal hospital, homes for the destitute, child adoption service, marriage bureau and still more.

This was a man who countless times personally gave ghusal to and buried the homeless, the unclaimed dead, the poor and the destitute rejected by society. This was a man who did not care for caste or creed, or ethnicity or religion when answering the call of the needy.

This was a man who never took a single rupee in donation from any government, lest he be pressurized to do its bidding. This was the saint, alas no more among us, whose entire and exclusive reason for living was to be the beacon of hope for those who had lost all hope, and had absolutely no one else in the world to hear their cry, feel their pain, share their suffering.

Edhi Sahib’s message and his mission must live on. He got a State funeral. The high and mighty of the land, officialdom in civvies and in uniform, attended it, and delivered their rhetorical condolences, even as the ratings-obsessed TV channels tried to outdo all others in broadcasting the proceedings. Perhaps the State funeral was absolutely the right way to bid farewell to this great individual. But another view is that this remarkable human being really did not need in death what he shunned in life throughout his life – pomp and ceremony. If we really wish to pay tribute to him, then we must make the effort to carry on his mission through our own lives.

As a first step, please do

go out and buy and read the book whose cover photo accompanies this writing. Read it objectively and take inspiration where it naturally reaches out to you.

After that …..? Well, no one was there to tell Edhi Sahib what good to do, but he still did good which really cannot be measured. In our case the start to doing good has been made easier; for we have Edhi Sahib’s example and his message to guide us. All that is needed is a conscience and the will.

“Open your heart and see God’s people. In their plight you will find Him.” Edhi.

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