In the eyes of Tehmina Durrani, who took three years to write Abdul Sattar Edhi’s biography ‘A Mirror to the Blind’, the social worker is a weapon against militants.
“Edhi is the best example of humanitarian Islam,” she said at the launch of another book, ‘Half of Two Paisas: The Extraordinary Mission of Abdul Sattar Edhi and Bilquis Edhi’ on day one of the fourth Karachi Literature Festival Friday. “He is a weapon against extremists and the militants who are promoting the wrong kind of religion.”
The Italian author of Half of Two Paisas, Lorenza Raponi, flew in from home for the launch of the English translation.
Raponi said that Durrani’s earlier biography became the basis of her book, and she spent ten days in Karachi interviewing Edhi and his wife, along with workers and people benefiting from the facilities. “Edhi wasn’t feeling well at that time,” she said. “I was scared that I would not be able to meet him. But it was incredible how he admitted a stranger to his house. He is a most positive example of Islam, and a star for us as well as for the entire humanity.”
The graceful Durrani expressed sadness over how the humanitarian has not received enough recognition in the country. When the audience clapped, she snapped, “Why are we clapping? Our country is suffering a loss.”
In between the conversation, Durrani would pause, her thoughts wandering off here and there. “Sorry. This is the first public forum in the country that I am speaking at,” she said. “Bigger than the book, is just his (Edhi’s) presence in the hall.”
Durrani said that Edhi was not just a social reformer and a man who buries bodies or runs orphanages, but is an agent of change. “Talking about Edhi humbles me,” she said, as the crack of lightening stunned the room into silence that was broken by the pitter patter of rain. Indeed, some sessions were delayed by the unexpected downpour.
Durrani went on to say that while her book on Edhi was confined to what he had said and wrote, she appreciated that Raponi had taken a step further and included her own opinions.
As the conversation continued between the two women, Abdul Sattar Edhi looked from side to side. It took half an hour for an organizer to interrupt the session and suggest that Edhi himself should brought into conversation on the stage.
Following a stand ovation, Edhi settled down comfortably. “I am a human. I try to make others human too,” he said. “Every religion talks of humanity. Our religion teaches love, simplicity, yet we have forgotten everything and have become artificial.”
He said that without having anyone’s permission, he was working in the country as welfare work did not need consent. “I am fighting for the poor. I don’t drink tea or smoke. I just have two pairs of shalwar kameez, which I discard every five months. Bilquis has done so much for me. My children are with me. I have made this nation into a charitable one.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2013.