HIGHLIGHTS

  • The Nursing Home is managed by Mrs. BILQUIS EDHI, whom ADBUL SATTAR met 20 years ago when she was working with him as a volunteer. BILQUIS oversees maternity care and adoption services for abandoned babies, a family planning clinic, an emergency center with 24-hour service by 80 ambulances, an outpatient department and a shelter for the homeless.
  • Since a decent burial is a concern of Islam, infant and adult corpses, found by the roadside or floating in the sea, are bathed and enshrouded, handled by the EDHIS personally.
  • Edhi Foundation has also taken the lead in rescue operations, saving victims of floods, train disasters, civil strife, and the occasional traffic accident. Refugees in Bosnia, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan have also received help from the foundation.
  • The Edhi Foundation accepts donations only from private individuals or associations from the Pakistani community (regardless of whether they reside inside or outside the country), and turns down those from government or international institutions like the World Bank or from any government simply because such donors “usually set conditions.”
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “their giving substance in an Islamic society to the ancient humane commandment that thou art thy brother’s keeper.”

 CITATION

Life is often cruel to the disadvantaged in Asia’s swollen sluminfested cities where they are cut off from the neighborliness they traditionally knew in the rural villages. Governments and more fortunate individuals seem blind to their plight. Where discarded infants may expire by the roadside and adult corpses lie awaiting the vultures, there is scant cause for confidence in man’s progress.

The 100 million people of Pakistan have paid the price of survival. Amidst the political trauma following World War II and the dismantling of Britain’s empire, partition in the name of religion uprooted millions, shuttling Hindus and Muslims across the Punjabi border. Wars with India and three million refugees from Russian-occupied Afghanistan have compounded internal ethnolinguistic discord. Although the Indus River Valley is one of civilization’s original and most fertile sites, the drifting poor have suffered from lawlessness, feudal tyranny and disease.

Born a Muslim 58 years ago in Kathiawar, Gujarat, Western India, ABDUL SATTAR EDHI migrated with his moderately prosperous family to Pakistan in 1947. It was the paralysis that afflicted his mother two years later that alerted EDHI to the suffering of the sick-at a time when most medicine was unavailable. With colleagues, in 1950 he established a charitable dispensary, the Bantva Memon Dispensary. Frustrated by the conservatism of his associates he assumed full responsibility for it in 1953 and eventually established a philanthropic trust in his own name, receiving 800,000 rupees (US$160,000) in donations the first year.

With these funds EDHI built an emergency outpatient clinic, manned by a senior medical student, and a dispensary exclusively for women and children that included a training center for nurses. There after as voluntary donations allowed, he developed services for the destitute sick, mentally handicapped and drug addicts; runaway girls from unhappy homes or miserable marriages were given work and education. These facilities have become the 12-acre Apna Ghar (Our Home) 10 miles north of Karachi in Sohrab Ghar, and the Edhi Nursing Home in the suburb of Mithadar. Together they house and care for some 1,200, of whom more than half are mental patients. They are staffed by 300 nurses and 35 doctors whose only compensation is for transportation. EDHI explains that he prefers women workers because “they are less corrupt by nature.”

The Nursing Home is managed by Mrs. BILQIS EDHI, whom ADBUL SATTAR met 20 years ago when she was working with him as a volunteer. BILQUIS oversees maternity care and adoption services for abandoned babies, a family planning clinic, an emergency center with 24-hour service by 80 ambulances, an outpatient department and a shelter for the homeless. Since a decent burial is a concern of Islam, infant and adult corpses, found by the roadside or floating in the sea, are bathed and enshrouded. Many of the 7,500 bodies have been handled by the EDHIS personally.

Refusing offers of government assistance, even from President Zia ul-Haq, the Abdul Sattar Edhi Trust and two sister foundations rely entirely upon contributions from the public. Queues of donors provide the daily cash equivalent of US$2,000, plus gifts in kind such as chickens, sheep, goats and clothing. Van loads of food sent by the trust to victims of floods and other disasters are quickly replaced by anonymous donations.

The EDHIS take no salary; they, their four children and her mother live modestly on the income from his earlier business investments. They pray five times a day in the Muslim tradition, and in their lives demonstrate that Islam has its roots in service to others. Their personal ministry is to the destitute.

In electing ABDUL SATTAR EDHI and BILQIS EDDLO EDHI to receive the 1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes their giving substance in an Islamic society to the ancient humane commandment that thou art thy brother’s keeper.

 RESPONSE

We are grateful to the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for selecting us to receive this highly prestigious Award in recognition of our humble humanitarian services.

The human being is the finest creature of the Almighty. Unfortunately, by certain deeds, he has fallen to the lowest state. However he deserves our sympathy and attention. Serving humankind in distress is worship of God.

We bow our heads in humility to Allah for guiding us in rendering this service to people. We began as individuals, and by God’s grace our work now is an institution. Today’s Award, I believe, is not for us as persons. It is for the services we have rendered. We will consider it as a debt, always reminding us to pay it back by more devotion to humanity. You may be interested if I briefly describe the scope of activities, steadily expanded, by our trust.

My wife, BILQIS, runs the Center for Shelterless, including abandoned and innocent newly born babies. Some 1,039 such children have been taken care of so far by the center. Childless parents can adopt these children. Through this center, unique parent-children relationships are established on a purely humanitarian basis.

Old, sick, crippled and shelterless persons find abode in the Edhi Home in Karachi. It currently accommodates some 1,700 such individuals. Our objective is to spread a network of homes for the shelterless in other cities of Pakistan, e.g Lahore, Quetta and Peshawar.

For poor and sick persons our institution provides free, emergency ambulance services. Eighty ambulances are in operation, covering all of Pakistan. At a distance of every 100 miles an Ambulance Center has been organized. At these centers a fully equipped medical team is stationed to provide temporary treatment. The Edhi Foundation has been set up to carry out the work in an orderly way and without interruption. We intend to open similar centers in other big cities in Asia: Bombay, India; Dacca, Bangladesh; Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Three round-the-clock dispensaries and maternity homes function under the management of the Edhi Trust. Here first-aid services are provided for accident cases. Some 150,000 individuals receive these services monthly, without any obligation on their part.

My wife looks after a free maternity home of 100 beds in the suburbs of Karachi. Over 300 delivery cases, on an average, are attended to every month. Mrs. EDHI also manages a nursing department for less educated and poor widows so that they can earn an honorable livelihood rather than extend their hands for help. These poor women are trained here for six months. During this period a stipend equivalent to US$25 is paid them per month. The women are specially trained to clean dead bodies before burial as per Islamic law. Hundreds of such women have been trained and are now earning their livelihood with respect and honor.

Our scope of activities include picking up dead bodies wherever found and regardless of the cause of death. If no heir or relative of the deceased is found, burial is done by the trust. When it is a police case, prompt assistance of authorities is sought and burial is arranged.

Genuinely jobless persons willing to work and earn their livelihood are provided temporary assistance equivalent to US$20 per month for food and other needs. Crippled and elderly patients are given wheelchairs, beds, crutches, bed-urine pans and urine chairs for use in their homes, at a reasonable charge when they can afford to pay, but free in genuinely destitute cases.

It is gratifying to inform you that, with Allah’s blessings, construction of a house for shelterless girls on a plot of about six hectares is in full swing and is expected to be completed within the next two years. When finished, this house will accommodate hundreds of destitute girls. There they will be given training in driving, first-aid, maternity and child care, washing of dead bodies, and attending crippled and mentally retarded persons.

We are obliged to the people of Pakistan who generously donate funds equivalent to over US$2 million annually, funds which provide the resources for carrying out our activities. I am happy to declare that the money from this Award will be used to establish another foundation in Pakistan.

May Allah bless you and us and guide us to give our utmost to the best of all his creatures—human beings.

 BIOGRAPHY

The line forms early outside the Abdul Sattar Edhi Trust in Karachi, Pakistan. All day people wait patiently to donate money, food, textiles and clothing; some bring live sheep and goats to be sacrificed and used to feed the destitute. These daily contributions in money and kind average US$2,000, reaching a high of US$5,000 during the peak season of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, when the number of donors increases and many must return and stand in line a second day to have their gifts accepted. Recently numerous cheques have been received from abroad. This voluntary outpouring of charitable giving reflects accurately the extent and reputation of the work performed over the past 35 years by ABDUL SATTAR EDHI and his wife BILQIS EDHI.

ABDUL SATTAR EDHI was born in 1928 in Bantva, a village on the Kathiawar Peninsula, in Gujarat, Western India. He and his brother and two sisters grew up as members of the small Kutchi Memon Muslim community, a sect, many of whom are businessmen who trade through out South and Southeast Asia. When EDHI was a child his father, Haji Abdul Shakoor, was a broker in Bombay, dealing in grains and dried fruits; he spent only a few months of the year in Bantva. Haji Shakoor was deeply respected and often called upon to arbitrate business disputes. Not particularly devout, even though he had been on the pilgrimage to Mecca, he raised his son to respect the traditional rites of Islam, and especially to observe its tenets regarding charity and the wellbeing of the community. Moreover, he cautioned young EDHI to give only to individuals, never to institutions, in order to ensure that help really reached those who needed it.

EDHI attended the village Gujarati-language school, and remembers being more interested in social history than in any other subject. Although both of his parents wanted him to have a good education, his school years were disrupted by the need to learn the brokerage business and by the partition of the subcontinent. His family moved from India to the new state of Pakistan in 1947, but suffered none of the horrors of flight or displacement common at that time. The Bantva Muslim community moved more or less intact to the Boulton Market area of Karachi, and as businessmen—unlike farmers whose only wealth was land—they were able to take their assets with them.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)