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.

Riaz Haq said...

In God we trust; in the government, not.

The Muslim holy month ends this weekend, and hey, happy Eid to everyone. Some people will be relieved. In the lead-up to it, many affluent people in Pakistan visit their bank and fill out a form asking to be exempted from having zakat, an Islamic charitable tax, deducted from their accounts. By law, during this period the government is entitled to collect zakat from people whose assets reach a minimum threshold, and place it in a welfare fund for the needy.

In the same month of Ramzan — known as Ramadan in the Middle East — people give billions of rupees to various charities. Zakat may be a pillar of Islam, but Pakistanis just don’t like handing their money over to the state.

In a country of about 200 million people only about half a million pay direct income tax, for example. Even Pakistanis who live in huge mansions, have four cars or spend a few million rupees on a wedding dress pay zero income tax.

If we give to the government, the logic goes, it’s just going to steal some more. And after stealing from us, government officials will head off to Mecca to redeem themselves in the eyes of God. So why not just go ahead and do our own stealing and redeeming?\


In God we trust; in the government, not. Plus, the government can always go to the International Monetary Fund.

There is some merit to this view.

In Pakistan, some of the most basic functions of the state are performed by charities. If you are poor and have an accident or a medical emergency, the ambulance that takes you to the hospital probably was sent by a charitable organization. If you can’t pay for your medicine, it’s a welfare trust at the hospital that may help you out. You might even get a kidney for free.

If you live in a slum, your child might go to a school run by a bunch of do-gooders. If you are a daily wage laborer in the city, some nice folks will serve you a free lunch. If you see a wounded animal on the road, you can call a privately run shelter to pick it up.

If you die, chances are that your body will end up in a morgue run by a charitable trust. Your ride to the graveyard will be in a vehicle donated by some god-fearing, and probably tax-dodging, dude.

These charitable, god-fearing, tax-dodging souls become really generous in the holy month. During Ramzan, major Pakistani cities are overrun by beggars who travel from far-off rural areas to partake of the seasonal generosity.

Only there is less and less to go around. Last year in Karachi, I came across a family of eight from a village in southern Pakistan crammed into a tiny air-conditioned A.T.M. booth. They were taking refuge from the oppressive heat. How is the month going, I asked? Nothing but food, I was told. Not even enough cash to cover the bus fare to go back to their village. In previous years, they had been able to take at least some cash home.

The late Abdul Sattar Edhi, Pakistan’s most well-known philanthropist, who ran a countrywide network of ambulances, orphanages and shelters for abused women and unwanted babies, accepted donations from (almost) everyone. When he was short on cash, he would sit at a traffic signal, like a beggar, the hem of his shirt stretched out. People would come to him and give and give. Sometimes even beggars would stop by and throw their entire day’s earnings into Edhi’s lap. He used to say that it’s poor people who give the most.

A millionaire who lays a spread for fellow Muslims breaking fast is making an investment in the afterlife. A poor man who digs into his pocket and gives away his last few rupees to another poor man is doing Allah’s work.

Riaz Haq said...

When Edhi gave up on politics

Abdul Sattar Edhi once had political ambitions and twice contested for a seat in the National Assembly from Karachi in the 1970s. This aspect of Edhi’s eventful life isn’t widely known. When he died, nobody really mentioned that Edhi once aspired to become a member of parliament.

Having lost on both occasions, he gave up politics and began focusing more on his social and charity work. It may or may not have been a loss for politics, but it certainly was a gain for social and charity work.

Edhi’s first foray into electoral politics was in the 1970 general election for which polling was held on December 7, 1970. His native area of Kharadar and Mithadar was part of the National Assembly constituency known at the time as NW-134 Karachi-7. This constituency also included the Burns Road area and the markets surrounding it.

Shah Ahmad Noorani, the late religious scholar heading the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP) won the contest with 28,304 votes primarily on the strength of the Barelvi vote. The runner-up was Noorul Arifin of the PPP with 22,609 votes followed by Pir Mohammad of the Jamaat-e-Islami with 20,838 and Zain Noorani of PML-Convention with 10,634 votes. Edhi polled 7,850 votes as an independent candidate and lagged far behind in fifth place.

Edhi decided to try his luck again in the by-election necessitated by Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani’s election as a member of the Senate. The by-poll for the vacant NA seat was organised on October 19, 1975. The seat was snatched from the JUP by the ruling PPP through its candidate Noorul Arifin, who obtained 27,632 votes. The JUP candidate Mohammad Hanif Tayyab was placed second with 24,224 votes. Edhi came third with 7,611 votes getting almost the same number of ballots that he had polled in the December 1970 general election.

Living in Karachi at the time as a student and keenly following the first open general election in Pakistan, one saw almost all the candidates including Edhi from close quarters. Much like his later life, Edhi campaigned practically alone with a small team of supporters and did everything himself. He was also at a disadvantage as an independent with no support from any political party.

Edhi was dependent on his reputation as a social worker who was simple in dress and mild in his manners. Even then he was a straight talking non-politician who had ventured into politics in the belief that he could serve the electorate better than the other more resourceful candidates fielded by political parties. However, he was rejected by the voters, prematurely putting to an end his political career.

This indeed was a turning point in Edhi’s life as he henceforth devoted himself fully to charity work. In due course of time, he earned fame and got more respect than lawmakers. This certainly could not have happened if he had been elected as an MNA. The politicians who defeated him at the polls couldn’t get that kind of fame and adoration. Though many people still want to become MNAs and MPAs and senators, Edhi’s success as a social worker proved that one could serve the masses and earn their respect without coming into power.

It also looks odd that generals, judges, bureaucrats, etc join politics after having retired from service and exercised powers that they aspire to obtain again by getting elected as a member of parliament. There is a long list of such ambitious people who launched political parties after retirement and failed to win public support because they had already played their innings and done nothing remarkable to deserve another chance.

In comparison, Edhi tried his hand at politics and failed to win a seat in the National Assembly. He then emerged as a committed humanitarian with a lot of credibility. He could have used this as a ladder to re-enter politics and build a political career on the strength of his social and charity work. He resisted such a temptation and continued on his chosen path.

Riaz Haq said...

#Karachi #charity Jafaria Disaster Management Cell #Welfare Foundation dishes out #ostrich meat as #Ramzan treat for poor. The meat is expensive, seldom eaten in #Pakistan and deemed exotic in the mainly #Muslim nation of 208 million. via @indiatoday

Volunteers served red meat to more than 500 Karachi residents before dawn broke on Tuesday
An official said that there is plan to offer deer and other expensive cuisine in coming days during Ramzan
Move is likely to be welcomed by those who stuffed themselves with ostrich meat

Volunteers stewed the red meat in large metal pots and served it in a chickpea curry to more than 500 residents before dawn broke on Tuesday, when Pakistani Muslims began their month-long Ramzan fast.

"Keeping in view of this deprivation, [wealthy] people supported us and like the previous year, we offered those dishes which even a middle class person cannot afford, let alone the poor," Zafar Abbas, the general secretary of the Jafaria Disaster Management Cell Welfare Foundation, said.

Zafar Abbas said the plan is to offer deer and other expensive cuisine in coming days during Ramzan, when practicing Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours.

The move is likely to be welcomed by those who stuffed themselves with ostrich meat.

"It felt very nice. I had never eaten [ostrich]," van driver Mohammad Hussain said.

"It was so wholesome that I feel no need to eat for the next two days," Mohammad Hussain added.