Abdul Sattar Edhi dedicated his life to the poor

Edhi was known as the ‘Angel of Mercy’ in Pakistan [AP Photo]

Abdul Sattar Edhi founded the world’s  largest volunteer ambulance network in Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation.

Unlike wealthy individuals that fund charities in their names, Edhi dedicated his life to the poor from the age of 20, when he himself was penniless in Karachi.

The reach of Edhi’s foundation grew internationally, and in 2005 the organisation raised $100,000 in aid relief for the victims of  Hurricane Katrina.

Edhi was born before partition in Bantva, Gujarat, India on February 28, 1928.

He died on February 27, 2017 in Karachi of renal failure.  He was offered treatment abroad,  but insisted on being treated in a government hospital at home.

The Edhi Foundation’s slogan is: “Live and help live”.

In his honour, Google changed its logo in the United States; Iceland; Portugal; Australia; New Zealand; Japan; Estonia; the UK; Denmark; Ireland and Pakistan to a doodle, or illustration, of Edhi.

Google hailed Edhi’s “super-efficient” ambulance service.

“In celebration of Abdul Sattar Edhi, let’s all lend a hand to someone in need today,” it said.

The technology giant’s team has created more than 2,000 doodles for homepages around the world. Among those recently celebrated are  Pramoedya Ananta Toer,  Fred Korematsu and Edmonia Lewis.

“The doodle selection process aims to celebrate interesting events and anniversaries that reflect Google’s personality and love for innovation,” the company says.

‘No religion higher than humanity’

With more than 1,800 ambulances stationed across Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation is Pakistan’s  largest welfare organisation.  In 1997, the foundation entered the Guinness World Records as the “largest volunteer ambulance organisation”.

If you call 115 in the South Asian nation, the Edhi Foundation will answer.

People have become educated, but have yet to become human


In his words, at the start of his work, Edhi “begged for donations” and “people gave”.

This allowed him to convert a tiny room into a medical dispensary.  He also bought an ambulance that he himself drove around.

Raising more donations and  enlisting medical students as volunteers, his humanitarian reach expanded across the country.

Today the Edhi Foundation runs outpatient hospitals, a child adoption centre and rescue boats.

It also helps in the burials of unidentified bodies. 

There are cradles for “unwanted babies” outside Edhi emergency centres.

Throughout his life, Edhi emphasised the humanitarian, rather than religious, motivation for his work.

His foundation receives “zakat” (Islamic charity) donations, which he used to help Muslims, Christians and Hindus.

Asked why he helped non-Muslims, he said: “Because my ambulance is more Muslim than you.”

He also famously lamented: “People have become educated … but have yet to become human.”

When he died,  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said:  “Edhi was the real manifestation of love for those who are socially vulnerable, impoverished, helpless and poor. We have lost a great servant of humanity.”

Nobel Peace Prize

Throughout his life and after he died, many questioned why Edhi never received the Nobel Peace Prize.  Pakistani philanthropist Edhi dies at 88

After the nominations in 2014, the hashtag  #NobelPrizeforEdhi was created; many said he should have been recognised instead of Malala Yousafzai, who is also from Pakistan.

In an interview with the Express Tribune newspaper, Edhi said: “I don’t care about it. The Nobel Prize doesn’t mean anything to me. I want these people, I want humanity.” 

In that same interview, he recalled an incident that he would never forget.

“There was a woman who committed suicide by jumping into the sea along with her six children,” he said. “I was really saddened while giving them ‘ghusal‘ (Islamic washing ritual after death) as part of the funeral rituals.”

According to Pakistan’s Nation newspaper, the State Bank of Pakistan will next month issue a commemorative coin of Rs50 in memory of Edhi.


5 Edhi documentaries you must watch to honour his life’s work

Edhi sahab may be no more but his name will remain etched in the hearts of people till the end of time

Edhi sahab may be no more but his name will remain etched in the hearts of people till the end of time.


The documentary also entered in the International Festival of Audio Visual Programs (FIPA) of France, where it won the FIPA’s D’Argent special prize in France.

Celebrities mourn as Pakistan’s famed philanthropist Edhi dies

2. These Birds Walk 

Directed by Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq, this 2013 documentary  follows the story of a runaway boy, whose life hangs on one critical question: where is home? The streets, an orphanage, or with the family he fled in the first place? Simultaneously heart-wrenching and life-affirming.

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Edhi giving a bath to an orphan. PHOTO: THESEBIRDSWALK

These Birds Walk documents the struggles of these wayward street children and the samaritans like the Edhi Foundation looking out for them in this ethereal and inspirational story of resilience.

The film was premiered at South by Southwest 2013 and was also screened in theaters across the US.

3. Chiragh

Filmmaker Naziha Mehmood’s documentary Chiragh (The Lamp) paid tribute to the services of Abdul Sattar Edhi.

Edhi Sahab himself was present at the screening at the Arts Council in Karachi on November 15 last year. He was also accompanied by Swiss Consul General, Emil Wyss.

The documentary serves as an eye-opener to the world as it tells viewers how a terror-struck country like Pakistan wouldn’t have survived without the unconditional services provided by the Edhi Foundation.

Also read: 10 Abdul Sattar Edhi quotes that will leave you inspired for life

4. Seerat

Seerat is a documentary series that explores the lives and values of various Pakistanis who find themselves in tough situations. Ali Kapadia created this free online series in collaboration with Azad Film Productions for all of us to learn from perhaps the greatest Pakistani who ever lived.

In the part four of the series, Edhi Sahab reveals how, “Ambulance is a necessity for everyone’s troubles,” and how he used to “envy Red Cross.”

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He also highlights how, “Capitalists are destroying honesty by tax evasion and Zakat theft.”

Pakistan mourns Abdul Sattar Edhi’s death

5. Mein Houn Pakistan

This Black Box Sounds production starts with Edhi Sahab’s haunting words, “I am a faqir, people think I am a mystic.”

“Let them say it. From Siachin to all the way to Nagar Parkar, there are centers all across Pakistan. Home for homeless.”

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“No race, no religion, just humanity. I am Abdul Sattar Edhi and I am Pakistan.”

The documentary highlights how Pakistan’s greatest philanthropist was serving humanity without any discrimination.

We hope there are many more documentaries to come.

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