Pakistan’s most well-known philanthropist and activist, Abdul Sattar Edhi, who dedicated his entire life to serving the poor of Pakistan, passed away Friday evening at the age of 88.
Edhi Sahab, as he is commonly called out of respect in Pakistan, was diagnosed with kidney failure in 2013. Edhi Sahab refused to be taken abroad for treatment, and instead opted for treatment at a local government hospital. He was being treated at the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) in Pakistan’s coastal city of Karachi.
His health deteriorated a lot in the past few weeks. Earlier on Friday, Edhi Sahab’s son and wife teared up during a press conference as they informed the media that doctors had declared his condition to be critical, and put him on a ventilator.
He passed away later that day, leaving all of Pakistan in mourning.
Abdul Sattar Edhi was born in 1928. He was 19 when his mother passed away after battling a sickness for 8 years. This tragic loss moved Edhi Sahab to dedicate his life to helping the most vulnerable and needy people in society – those who couldn’t completely help themselves.
He single-handedly established the Edhi Foundation, which eventually grew into the largest charity network in Pakistan, and perhaps one of the largest in the world that provides a number of free social services. The foundation’s hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, kitchens, shelters for the elderly, rehabilitation centres, and cradles for unwanted children to be left in rather than killed or thrown away can be found in almost every Pakistani city.
Perhaps the Edhi Foundation’s most important and prominent contribution is its enormous network of ambulances that are usually first to arrive at any tragic scene, whether that be an emergency at someone’s home, the scene of a road accident, a terror attack or the scene of some criminal violence.
Pakistan’s “Rehmat ka Farishta” (Angel of Mercy), as many call him, has left a phenomenal legacy for himself that everyone must learn from if we wish to honour his life.
Here are some lessons you can take away from his life:
Have sincere intentions.
Edhi Sahab was not after fame or recognition. He had the purest of intentions to make a difference, and all of that worldly glamour automatically followed him. People trusted him because they knew that his work was sincere. He once said, “Empty words and long praises do not impress God. Show Him your faith by your deeds.”
Be like that and you’ll see how phenomenal the results of your purified struggle are.
Stay humble and stay focused.
Do not get carried away after the recognition does reach you. Yes, you deserve the recognition but is there room for more to be done, is there room for you to humble yourself further in front of God? Of course. Edhi Sahab had all the reasons to walk with pride, but he was the most gentle and unpretentious person in his entire foundation. He was the one who personally picked up body parts of victims of suicide attacks when everyone else refused to do so. He was the one who held stranded babies in his hands, and took care of them when no one else, including their own parents, did. He knew that he was perhaps the most revered figure in Pakistan, yet he kept his head down and his goal in sight, and he continued on with his remarkable work.
There is blessing in simplicity.
Did you know that Abdul Sattar Edhi owned two pieces of clothing? Two shalwar kameez – a traditional Pakistani outfit. He lived in a small house his entire life with his wife and children. Even while on his deathbed, he chose the simplest of options: A single bed in a public ward in a government-run hospital, despite being offered by high-profile politicians to be taken to another country for his treatment. His detachment from materialistic luxuries enabled him to devote his entire existence to helping others. “I was never in love with money,” he said, “and that is why I never got hurt or was dependent on anyone. When you stop living for luxuries, you understand the real meaning of life.”
Respect and support the women in your life.
Edhi Sahab’s wife, Bilquis Edhi, used to work as a nurse at one of the Edhi centres before Edhi sahab proposed to her. For the next fifty-plus years, she stood right beside him as they revolutionized the face of the Pakistani welfare system. Edhi Sahab always made it a point to emphasize Bilquis Edhi’s importance in his own life, and the lives of all the people they were looking after. He renamed the Edhi Trust to the “Bilquis Edhi Trust” in honour of his wife.
One person can change the world.
As cliché as it sounds, it’s true. Edhi Sahab’s life is a prime example of this. Believe in yourself. You CAN make a difference and you WILL. It may just be in the life of one person, but if you changed their world, you changed the world. Edhi Sahab once said, “Everyone won’t always agree with you or even like you, but you have to believe in WHAT you do and know WHY you do it. Being a little misunderstood and responding with humility is good for the soul.”
Give all you can.
Give all you can to others during your life. Give to them even when you die. Establish a legacy for yourself. Teach someone something that they can pass on. Spread knowledge. Spread kindness. Create something that will benefit people for centuries to come. Donate your organs. Despite battling with extreme health issues, Edhi Sahab decided to donate his eyes before his passing. They were removed through a surgery after he passed away last week. Emulate his example and do something selflessly, purely for others, purely for God.
Abdul Sattar Edhi will live on in the hearts and minds of millions of people. His name will be written in the books of history. The people whom he saved, whom he helped, will pass on his name to their children, and to their grandchildren.
He undoubtedly lived an exemplary life. You and I can honour his legacy by doing what he did so that one day we, too, can say, “I am satisfied with my life.”
May the most beautiful of angels carry you to the highest heavens, Edhi Sahab.