‘Because the ambulance is more Muslim than you’

Published: July 10, 2016
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Abdul Sattar Edhi. PHOTO: FILE

Abdul Sattar Edhi. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: “So many years later, there were many who still complained and questioned, ‘Why must you pick up Christians and Hindus in your ambulance?’, and I was saying, ‘Because the ambulance is more Muslim than you’.”

These are the words of Abdul Sattar Edhi – the man who showed humans what humanity actually means – that he lived by throughout his time. Four years after the creation of what was meant to be the first Islamic welfare country – when people affected by the largest and bloodiest mass migration in recorded history were struggling to rebuild their lives – this then 23-year-old migrant started off his philanthropy work with a handful of rupees in hand. He rented a small shop to set up a free dispensary in a narrow lane of Mithadar in Old City area of Karachi. No one knew that one day this Gujrati Bantwa Memon youth will lead the world’s largest private welfare organisation.

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The richest poor man

He was a man beyond any religion. The man was so rich that he fed, housed and helped millions of people, irrespective of their caste, colour, creed or religion, amid likes and dislikes by his admirers and critics in his own country. The same man was so poor that he was not able to buy his family new clothes and shoes on Eid.

His legacy lives on

Today, he is physically no more. He was laid down on Saturday in the grave that he himself chose for himself more than two decades back. A large number of statesmen, military chiefs and common men attended his funeral at the National Stadium. His coffin was given the protocol that he never wanted and, perhaps, hated all his life.

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The Edhi Foundation’s ambulance service started with an old Hillman van. Today, it stands with around 1,800 vehicles, becoming the largest of such a service in the whole world. According to the website, Edhi.org, the organisation, apart from its ambulance service, runs the following welfare projects among others:

Jhoolas (cradles)

Jhoolas have been set up across the country in places where the Edhi Foundation has its offices. The project is run by Edhi’s wife, Bilquis, and the idea behind this is to save newborn babies who are unknown, abandoned or unwanted.

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Child adoption centres

The Edhi Foundation runs countrywide adoption centres where the babies left abandoned in the jhoolas are handed over to childless couples after a process involving the scrutiny of the applicant family.

Shelter homes and orphanage centres

There are 18 such centres across the country, seven of which are based in Karachi, which provide shelter to orphans and the needy.

Animal shelters

In a country where proper healthcare on public exchequer for even taxpayers is a distant dream, Edhi has set another precedent by setting up animal shelters. In Karachi alone, two stations have been set up at Super Highway and in Korangi to aid injured animals.

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Edhi morgue  

Almost every family residing in this metropolis has used the Edhi morgue at Sohrab Goth to lay their dead for the time between the person’s death and funeral rites. It is the largest morgue in the country. Apart from this, such centres also exist in other parts of the country.

Graveyard  

The organisation also runs the largest network of coffin and burial services. According to its website, Edhi himself has given ghusl (bath) to more than 58,000 dead bodies. The burial services are performed as per the dead’s religion.

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A huge network

Apart from the mentioned, the organisation also runs other projects pertaining to education, paramedical and vocational trainings, and employment and marriage bureaus. The Edhi network is also spread across other countries, such as Afghanistan, Canada, United States, Nepal and the Middle East.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Raj
    Jul 10, 2016 - 11:27AM

    I wish Edhi centres start in India too…Recommend

  • Habibullah
    Jul 10, 2016 - 12:09PM

    How is the ambulance more Muslim than me?
    Does the ambulance have a beard? Can it say the ‘kalma’? Recommend

  • Srehman
    Jul 10, 2016 - 12:25PM

    Mr habibullah shame on your level of understanding,it’s thinking like yours which has wrecked the Pakistani society to its core ,the empty words of so called religious people ,who are worshipping their own ego not the ALLMIGHTY ,who spew out hatred in the name of religion ,shame what a shameRecommend

  • Striver
    Jul 10, 2016 - 5:37PM

    A.S.Edhi seems to have understood the essence of Islam more than any of us. We think God “belongs” to us. God says we all are His, whether we believe in Him or not.

    In this sense Islam can be said to be “liberal” in that it is asking Muslims to accept opinions or ideas different from one’s own: “You on to your religion; me on to mine”. Since when did Islam say do not treat non-Muslims; do not give charity to non-Muslims; do not treat non-Muslims as equal human beings?

    If God wanted to he could have made us all Muslims. But he didn’t. Why?

    Think. Recommend

  • Farhan
    Jul 10, 2016 - 7:38PM

    @Habibullah:
    I hope that was sarcasm.Recommend

  • Fahim
    Jul 10, 2016 - 10:22PM

    Sorry to say but if edhi was asking for zakat then he should know where to use it. Same is for Jamat e Islami who used to build bridges in mountain from zakat.

    These are good things above but donations should be used where it is intended to be used. Recommend

  • Sane Liesbuster
    Jul 16, 2016 - 11:31AM

    What a great man ! A true saint by any estimation. The world needs many more people like him to secure true peace.Recommend

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