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The Legacy Of Philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi Who Served Humanity For 65 Years

Humanity is described as loving humans, caring for and helping others. The bonding we form and the happiness of helping others has always been priceless.  No person can practice religion or become spiritual until and unless he or she becomes a good human being. A good human can feel the pain of others, become a reason for others' happiness, and like and dislike things for others in the same way as he/she does for themselves.

Allah in Quran says

Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all humankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all humankind. 

(Quran 5;32)

Human history is full of such humanitarian heroes who devote their lives to the welfare of other humans, irrespective of race and faith. Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Elizabeth Fry, and Oskar Schindler are some of the prominent figures that spread humanity, not religion. Abdul Sattar Edhi is also one of them.


Abdul Sattar Edhi—The Angel Of Mercy

Abdul Sattar Edhi, known as the ‘Angel of Mercy,’ was a Pakistani philanthropist who established a network of humanitarian centers that provided life-saving services nationwide. His foundation provided the finest facilities for the injured, homeless, orphans, widows, and almost every sector of the underprivileged division

Abdul Sattar Edhi was born in 1928 in a small village of Bantva near Joona Garh, Gujrat (India). After six days of partition, he moved to Pakistan with his father. Initially, he sold cloth at wholesale markets. He found this unsatisfactory and decided to start humanitarian work in 1947, shortly after the partition. Edhi married Bilquis Bano Edhi in 1966. Bilquis was a nurse who worked in an Edhi Trust dispensary. They had two daughters and two sons.


Edhi with his wife Bilquis

What Persuaded Him To Be A Philanthropist

Edhi’s lifelong passion for philanthropic causes stems from his mother, Ghurba bibi. She sent him to school with one rupee for his lunch and another for a passing beggar.

When she suffered a stroke in 1939, the young Abdul nursed her for eight years until her death. During this time, the 19-year-old never lost the care and compassion he learned at her bedside. 

The Edhi Foundation—-- Founded Solely On Donations 

Edhi began his philanthropic work with just $500. He begged for donations to start his own healthcare program. Edhi dreamed of helping the poor who could not pay for their own treatment that he encountered every day. He was particularly moved by the case of a mother who committed suicide with her six children because of poverty.

“I have never been a very religious person,” he told the Daily Times newspaper in 2009. “I am neither against religion nor for it.”My religion is serving humanity, and I believe that all the religions of the world have their basis in humanity.”

The Pakistani people's kindness and generosity helped Edhi raise enough capital to acquire a small office, which he quickly transformed into a medical dispensary in 1951. Later he bought his first ambulance and drove it himself to deliver aid and medicines.

Amid his ambitious plans and operations, Edhi began to recruit medical students to support the cause. The newly formed Edhi Foundation gained prominence in public service during the Asian Flu Pandemic of 1957.

From Nothing to the world’s largest volunteer network

The Edhi Foundation expanded throughout Pakistan, branching into orphanages, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, rehab clinics, women’s centers, outpatient wards, and rescue boats.

Bilquis Edhi ran a free maternity home at the foundation's headquarters in Karachi. She organized adoptions of abandoned babies, including those who would otherwise be at risk of death due to being born out of wedlock or by rape.

Edhi saved the lives of thousands of abandoned newborns by placing cradles outside Edhi centers and other parts of Karachi and Pakistan.

“We would collect the dead bodies [of newborns] from the trash, from the street, and from any place where we would find them, we would pick them even if they had worms,” Bilquis said. “Then Edhi said, ‘let’s place cradles [and said to people], don’t kill them, don’t commit sin, put them in the cradles, we will adopt them.” 

“We faced opposition, we were called infidels ... atheists,” Bilquis said, adding that people said Edhi would go to hell for raising children born without wedlock. 

“But he was not scared of anyone. Allah helped us because we protect innocent children and hand them over to someone who could not have children.”


Over the decade, the Edhi foundation helped save at least 50,000 babies and trained 40,000 nurses. The organization operates 28 rescue boats, two airplanes, and 1,800 "super-efficient" ambulances, a fleet named the world's largest volunteer emergency services unit by Guinness World Records in 1997.

In an interview, Edhi said he had never driven a vehicle other than an ambulance.

Edhi —- The Man Of Modest Means 

Abdul Sattar Edhi maintained a famously monkish lifestyle, never taking a salary, never owning more than two suits of clothes, and living quietly in an apartment within the foundation’s original headquarters.

“My religion is serving humanity, and I believe that all the religions of the world have their basis in humanity,” he said.

Abdul Sattar Edhi lived a simple life, never taking a salary, never owning more than two suits of clothes, and living in an apartment within the foundation's original headquarters. However, he never hesitated to speak out against corporate greed and political mendacity. He remained engaged in international affairs, providing support during the 1985 Ethiopian famine and raising $100,000 for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in 2005.

According to the Guardian, Edhi was born into Islam but did not let his faith hinder his humanitarian work. Once asked why he helped non-Muslims, he answered simply: “Because my ambulance is more Muslim than you.”

He is also well-known for the aphorism: “People have become educated... but have yet to become human.” 


Abdul Sattar Edhi died of kidney failure on 8 July 2016 at 88. One of his last wishes was that his organs be donated for the use of the needy, but due to his poor health, only his corneas were suitable for later use in the donation. He was laid to rest at Edhi Village in Karachi.

Speaking at his state funeral, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said: ”Edhi was the real manifestation of love for those who are socially vulnerable, impoverished, helpless, and poor. We have lost a great servant of humanity.“

He was called Pakistan's equivalent of Mother Teresa by India Today in 1990, and the BBC wrote that he was considered "Pakistan's most respected figure and was seen by some as a saint."

Nomination For Noble prize

Eidhi won several prizes for his services to humanity. In 2011, Pakistan's then-Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, recommended Edhi for the Nobel Peace Prize. In early 2016, a petition signed by thousands of people calling for a Nobel Peace Prize for Edhi was moved by Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of Malala Yousafzai. In her condolence message on Edhi's death, broadcast by BBC Urdu, Malala said, "as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, I hold the right to nominate people for the prize, and I have nominated Abdul Sattar Edhi.”

 He left behind his wife,  Bilquis, four children, and the 20,000 other children he is registered as the parent or legal guardian of.

The State Bank of Pakistan plans to issue a 50 rupee commemorative coin in his honor this year. However, controversy reigns over that Edhi has continually been overlooked for the Nobel Peace Prize, the subject of a prominent hashtag campaign on social media in 2014.

It is not quite possible to tally the contribution of Mr. Edhi.  The legacy of the beloved Pakistani social activist and philanthropist, who started with nothing, built the world’s largest volunteer ambulance network,  and served humanity for 65 years, will always be remembered. 

“No race. No religion. Just humanity” was one of Edhi’s mantras

Humans are born without any caste, religious, or ethnic stamp. We are humans first, and the rest of our identities come later. All humans deserve equal rights. There is no human right more fundamental than freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought. Religious faith is a personal matter. It is nobody's business to interfere with one's spiritual beliefs. Religion should not be a hurdle in treating one with love because:

“No religion is higher than humanity,” Abdul Sattar Edhi.




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