Humanitarian to a nation

Originally published in Saudi Aramco World

Humanitarian to a Nation, Written by Richard Covington, Photographed by Shahidul Alam / DRIK

Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi at the Edhi Centre in Clifton, Karachi.
Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi at the Edhi Centre in Clifton, Karachi.

In the cool interior of a mental ward in Karachi, a short, powerfully built man with a flowing snow-white beard and penetrating dark-brown eyes is standing at the bedside of a distraught young woman. She has covered her head with a sheet and is pleading for news of the two children her husband took from her.

“I know you are suffering terribly, but this is no way to bring back your children,” says the man with stern compassion. “You have a college degree. You can do many things to help the other patients.”

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No religion is higher than humanity

Abdul Sattar Edhi


The most remarkable man I’ve ever met. If ever a man deserved a Nobel Prize… but then he’s a bearded muslim from Pakistan, so Kissinger and Obama and Peres will be given the Nobel Prize, but Edhi will not. Neither of course did Gandhi!
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Humanitarian to a nation

The ambulance is more Muslim than you

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The ambulance is more Muslim than you

Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Abdul Sattar Edhi and his wife Bilquis having breakfast in their home in Karachi. Their bedroom that doubles as their dining room. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

‘The ambulance is more Muslim than you’.?That was the answer Abdul Sattar Edhi gave to a question when once asked ‘why must you pick up Christians and Hindus in your ambulance?’ By any stretch of imagination, Abdul Sattar Edhi is an enigma to most people. None of us truly understand him. I often think that Edhi walks a fine line between passion and lunacy. I am not able to comprehend why this man insists on doing what he does, in the capacity that he does it, for as long as he has done it for. The heart wants to register it, but the mind questions the motive.

Motive. What the hell is his motive? Please, someone tell me what this man?s motive is.
Through no easy deduction, I submit that I have discovered the answer to my question. It has taken every critical bone in my body to genuinely understand the answer, but folks, I can safely say that I have finally reached a verdict: there is no motive. There is. No. Motive. Edhi has destroyed my carefully built assessment of Man over the years. He has ruined my calculated analysis of the weaknesses of people. That he has negated all my years of hard earned views on Man single handedly almost leaves me infuriated with him. He has forced me to start over from scratch. For that, I cannot forgive him.
Abandoned family outside Edhi Tower in Karachi.

? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

This is a man that I cannot imagine my own life without. Mind you, I have never met him. I don’t want to. There isn’t a single day in my life that has collectively added up in honor to justify me being able to sit opposite Edhi. I have at best, been able to find the courage to go and drop off some extremely basic things at one of his many, many, charity centers the world over. While there, I stay for just long enough to try to fathom what all this man has done for my country. Being an impossible task, I soon give up trying to reach to the bottom of that barrel and leave very quietly. I imagine it is pretty much what anyone what do.
For those unaware of who this man is, let me put it in a very simple way: Hollywood has Batman, Superman, The Hulk, and Spiderman. Pakistan has Edhi.
A mother grieves for her son in an Edhi ambulance.

? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

What has inspired me to write about Edhi? He certainly doesn’t need any more press validating his incredible efforts or work done. He already has, safely locked away, the hearts of some 170 million people. But yesterday, I was brought to my knees by an action I witnessed that for lack of any other descriptive word, I can only describe as ‘Edhi’.

Continue reading “The ambulance is more Muslim than you”