Abdul Sattar Edhi, NI (??? ?????? ?????), or Edhi, as he is often known, is one of the most active philanthropists in Pakistan. He is head of the Edhi Foundation based in Pakistan with branches all over the world. His wife Begum Bilquis Edhi, heads the Bilquis Edhi Foundation. They both received 1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service. He is also the recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize as well as the Balzan Prize. Maulana Edhi, as he is often referred to, is of the Memon community. According to the Guinness World Records, Edhi Foundation has the largest private ambulance service network in the world.
Dr. Edhi was born in 1928 in Bantva in the Gujarat, British India. His father was a textile trader and earned a modest income for his family. He was a natural born leader and would encourage his friends to hold tiny circuses and perform gymnastics for the locals. When his mother would send him to school she would give him two paisa, one to spend for himself and the other to spend for another. At the age of eleven he started to take care of his mother who suffered paralysis from severe diabetes. From an early age Edhi learned to help others before himself - this would be crucial to success in his life later on.
His family migrated to Karachi after independence in 1947. In 1951 he used the money he saved up while he was looking after his mother to purchase a small shop. It was at this shop where he opened a tiny dispensary with the help of a doctor who taught him basic medical care. He also encouraged his friends to give literacy classes there. Edhi had spent his life a simple man, and would continue to do so, he would sleep on a concrete bench outside the dispensary so he was available at any time to help people.
In 1957 a major flu epidemic swept Karachi. Edhi was quick to react, setting up tents on the outskirts of the city to distribute free immunizations. Grateful residents donated generously to Edhi and so did the rest of Pakistan after hearing of his deeds. With all the donation money he bought the rest of the building his dispensary was located in. Edhi opened a free maternity centre and nursing school, and so Edhi Foundation was born.
n the years that followed, Edhi Foundation grew through all of Pakistan. After the flu epidemic, a businessman donated a large sum to Edhi and with the money he purchased an ambulance vehicle which he drove himself. Today the Foundation has over 600 about 2000 in year 2008 according to BBC Asia ambulances located all over the country. He himself continues to travel with call outs out of Karachi to the rest of the Sindh province, the response time and services the ambulances provide are renowned for being better than the municipal ones. Along with hospitals and ambulance services, Edhi Foundation has set up clinics, maternity homes, mental asylums, homes for the physically handicapped, blood banks, orphanages, adoption centers, mortuaries, shelters for runaway children and battered women, schools, nursing courses and soup kitchens. A unique part of every Edhi centre is that there is a carriage outside each one, so that women who cannot afford to keep their children or have had a child out of wedlock and cannot keep it, can simply place their baby in the basket and Edhi Foundation will place it into an orphanage and give them a free education.
Today not just in Pakistan, but in the Muslim world, Abdul Sattar Edhi has earned a reputation as being one of the most selfless and honorable human beings today. Despite his fame and reputation he continues to lead a simple life, he wears traditional Pakistani Shalwar Kameez, of which he only owns one or two, and he owns one pair of slippers, which he has supposedly worn for the last twenty years. This is despite the fact the Edhi Foundation has a $10 million budget, out of which he takes nothing for himself. His son Faisal once stated that when the Foundation was setting up in Afghanistan, local staff had purchased chairs for guests and the press when a new center was being opened, when Edhi arrived he was furious because the money that was spent on the chairs could have been used to help people. That night he slept on the clinic floor with the ambulance drivers.
The Edhi Foundation continues to grow. Dr Edhi, looking to the future, has stated that he aims to build a hospital every 5 km in Pakistan. Although he is given the title Maulana out of respect, he himself dislikes the title as he has never been to a religious school and he is not an Islamic cleric. He prefers being called 'Doctor' as he has received an honorary doctorate from The Institute of Business Administration in Pakistan for services to humanity. He also completed his MBBS Degree from Pakistan in 1981. He is also famous for being very shy about his popularity and when people personally praise him for his work. He also refuses to accept donations from governments or formal religious organisations, because according to him they set 'conditions'. Both General Zia-ul-Haq and the Italian government sent him generous donations, which he sent back.
In 1996 his autobiography, A Mirror to the Blind, was published.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, as of 1997, Edhi Foundation's ambulance service is the largest volunteer ambulance service in the world. He also personally holds the world record for having gone the longest time working without having taken a holiday. As of when the record was set, he has still not taken a single day off work.
On January 8, 2008, US immigration officials interrogated Abdul Sattar Edhi at the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York for over eight hours, and seized his passport and other documents.
Edhi told that US immigration officials had questioned him for eight hours at the airport. “During the interrogation, they wanted to know why I travelled to the US so frequently” he said. “I told them about the nature of my work, but they did not understand. They also wanted to know why I was not living in the US in spite of having a green card.” "The only explanation I can think of is my beard and my dress," he said when asked why he had been stopped so often.
On Thursday, January 29, 2009 The News newspaper reported Edhi is not allowed to visit Gaza. The newspaper further reported that Abdul Sattar Edhi, who is in Cairo along with Faisal Edhi and his two daughters for the last two weeks to help the affected Palestinians of Gaza, regretted that every coming day was making the sphere of human rights more restrictive across the world. A spokesman for the Edhi Foundation said on Wednesday that Edhi after staying in Cairo and not getting permission to visit Gaza, has reached the conclusion that human rights have been killed and buried deep. He said that he has helped in the provision of relief to people affected by wars, civil wars, earthquakes and drought in 28 countries and was never stopped to do his job. The spokesman said that Edhi has been trying to get permission from Cairo authorities to visit Gaza but in vain. He thanked the Pakistani ambassador to Egypt and the staff of the embassy for their cooperation and said now he was returning home as a depressed person.
may he live long. Ameen