Having lost his childhood to his mother’s infirmity & his mother to paralysis & mental illness, he taught himself the meaning of humanity & compassion right in his childhood. A man who wasn’t formally educated but had read Karl Marx & Vladimir Lenin; once stated that to him the biggest ‘just war’ in the world was between the oppressor & the oppressed, between the rich & the poor.
A man who, starting from a tent hospital & a free dispensary, laid foundations of one of the biggest humanitarian networks of Asia; followed by his unforgettable healthcare services for the poor- including ambulance service, free consultancy clinic & OPD, maternity & immunization centres. He set up rehabilitation centres for people with mental illness & physical disability in an ableist society where stigma of mental illness is generally considered a ‘manufactured’ non-issue hence leading the patients & their families falling victim to faith-healers & quacks. A man whose service to mankind was not limited to people of one particular faith, religion, creed, sect, ethnicity & gender.
When criticized by far rightists for his foundation’s provision of services to Hindus & Christians without any discrimination, he told the bigots that his ambulance was more Muslim than them. A man who initiated ‘Baby Cradle’ (Eidhi ka jhoola) service for adoption of the illegitimate & abandoned children in a society where they would otherwise be thrown into dumpsters; loved them, fostered them & fought for their rights. A man whose empathy, compassion, philanthropy & sense of responsibility was extended as well to the dead- to corpses & unidentified dead-bodies through his coffin & burial services, to animals through animal shelters, to the unemployed through Richshaw Rozgar services, to the hungry through ‘langar service’ (free kitchen), to those fighting drug addiction through rehabilitation centres, to the geriatric population through shelters & to the female victims of domestic violence through shelter homes.
A great man whose answer to the self-righteous bigots declaring him an infidel, to those issuing fatwas that he will not go to heaven in afterlife, was that he did not wish to go where people like them will, rather would prefer to go where poor, ordinary & miserable people will.
A man who, during his last days, refused state-sponsored better treatment abroad; instead advised to be treated in his own homeland, among ordinary people– whom he always said he had belonged to. He was a man who whilst taking his very last breaths would think of helping another soul; thus departed having pledged to donate both his eyes.
A personality that was an interface between humanity, complacency & humility. An ascetic who spent all his life with simplicity. He who stood up to ‘systematic state oppression’ of the lower class & slapped sociopaths sitting in the corridors of power right in their face, by setting out all alone to do everything what in reality was responsibility of the state towards its citizens.
A revolutionary figure. A rebel. A healer. A saint. An inspiration- in true sense of the word.
It is understandable why his death is a tragedy, why the whole nation is sad & mourning over his loss. Why this is a moment of grief. Yet, today Abdul Sattar Edhi is not merely a name. Let’s not reduce it to one that is perishable. #Edhi is a phenomenon that will last as long as empathy & humanity do. Today, he is a hero- a warrior going back home, emerging all victorious in his unarmed fight against suffering of humanity, his just war against systematic oppression & his countless, subtle revolutionary acts against poverty, hunger, homelessness, illness, hatred, bigotry & discrimination. Do not merely pray for him to be ‘forgiven’– he will certainly be celebrated in heavens. Bid him farewell & pay him tribute by resolving to take up his message, his vision, his ideology & follow in his footsteps, his legacy: forwards & upwards.
Shed tears over the irredeemable loss, all you want, but learn to shed tears over violation of rights of humans irrespective of anything, anywhere.
Easier said than done but one small step at a time. One little act of kindness & compassion. Not giving in to the internalised hate, bigotry & intolerance. Speaking up & standing up, in one’s individual capacity, for what he stood up & fought for- Humanity above anything.