By Naureen Aqueel
In this age of materialism and heightened individualism, selfless efforts are rare gems. One family that has become a paragon of such values is the Edhis. Altruism, commitment, compassion, determination and hard work are behind the successful mission to bring relief to millions across Pakistan and abroad. Be it war, aftermaths of a natural calamity, or abandoned babies, the Edhi family is a ray of hope for many groping in the darkness of disaster, injustice and disease. “Hiba” magazine spoke to Bilquis Edhi, wife of Abdul Sattar Edhi, to get an insight into the great heights they have reached.
“A humanitarian perspective,” is how Bilquis Edhi defines the prime motive behind the Edhi Foundation. “It is aimed at the collective good of all,” she says.
In his autobiography “A Mirror to the Blind” as narrated to Tehmina Durrani, Abdul Sattar Edhi says: “The five basic tenets of Islam continue into the sixth for me: Huquq-ul-Ibaad or humanitarianism. That it is not proclaimed as obligatory has deeper meaning; as right and wrong are left to human initiatives, its importance would be lost if forced.”
At another place in the same book he says: “Huqquq Allah is meaningless without Huqquq-ul-Ibaad. The latter is not possible without compassion and self-help. Islam is not implementable without submission to these two qualities, without them, there can be no practice. Islam without practice is a negation of God. The Holy Book is truly valued only when its prescription is followed.”
As one of the most active philanthropists in the world, Abdul Sattar Edhi is devoted and committed, and is known to work through holidays. How do he and his family manage this? “This is not our work, it is Allah’s (swt) work. And Allah (swt) gets His work done by whomever He Wills,” explains Bilquis Edhi. “Edhi Sahib has undergone only two grades of academic schooling and I have undergone only eight. There are no qualifications for (humanitarian) work. We only need to have a humanitarian perspective and do beneficial work.”
The Edhi couple and their family do not do all the work alone. They have a trained team of employees and volunteers. “We hire the staff and train them. There are also volunteers who get less salary-wise but do quality work. And, Masha’Allah, Allah (swt) has helped us greatly. No matter how much we accept His favour and thank Him, it is insufficient. We, humans, have no power to do work on our own without His help.”
“So, does the staff always work with as much sincerity, enthusiasm and selflessness as you two?” I inquired. “No. The employees sometimes cause trouble. No one is perfect. I keep telling Edhi Sahib: ‘You wish everyone was Sattar Edhi Sahib, but that is difficult – everyone has their own priorities be it home, family or children.’”
Another secret of their success is that they start their work early morning after the morning prayers and breakfast thereafter. Although most of their time is spent serving humanity, you will never hear them complaining or see them in low spirits. So how do they keep themselves motivated? “We are content and satisfied with ourselves,” shares Bilquis Edhi, “we keep doing our work and do not brood on criticisms.”
Despite their international fame, Abdul Sattar Edhi, Bilquis Edhi and their family continue to live a simple life. Indeed, Abdul Sattar Edhi is known to own two traditional Shalwar Kameez. “We have never really thought of who we are or what status we have. We just consider ourselves ordinary human beings and we work like common folk. Allah (swt) has saved us from arrogance and ostentation (Riya Kari),” says Bilquis Edhi.
The journey to establish such an unparalleled network of welfare work was not completely smooth. “We have never encountered any obstacles that have stopped us. Allah (swt) has always taken us ahead. He has never let us fall back. People have opposed us a lot and have resorted to narrow-mindedness and accusations. But Edhi Sahib says that their purpose is to distract us from our work. If we fight back, we will waste time. So he says: ‘Our work should be our response. Such people will be defeated and humiliated, when they see our work.’ Obstacles are a part of life,” says Bilquis Edhi.
In his autobiography, Abdul Sattar Edhi says: “When the anxiety at the vastness of the areas I must cover overwhelmed me, I took courage from Prophet’s Muhammad’s (saw) example. He was confronted with enormous opposition and more hypocrites than friends.”
Commenting on the numerous awards they have received, Bilquis Edhi says: “It is the work that speaks.”
In the end, Bilquis Edhi prayed for the success of “Hiba” magazine and wished to give a message to women: “Women should live life on the principles of simplicity, honesty, hard work and punctuality and should adhere to their limits (Apni Chaddar Mein Rehna Chahye). A good woman and mother is the minister of the home. Islam has not stopped women from work, but they should not cross Islam’s boundaries in any work they do.”
May Allah (swt) reward the Edhi family for their work and bestow His Mercy upon them, and may He grant us the same spirit of charity. Ameen.
Edhi Welfare Foundation, the largest welfare organization of Pakistan and one of the largest and most successful health and welfare networks in Asia, started as a tiny dispensary in 1951. Today, Edhi Foundation has over 300 centers across the country in cities, towns and rural areas. Services provided by Edhi Foundation include: baby cradles, destitute homes, welfare centers, highways projects, warehouses, field ambulance services, air ambulance services, marine and coastal service, blood and drug banks, cancer research hostel, missing persons service, home for sheltering animals, graveyard services, Edhi emergency posts, prisoners aid, refugee assistance and international community centers.
Bilquis Edhi has personally given 18900 children up for adoption.
Edhi Foundation is in the Guinness World Records for having the largest private ambulance service network in the world.
The couple have received around 250-275 awards and Abdul Sattar Edhi has also received an honorary doctorate from IBA.