Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi, (1928-2016) the founder of the largest philanthropic network in Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation, died today, on July 8th, 2016, in Karachi, Pakistan after prolonged illness.
Maulana Edhi seems to have used every episode of adversity in his life as a building block for stronger character in himself. Since the age of eleven, he had to care for his paralyzed mother. It imbued him with an impassioned dedication to caring for the handicapped in society. Upon partition of the subcontinent in 1947, Maulana Edhi had to leave his hometown in India and moved to Pakistan, the newly created homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent. He arrived in the megacity of Karachi where he had to fend for himself as a poor emigrant without a home or means of livelihood. The same experience in adversity imbued him with a passion to provide for the destitute and the deprived.
All the passions of Maulana’s mind crystallized into dedicated and (therefore) most successful philanthropic practices that survive him in the shape of hundreds of orphanages, elderly care centers, homes for the mentally ill, free health care clinics, disaster management networks, worldwide ambulance services and much more. His funeral, to be held in a few hours in Karachi, is sure to be a historic gathering of the people of Pakistan, voluntarily assembled to pay homage to one of the greatest figures of South Asia – indeed the world. In lives such as that of the Great Maulana, death becomes the greatest honor.
The Edhi Foundation had provided for the burial of hundreds of thousands of human beings during Maulan’s life time. The dead included victims of terrorism, victims of state atrocities, civil strife, victims of homelessness and destitution and victims of natural disasters alike. A perennial learner, Maulana seems to have learned a lesson while bearing the expense of shrouding the dead bodies and simultaneously bearing the expense of upkeep of the orphaned and abandoned children he adopted as his; that the living are more worthy of new clothes than the dead.
In his will that he be buried in the same clothes he wore at the time of death, Edhi the Sufi Saint has, after his fashion, silently and humbly tried to teach us the same lesson. I call upon all Pakistanis to consider his message and to adopt the practice. It will considerably ease the material burden of death on the surviving families who can hardly afford the material burden of life in the first place.
Buying healthy organs for sick bodies is the practice of the wealthy in society. If the rich follow in Edhi’s footsteps and bequeath their healthy organs to the needy who can not afford to buy the same, imagine the corrective balance in health care system in our society such a practice will introduce. In order to promote the practice, the prominent and the powerful in Pakistan must lead the way. Coverage of the same practice during each prominent death in society will reinforce the message till it is adopted as a tradition cherished by all.