Saturday, July 9, 2016

Edhi's Life Showed the Meaning of Huqooq-ul-Ibad (Human Rights in Islam)

"There is no sight in Pakistan more moving than to visit some dusty, impoverished small town in an arid wasteland, apparently abandoned by God and all sensible men and certainly abandoned by the Pakistani state and its elected representatives - and to see the flag of Edhi Foundation flying over a concrete shack with a telephone, and the only ambulance in town standing in front. Here, if anywhere in Pakistan, lies the truth of human religion and human morality."  Anatol Lieven, author of Pakistan: A Hard Country

What Professor Anatol Lieven describes as "human religion and human morality" is the very essence of the Huqooq-ul-Ibad (Human Rights) in Islam. Abdus Sattar Edhi understood it well when he said, "there's no religion higher than humanity".

Edhi understood the meaning of what the Quran, the Muslim holy book, says in chapter 2 verse 177: "Righteousness is not that ye turn your faces towards the east or the west, but righteous is, one who believes in God, and the last day, and the angels, and the Book, and the prophets, and who gives wealth for His love to kindred, and orphans, and the poor, and the son of the road, beggars, and those in captivity; and who is steadfast in prayers, and gives alms."

Edhi's foundation served all in need.  When he was asked why he thought it was okay for his ambulances to pick up Christians and Hindus, he said, "Because my ambulance is more Muslim than you."

Edhi was 88 years old when he died Friday night in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. He had been ill for weeks, and had needed a new kidney, but he refused all offers to go abroad for treatment as Pakistan's elites often do.  Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently underwent heart surgery in a London hospital.

Edhi saw how the religious leaders of the Muslim majority in Pakistan focus mostly on Huqooq-ul-Allah (prayer, fasting, hajj, etc) while ignoring the equally important Huqooq ul Ibad (rights of fellow humans and all of Allah's creation).  He realized the urgent need to bring the two in better balance. He did so by caring for the poor and the needy who felt abandoned by the Pakistani state and society. "It is everyone's responsibility to take care of others, that's what being human means. If more people thought that way, so many problems could be solved," he reportedly told the BBC.

Edhi started his work with a single clinic in 1951. Then he established Edhi Foundation that is now the country's largest welfare organization. It runs schools, hospitals and ambulance services across the entire length and breadth of the country, including remote places where there's no sign of the state.

Edhi was everything Pakistan's leaders are not. He did not take money from the people to stash it away in foreign bank accounts. Unlike the country's politicians, bureaucrats and generals who take everything they can for themselves, Edhi gave everything he had or collected from the people to those who needed it most. Unlike the country's politicians, bureaucrats and generals who live extravagant lifestyles in luxurious mansions, Edhi was known for extreme austerity. He wore simple clothes and lived in very basic housing.

There has been great outpouring of glowing tributes to Edhi, including those from the nation's top leaders and politicians. Words are cheap. What's really needed is concrete action to emulate how Edhi cared for humanity. My hope is that the most selfish among Pakistanis will pause to assess their own lives and make a commitment to serve humanity as Edhi did.

Here's a related video discussion:

Tribute to Edhi; Advice to Indo-Pak Politicians; Eid in Silicon Valley from Ikolachi on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Huqooq-ul-Ibad in Islam

Philanthropy in Pakistan

Panama Leaks Scandal

Misaq-e-Madina Guided Quaid-e-Azam's Vision of Pakistan

Interfaith Relations in Islam


Ravi Krishna said...

He was the most inspiring Pakistani for me. Lot of respect for him from India.

Anand Jodhani said...

Sir if u really think there is any truth in abdul edhi's words stop ur anti-india rant. Cant u see u've been brain washed as a child into it. It will be tough to let go of so many years of hatred. But the day u see beyond it, u will realize its all such a waste. Instead try and love....

Riaz Haq said...

AJ: "It will be tough to let go of so many years of hatred. But the day u see beyond it, u will realize its all such a waste. Instead try and love.... "

Criticism, including strong criticism, does not equal hatred.

Edhi was often very strongly critical of many things in Pakistan, including its leaders and their policies, but he loved Pakistan.

I frequently strongly criticize India and Pakistan but I do not hate the people in either country. My criticism is mostly directed at bad characters and policies in both countries.