6 Things I Learnt From Edhi

6 Things I Learnt From Edhi

Image Credit: Mobeen Ansari
Wow. What an emotional weekend. Edhi sahab’s passing will be one of the most significant emotional experiences for us as a nation to have gone through. I’m glad that we could deliver on his farewell with the honor it deserved and each one of us was able to feel the loss with a pain you only have for someone you deeply care about. 
But I was personally taken aback by how much it impacted me. I spent most of the weekend with a heavy heart, a deep sense of loss and a very conflicted mind. I am ashamed to admit that I have never made a monumental effort to directly contribute to Edhi sahab’s cause. I know his cause is to benefit humanity overall so any contribution, anywhere, counts. But when his larger-than-life methods existed so conveniently for anyone to access and work with, I feel embarrassed that I haven’t ever remotely tried to be a part of it. I have admired, appreciated and respected from a distance but always taken it for granted.
So I was surprised at how profoundly his passing affected me. When I’d spent my entire life mostly being a casual bystander, it was odd to suddenly experience so much.
I think there are moments in your life which really shake you up and alter the way you look at things. I feel that way right now. And it makes me overwhelmed to realise how someone can touch your life not just while they’re alive but even once they’ve left.    
I know a lot of us have said that we need to learn from his life and keep the spirit going. I feel afraid that we’ll say it and along the way, lose it. We’ll name something after him, remember him on his anniversary every year (both, important things nonetheless) but if that’s all we end up doing, it feels like he’d be terribly disappointed.
His cause needs much more than just wishing well. It needs to be immortalized through all of us.
After a weekend of being shaken up about all the unbelievable things about his life, there were some that struck me real hard and that I decided to make actionable in some way. Because just introspecting and not following through is my standard operating procedure. What can I do differently now. Most of my thoughts are raw and possibly pointless to some, but I decided to share these anyway – if they work for even one person, I’m very lucky.   
1. Do more actively. I feel most of us contribute to different causes – helping with someone’s education, paying someone’s rent, getting someone new clothes. I don’t intend to shame anyone because I believe everything matters, even teaching someone to say a simple ‘thank you’. But I realise that I hardly ever do anything that requires me to step outside my house and do something for someone with my words or hands. I have never gone to a facility for kids or the elderly for example, and I’ve rarely ever performed something selfless physically with my hands. While a simple monetary contribution does so much for the recipient, I’m convinced that the act of doing something noble where you are an active participant is what truly transforms you.
Actually seeing a smile that you are responsible for, giving someone the gift of time and seeing their joy – these are gifts that give just as much back to you as to the person receiving them. I’ve decided to find out where and what I can do and every month take out time to go serve someone physically. It’s still not much but it’s a beginning and I want to commit to it. My passive contributions are necessary and important but they need to be complimented with more active behavior. Sometimes at the grocery store, I buy whatever a construction worker, in line with me, is holding and the smile on their face is so deeply rewarding. Imagine doing a whole lot more and not just a tiny shopping list. I believe that why Edhi sahab was able to do so much was because consistently helping others and then visibly seeing the reward, truly kept transforming him and making him as great as he was. 

2. To simplify. I always knew how simple Edhi sahib was and how basic his life used to be. It’s inspirational how someone can voluntarily choose to live such a life and depend on nothing at all. It’s embarrassing and disappointing at the same time because despite having all the means to execute such a life plan, I don’t have the courage to do the same for me. I thought about this long and hard and I realise that I really am a coward for not being able to push through on this. This is what our life is today. We want things we don’t need and we hold them close to us like our lives would be incomplete without them. I don’t believe in being too harsh on your own self when you’re learning because I feel it stunts growth. So while I do believe I lack courage, I also realise that I haven’t been aware of this before, so perhaps in my journey, this is a step?
I have never wanted things too big, have always been clear that I want a small home, never buy branded stuff or want it, don’t shop more than a couple of times a year, consciously don’t blog about luxury stuff, and always tell myself to be minimal. And I thought I was doing fine. And yet now I feel deeply dissatisfied about how still so far from true simplicity this really is. I’ve been looking at what I own and it’s made me feel a little repulsed with myself. I’m going to take action and simplify more. I’ve decided to do a deep cleanse on my belongings and get rid of half my things – shoes, clothes, accessories, and be even more mindful about my shopping habits. I know I’m weak right now and it won’t be substantial but I don’t want to deny myself even the tiniest prospect of personal growth and I’m going to do what I can.
3. To change life perspective. I lived in Karachi for 6 years and in Pakistan for 21. Yet, I never once tried or even thought about wanting to meet this absolutely remarkable man. If someone had told me George Clooney was as accessible as he was, you can bet I would have done ten backflips and made sure I met that guy. I’m ashamed at my perspective on life. Most of us don’t try to meet the real heroes in life, actual inspirational people who would change us with just a single conversation. We follow gossip websites, shamelessly watch celebrity interviews about their can’t-live-without pizza toppings and buy concert tickets to see our favorite bands perform months in advance (some people even travel for it). I cannot believe how naïve I was that such a man was available for a meeting, not just anywhere in the world, right there in my own country, and I didn’t even have a fleeting thought to make that happen. I don’t know who can be as fantastic as Edhi sahab but I’m going to alter my perspective on which humans I want to take time out my life to meet with or even just go see. I wish I’d realized this sooner, I’d have taken all the children I love (nieces/nephews/best friend’s kid) to share this experience with as well because that’s a gift better than most others we give.   
4. To not identify with artificial identities or respond with them when someone asks me which religion/race/sect/caste I belong to. We’re all responsible for these religious and social divides among ourselves. We all respond with Sunni/Shia/Ahmadi/Syeds/blah blah. We speak against using them and yet when someone asks, we promptly respond with what we’ve been told we are. These divisive religious, sectarian, social, ethnic identities are absolutely artificial and I’m going to now refuse to oblige anyone who wants to know ‘who’ I am. Unless the question is to share cultural experiences and enrich each other’s lives by talking about ethnic backgrounds, let’s say (different foods, crafts, etc), I am going to refuse to share anything that only separates us from each other. (I don’t care if you don’t consider a certain group ‘Muslim’ – it’s a good thing it’s not your judgment call anyway).
5. Do what you want to do. Edhi sahab was technically a badass and he did what he wanted to do despite so much external pressure. His operations felt so smooth but the more I read about it over the last few days, I realized how much he faced and how much he rejected with a quiet power. We have about a dozen excuses for something we say we want to do but don’t because ‘it won’t work out’. If you really want to do it, then believe in yourself and do it.
6. Get drawn to your religion, not thrown into it. The number of times I’ve been told why I won’t go to heaven because of some technical thing I’m not doing right religiously, blows my mind. And while it annoys me at times, I’ve realized it doesn’t need to. Do your religion the way it speaks to your conscience. We waste way too much time and energy on discussing technical aspects and critiquing people on them. While I don’t appreciate even those people who oversimplify religion and adapt it to convenience their lifestyle, I also don’t value the inputs of those who’ve lost (or never acquired) the softness of their religion and are only geared towards individual practice and become harsh in their interpretation of life. I have a relationship with my God, I need to commit to being honest to it – if I’m at peace with that, the rest can go on mute.   
Naturally, there are about a gazillion other things that resonate with you when you think about Abdul Sattar Edhi, this is just a snippet. Gender equality, humility, honesty, courage, perseverance, trust, vision, there’s so much, it’s overwhelming.
I’d love to hear your (positive) thoughts and if there are any actions you plan on taking to honor this incredible man.
What a regret to not have met him. What an honor to have lived while he was alive.


If you don’t know who Abdul Sattar Edhi was, he was known as one of the biggest humanitarians and other than the beyond extraordinary work he did for Pakistan, his organization did relief work the world over such as for the Hurricane Katrina victims. If you’re interested, here’s a tiny glimpse into his life. If you read more about him, it will definitely change your life.

Note: The blog will be off tomorrow because I am still in a bit of a contemplative mode. If this was a regular job, I’d have shown up to work and done my thing but with the blog I have a choice, and I’m choosing to not post tomorrow. You guys know I write in an excited tone most of the time and because I’m not feeling it, I’d rather not post as an obligation. See you Wednesday, friends.

46 Comments

  1. Very well written. To be honest after reading this you get a reality check like what we have been doing all our lives!!! I hope that we all get the courage to do even an ounce of what Edhi Saab did for the humanity.

  2. U r so rht…we lack courage ..but ya even paying for someone that can bring smile on their face is also Sadqa Jarya..one must give away as much as he can… at times we waste 100 bucks buying some useless stuff n it is better to give them to some needy who might buy food for his hungry kids..so keep giving in no matter what way ..loved ur article..we all feel sad too..but yea get back soon cz u r being missed

  3. Edhi sahab's passing away and Amjad Sabri's as well hit me hard too. I mean it was a sudden shock and just as you said, sometimes it all changes how you see things. Rather than just remembering him which off-course we should, but we definitely have to start doing small things which shall never let his cause die and what message he actually left for all of us, to take care of Humanity, regardless of race, color, religion or status. He was an asset to us, and indeed he is in a way better place now.

    -Amna Jamil

  4. Loved it!! You nailed every aspect so well..Beautifully written
    I will bookmark it to read it time and again to curb my vain.

  5. Umm.. I don't know what to say. I can relate with each and every word you've written. Edhi sahab was a relative, not very close but also not a far far. I could have easily met him several times but still I never did. I am feeling worse now.

  6. oh god bestie, you speak my heart out. Since I heard his death news I was/am exactly feeling same about not contributing the way I should and didn’t put effort to meet him, considering that i use to live in same city where he was so accessible and where I could have meet him anytime without any ‘Jogaar’. :(:(
    What an article and how beautifully you have articulate it .. simply amazing. KEEP IT UP !!!

    1. Author

      I know exactly what you mean. Your messages that day made me feel we were on the exact same page.

  7. Very well written and portrayed exactly what had been going on in my mind. I will always always regret not trying to meet this great man because this is one thing that can't be undone now. May we acknowledge the small blessings in life and be empathetic towards mankind, be compassionate and learn to do things for others more than our own selves.

  8. Im in tears reading this and have been since his passing away.
    The beautiful thing is a man like him had the power of changing my heart and surely the hearts of many others even when he left this world;such was his greatness.
    As you very well said:
    "What a regret to not have met him. What an honor to have lived while he was alive."
    InshaAllah i plan on making a stronger effort to contributing to his cause especially not only in ways that are convenient for my lifestyle.
    May Allah help us all to learn from the life of Abdul sattar Edhi.

  9. I love and adore Edhi, and I followed him passionately and contributed to his foundation regularly as well, but I didn't expect it to hit me like it did. We all could see him deteriorating, and he mashaAllah lived a full life, but it was never going to be easy to let him go. He was our safety net.

    I've had my few days of reflection as well after his passing, and I feel ashamed and pathetic, really. We claim to be educated, we claim to be good humans who help others, but we really don't. We judge, we discriminate, and we just plan – "Pakistan ke liye kuch karna chahiye. Logon ko parhana chahiye"… He just got up and did it – no planning (atleast initially), just action.

    I am trying to adopt this "What would Edhi do" approach now in dealing with people / situations. I got on a plane to get back to Dubai after Eid, and I was irritated and taken aback by the kind of crowd on the plane and the stench from people sitting next to me. Then, I virtually smacked myself on the head and thought – BE HUMAN. DON'T BE ARROGANT.

    May he have a blessed Afterlife inshaAllah, and may we take inspiration from his life and be more human.

    1. Author

      Great job on contributing to the cause. And so true on him being the safety net. Love the 'what would edhi do' sentiment.

  10. کتنے قطروں کو سمندر کر گیا
    کام پورا کر کے اپنے گھر گیا
    تاقیامت وہ رہے گا جاوداں
    کوئی نہ کہنا کہ ایدھی مر گیا

  11. You have such a wonderful way with words! and I can feel the solemnity – quite different from your usual perky tone. As for the content of your post – all my jumbled up thoughts, you managed to put them in coherent ideas. I say you just did your bit Shehzeen! I, on the other hand need to start working towards the aforementioned goals.

  12. I am also deeply embarrassed to admit I never contributed to his foundation. Although I did visit one of his orphanage in the outskirts of Karachi. Do you know he has the world largest Ambulance service?

  13. I have been part of Edhi centre activities and have visited the kids on Eid. This doesnot make me an Edhi but definitely it shows some light that his legacy will continue in different homes and different parts of the world..May be We cannot be an Edhi but we can be part of him! proud of being part of his team..

  14. I think we can start even smaller in regards to being move actively involved.
    We can be better neighbours, choose not to litter, be better and more responsible drivers aka obey traffic rules and give way, greet people in the service sector with a simple hello and smile before getting down to business,i.e. ur bank tellers, shopkeepers, receptionists etc. We can learn to be on time and respect the queue too!
    All these sound mundane but if you care and respect people around you, they will pay it forward.
    I'm sorry but we have fallen that far as a society that all this needs to be pointed out and brought to attention.
    Lastly and most importantly, we should not lose our cool and for the love of God STOP JUDGING PEOPLE!

  15. I agree with each and every point you mentioned. We really are not brave enough to lead our lives the way that this great man had lived. May Allah give us Hidayah and May we be able to spend our life for the betterment of humanity. Ameen

  16. Such deep thoughts! Got the time now to read the whole thing and i agree with you! He would have wanted his work to be continued in a simple efficient manner..just the way he was managing such a huge organisation! I guess charity begins at home. Even if we dont donate monetarily and make helping a priority in our free time even once or twice a week it can have a ripple effect in the future.

    Ive been wanting to educate those children who cant afford it near our home..but somehow always manage to find excuses to not adhere to this resolution completely! Hopijg this acts as a motivational force and helps me actually do something about this idea :/

  17. On the flipside if anyone wants to contribute monetarily his organisation's account details are available on the internet.i read that even if we pay 1 ruppee for every day of the year, it ammasses to rs 365 per person.imagine the resources that could further be made available with the minutest of contribtions from every person's side!

  18. On the flipside if anyone wants to contribute monetarily his organisation's account details are available on the internet.i read that even if we pay 1 ruppee for every day of the year, it ammasses to rs 365 per person.imagine the resources that could further be made available with the minutest of contribtions from every person's side!

  19. Also too many comments but but..i feel if we adopt edhism as a philosophy of life and carry out basic actions like teaching our kids the value of humanity and simple kindness towards the poor, the courtesy of not differentiating between people of varying sects/ religions and the simple art of learning to share we could still carry on his legacy!

    Lastly i hope and sincerely pray his death doesnt become a one time guilt kicker, rather that his lifestyle continues to effect us as a nation and that his organisation continues to thrive and reach out!

    1. Author

      I know. If everyone could be good, naturally everything else would sort itself out. Have to work on ourselves sab se pehley

Leave a Reply