By: Shazia Yousuf
“I do not have any formal education… what use is education when we do not become human beings [after being educated]? My school is the welfare of humanity.” Abdul Sattar Edhi.
These are the words from a lecture on “Emergency Management during disasters” delivered by Abdul Sattar Edhi, at the Aga Khan University. Abdul Sattar Edhi is a great philanthropist, who started off as a street hawker selling pencils and match boxes and now runs Edhi Welfare Trust – Pakistan’s largest welfare foundation.
This welfare trust is a model that represents a clear vision for a welfare state that Abdul Sattar Edhi hopes one day will be adopted by the Third World. His love for humanity, and principle centered approach are the ingredients that have led to the success of Edhi Welfare Trust.
Edhi does not hold any formal degree, yet he sounds enlightened and utters words of wisdom. A true saint at his core, he seeks inspiration from his mother who also was not educated. Her advice to him when he was a small boy was:
“Empty words and long praises do not impress God. Show Him your faith by your deeds.”
And this is what Abdul Sattar Edhi has been doing. His deeds are an expression of his faith, of his love for humans, and in turn his love for The Divine Being.
His enlightenment can be seen in his views regarding various aspects of religion and general human behaviour. In his autobiography, “Abdul Sattar Edhi – A Mirror To The Blind”, while describing his trip to Madinah, he narrates:
“Here again they (the devotees at the grave of Prophet Muhammad s.m) pushed and shoved each other…they preferred to remain ignorant despite the Islamic demand of ilm, the knowledge of life, they came empty and left with nothing.”
At the time of the stoning of the Satan, one of the rituals of the pilgrimage (Hajj), Edhi recollects:
“We halted at Mashar, collected our pebbles and departed for Mina where the ritual of stoning Satan is ordered. I refrained from symbolically throwing stones at Satan and gave some pebbles to a travelling companion to throw on my behalf, keeping a few with myself. Stoning of selfish desires is the demand. I stone mine all the time. I will throw stones in Pakistan where there are many satans.”
During Hajj, while Edhi was distributing medicines from his ambulance, his wife said to him:
“Standing here before the house of God, you have an opportunity to be with Him, but you are still involved with your dispensary. Why don’t you pray all the time?”
To which he replied:
“I am praying.”
He goes on to explain in his autobiography,
“More than ever before, I was praying now. Working for Him with the labour of mind and body. By submitting to His demand of practical devotion, I was becoming worthy of having been created…Public service is the only meaningful way to pray and the most perfect interpretation of Quran.”
Such wisdom coming from a person who did not formally attend school makes me wonder if education is as important as enlightenment. Formal education can only improve and further grow an enlightened heart. But enlightenment is something that is kindled in only very few, who sell their soul for seeking Divine Pleasure.
Abdul Sattar Edhi has been a source of inspiration. Reading his autobiography, brought tears to my eyes at various occasions. If only we could all think like Edhi, my beloved country and in turn this world would be a much better place. Edhi is not just a man of words, but he has proven himself by his devotion, simplicity and his philanthropy. If only we could follow his example and bring about a personal revolution, would we see a wave of positive change. As Edhi mentions in his autobiography:
“Chasing after desires creates inner turmoil. When the devil becomes guide, dacoits and gangsters are manufactured. He makes men fight against their souls to survive expensive items and most lose everything in the face of his strength. The internal enemy can only be overcome by a personal revolution.”