Thanks to Google’s daily doodle thingummy I have just been introduced to Abdul Sattar Edhi, a Muslim gentleman the Huffington Post once identified as possibly the world’s greatest philanthropist. Others called him Pakistan’s Mother Teresa.
He is the greatest person never to be nominated for a Nobel prize.
Edhi was born in India and when he was 11 his mother became paralysed from a massive stroke. He nursed her until she died when he was 19. He had no formal schooling. When the British partitioned India and Pakistan came into being he and his family fled to Karachi. Edhi became a street peddlar, selling pencils. He was appalled by the poverty he saw around him and in his early 20’s, with donations begged from merchants and other people with money he set up a tent that served as a free dispensary for medicine.
Later he set up what became known as the Edhi Foundation. It cared for the homeless and dispossessed, set up women’s shelters and centres for the mentally disabled. By the time of his death last year it had trained 40,000 nurses.
“A single generous donation from a businessman, a fellow member of the Memon community, allowed Edhi to buy his first ambulance, which he drove himself around the city. Once asked why he was prepared to help Christians and Hindus alike, Edhi replied, “because my ambulance is more Muslim than you”.*** A women’s dispensary would later open and then a maternity clinic.”
In time, as it grew in size, the Edhi Foundation became involved in international relief operations, including Hurricane Katrina.
But discrimination has a long history. According to Wikipedia-
In the early 1980s, Edhi was arrested by Israeli troops while entering Lebanon. In 2006, he was detained in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, for 16 hours. In January 2008, U.S. immigration officials interrogated Edhi at the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City for over eight hours and seized his passport and other documents. When asked about the frequent detention Edhi said, “The only explanation I can think of is my beard and my dress.”
Edhi owned only two sets of clothes. He never took a salary from his Foundation.
A truly remarkable human being. He once said “People have become educated but they have not yet become human.”
[***After discussing this quote with an elderly friend I realise that its meaning may not be self-evident. The point is, mainstream Islam believes in tolerance to other faiths. The Koran says “To you be your religion, to me be mine.”]