Q2. Tell us something about your
A.2 My parents descended from a community of
small farmers. Three centuries ago a religious leader in Thatta converted our tribe from
the Hindu faith to Islam and named them "Momins" meaning true believers. This
was later distorted to Memons.
The Memons moved from Halla in Sind through the Thar Desert or via the Ran of Kutch and
migrated to Kathiawar in Gujrat (India). There were different groups, namely the Viravel
Memons, the Dorajee and Kotyana Memons, and us, the Bantva Memons.
Q.3. Where did this last name of Edhi come from?
A.3 Actually, we descended from one of the Bantva
Memons and our family was called Edhi family. In Gujrati "Edi" means lazy.
Bantva is a small village near Junagadh in Gujrat. Once there was a village named Edhi
Mohalla, but it disappeared over time. The tribe was vigilant, committed to hard work, and
infused with a sprit of humanitarianism.
Q.4 Tell us something about your father?
A.4 My father, Abdul Shakoor Edhi, inherited the
profession from my grandfather, Haji Rahmatullah, and was working as a Commission Agent in
Bombay. My father was twice widowed before he married my mother, Ghurba. His first wife
bore him two sons and a daughter. In those days, there was a shortage of eligible Memon
girls, so a lot of men used to bring wives from Bengal, Karnataka and Malabar. My father
got married into a Memon family and offered my mother fifty grams of gold as dowry.
Q.5 What was your mothers background?
A.5 My mother, Ghurba, belongs to Deevan family,
a respected business house. She had been divorced following a traumatic and violent
marriage that gave her a son and a daughter. When my mother married again, her sister
raised her two children, while she had to raise those of my father. Memon men spent ten
months of the year selling wares in Bombay, Rangoon, Hyderabad, Colombo and Calcutta. This
kind of job also kept my father away from home, leaving my mother to mind social work
within the community.
Q.6 How do you recall your school days?
A.6 I virtually grew up playing pranks and games
on the streets and alleys of Bantva, with little interest in formal education. I was a
very mischief-monger in the "madrassah" (school). I became the team leader in
the Madrassah and used to divide all the kids into two teams for games. Later, I had a
fight in the madrassah as a result of which I had to drop out of my fourth grade. Instead,
I started assisting my mother in her social community work. She was so involved in her
work and relying on me to distribute the stuff among the needy that she forgot I was
missing the school. This work fired my inspiration for social work and it laid the
foundation of my future.
Q.7 How did you come to Pakistan?
A.7 During the movement for a Muslim state in
India, the British were pulling out and the sub-continent was being divided; a Muslim
homeland was in the offing. Mohammad Ali Jinnah had addressed a large rally at Bantva
where we collected a party fund of Rs. 35,000. Most of us became four anna members of
Muslim League. Soon after Bantva was attacked by Hindus, we all decided to migrate to
Pakistan. Four thousand Memons took a train ride to Occha in September 1947. We camped for
five days before boarding the boat for Karachi. It took two days by sea, and we suffered
no inconvenience in landing at Karachi.
Q.8 What inspired you to launch a charitable
A.8 The Memon community who migrated to Pakistan
started business and the first Textile Government of Pakistan and Valika family jointly
funded the industry. My father started working as a Commission Agent. Later, my childhood
dream was transformed into a reality when I was given permission and money to do business.
I started doing small business and become independent at the age of fifteen. In 1948 an
advertisement in a newspaper informed the public of the first charitable organization in
Mithadar. Senior Bantva Memon made up its Board, and called it the Bantva Memon
Dispensary. When the patrons approved eight members for registration, I was the youngest.
When members of the community asked my father, "Haji Shakoor, what are you
contributing to charity?" He replied, " I have given more to charity than any
work or moneys worth," pointing to me, he said very earnestly, "I have
donated a whole human being to it, watch him."
Q.9 Being part of Bantva Memon Dispensary, why
did you start a Separate Memon Voluntary Corps?
Q.10 When did you
start your own charitable set up?
A.9 As I was working with the Bantva Memon
Dispensary, I realized that the needy were not being helped and there was a lot of
discrimination against them. As I had a very little word power, I tried to
explain to the committee a simple principle: "Humanitarian work loses its
significance when you discriminate between the needy." My youthful ideas provoked an
angry outburst. At the next meeting I asked, "What is the need for this gathering?
"Work is accomplished by doing, not by talking about it." No body listened.
Later, the "seths" (big bosses) of the dispensary patronized a charitable
function, which I attended as one of their employees. They were all praising each
others efforts and work. I could not bear it, so I stood up and asked permission to
speak a few words. The crowd leered and hooted, "Who do you think you are?" Sit
down or we will throw you out. Later shoes, chairs and sticks were hurled at me. After
this, I quit working for the dispensary. My father supported me in this decision.
"The only way to fight back is to ignore them. The only way to win is to forge ahead
against them". My father made another suggestion," It is my experience that
honest people should avoid taking favors and entering into partnerships". I imprinted
this advice on my heart".
A.10 In 1951, I spent Rs. 2,300/- from my
savings, to buy an eight-foot square shop in Mithadar. Outside it, I put up a small tin
moneybox and called it, "The Memon Voluntary Corps". Ten Memon boys also joined
me. The dispensary catered to everyone. Medicines were purchased at wholesale rates and
sold cheaper than the retail price. As doctors fees were beyond the reach of the
poor, hired a physician on a fixed salary. This provided an option to the public. The news
spread far and wide and the people began turning away from the hoax of the first
Q.11 How did you learn to expand your charitable
A.11 To understand the world beyond Bantva and
Karachi, in 1956 I decided to travel to the West by bus. We drove through Iran, Turkey,
Greece, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, and I was surprised that I faced no problems on the way.
I was fascinated by the system there and saw how welfare needs were being met in England
and learnt to use them myself. I also noted sections that seemed important and were
implemented practically. My host friend from Bantva, Siddiq Edhi asked me to stay and
offered me a job in London. I refused on the pretext, "I have to do something for the
people in Pakistan. A volcano is stirring inside me." I explained to my friend,"
the five basic tenets of Islam continue into the sixth for me, "Huquq-ul-Ibaad or
Humanitarianism" I clarified my point: "Within this tenet lies the essence of
all religions and test of all mankind, a universal brotherhood is evident from it. All
religions move in the same direction and towards the same goal
. humanitarianism and
all Holy Books convey the same message.
Q.12 How did the dispensary grow?
A.12 Two years after setting up and establishing
the dispensary, I changed its name to Madinah Voluntary Corps. The shoddy state of women
in our society compelled me to open a maternity unit. I hired a room above my dispensary
and advertised a nursing course. Under the supervision of a lady doctor, I set up the
maternity unit, which was soon flooded with applications for training. We offered one
hundred and fifty rupees for a three month training course, following which the girls
would be obliged to spend three months training the new students. At the end of six
months, they were free to take up employment elsewhere ensuring us service and them
independence. Delivery cases turned up at all hours of day and night. To run the business
through the sale of medicines was not enough. So an idea crossed my mind placing
advertisements in newspapers exhorting the people to donate the skin of goats sacrificed
on the occasion of "Eid."
The advertisements generated a good response, as Zakaat, Sadakha and Khairat began to pour
in. Further, outside the dispensary I put up a banner like I had seen in England. They had
requested donations for restoration quoting an amount for specific work and giving an
account number. My banner said: "Those who give charity are blessed, those who do not
are also blessed".
I gave the dispensary account number. In the meantime, while I struggled to break the
communal monopoly on charity, my mother became very sick. During her illness, she was
confronted with the amazing problem of transport as the sick were provided nothing in
terms of mobility. The first time I had attempted to get an ambulance to take my mother to
a hospital, I was told that there was only one in the entire city of Karachi and this
belongs to the Red Cross and was not easily available.
Q.13 How was your charity work first recognized
A.13 In 1957, thousands of people fell ill and
hundreds died during the Hong Kong Flu epidemic. I decided to plunge into the crisis. It
was my first major financial risk, which I took against the warning of my colleagues. I
rented tents on credit and put up camps all over the city. In Malir alone, where there was
not much population, we set up thirteen camps. I recruited volunteers from the names I had
been listing over the last two years, stocked the camps with immunization injections and
medicines to combat and control the outbreak. Outside each tent, I placed a moneybox,
which read: "Pay what you can. Dont if you cannot. "Although all the camps
were free, people donated what ever they could. The people discovered me, it was the first
mass recognition of my work, and endorsement of my belief that dedication and public come
together. Soon after, we had our first financial breakthrough when a Memon businessman,
who had watched my work closely, donated Rs. 20,000/- to the dispensary. That same
evening, I purchased an old Hillman Van for Rs. 7,000/- and on both sides inscribed the
words "Poor Mans Van." This van was a major part of my education, as I
soon covered the length and breadth of the province.
Q.14 Why did you change the dispensary name to
A.14 As the work of my dispensary, maternity
Unit, the destitute from footpaths, mentally retarded from shrines and garbage dumps, the
aged who took shelters in concrete pipes were lodged first upon the roof at Mithadar,
later two halls were rented out. This didnt end here. A telephone was installed in
the dispensary, which further increased our workload. The seths (businessmen) and other
opponents group from the other dispensary started saying, "he is providing a little
to gain a lot. He feeds on the bread of the deprived" others started saying "
Who knows about his accounts? Who has checked his income and expense sheet? Where is the
money going?" My friends started saying " Why are you afraid if there is no
discrepancy?" What bothered me was something else. Who were they to demand accounts?
I would not give them anything. It was a cold winter night, the lights went off and a
thought flashed like a storm in the stillness. Lightning struck through my mind. The very
next morning I changed the name of the dispensary and had the van repainted with: EDHI. I
announced that as all money was remitted to me, to Edhi the man, not to a committee,
board, group or organization.
I was personally responsible. To further reinforce my statement I stated, "If a donor
is in doubt he will be refunded, more than that, I am not prepared to pacify him. If the
money is entrusted and declared to me, I have the right to decide its method of disposal.
Q.15 Who and how did you get married?
A.15 I wanted to get married at the time when my
mother was very sick. I felt that someone should assist me in my work for my mother. I
proposed to a nurse recently divorced with a son working in our maternity unit. My
proposal was turned down with lots of questions like "What do I have to give it to
her? How will I keep her? When I am not with my mother, I sleep outside on the bench"
and so on.
Two years later, I again proposed to a few more but they all trotted out various excuses.
It had been nine years since my first move on marriage. I had put the idea aside so
strongly, that nothing had stirred it again. Time had passed so swiftly, that I had not
even realized how old I was getting. Her name was Bilquis. Her aunt, whose baby had been
delivered at the unit the night I first saw her, had joined the midwifery course before
the 1965 war. She started working, I was on her lookout. I started taking fancy for her
thought that she will assist me in accomplishing my mission. So I inquired seriously about
her, when our lady doctor surprised me. "Edhi Sahib, she is the best worker who has
passed through my hands yet. Her work is always complete in the shortest time, and without
any fuss. Everybody wants her, the patients want her, the girls want her and I cannot do
without her." I finally proposed to her. It was approved by her aunt and mother and
we got married on Thursday, April 19, 1966.
Q.16 How many children do you have?
A.16 We have four children - two daughters and
two sons. The eldest daughter, Kubra, Kutub the eldest son, Ilmas, the second daughter,
and the youngest son, Faisal.
Q.17 What are all your children doing?
A.17 Kutub is looking after the activities we are
having outside Pakistan and is stationed in our New York office. Kubra is taking care of
our setup at Mithadar, basically all the financial matters, Ilmas is a housewife and
Faisal is now with me all the time and is working as Assistant President of the Edhi
Q.18 You just mentioned about Edhi Foundation. Is
it a registered foundation?
A.18 Yes, it is. I established a Trust and named
it Abdul Sattar Edhi Trust and Edhi Foundation and got them registered in 1974. The work
of Edhi Foundation has now extended beyond Pakistan and has spread out on an international
scale. Today branches of Abdul Sattar Edhi International Foundation are providing regular
services in New York, London and many more countries.
Q.19 What are your New York and other stations
A.19 It was noticed that people faced problem in
bathing, shrouding and burial of bodies of Muslims residing in America. Edhi International
Foundation, New York, has purchased a 4-acre plot in the suburbs of New York and named it
"Edhi Graveyard." The process of bathing and burial of Muslim bodies has started
with the New York center. Moreover, Edhi International Foundation is purchasing two
buildings, one in New York and the other in London, for establishing hostels. They will
provide facilities for temporary residence to patients from third world countries, going
there for treatment. Besides, both centers will have a team of doctors specialized in
various diseases, who will correspond with patients desirous of getting treatment, for
guiding them so that they could minimize the cost of treatment.
Q.20 Whats the current status of your
A.20 The name of the project is "Edhi 50
Kilometer Project." Under this project, it is proposed that 500 centers be
constructed on all highways and major link roads of Pakistan. These centers will provide
first aid to accident victims and arrange for their speedy transfer to nearby hospitals.
Work has started on this project and a few permanent and 125 temporary centers have
already started functioning. Each center will have three ambulances, a four-bed clinic, a
dispensary, and a mobile dispensary. All the centers will be linked to each other by
Q.21 What are your welfare centers main
A.21 The list will be too long but I will
highlight the major activities of all the Edhi Welfare Centers all over:
Free shrouding and burial rites of unclaimed bodies by all centers.
Shelter and medical aid to the homeless, mentally retarded, destitute and handicapped men,
women and children recovered from the streets.
Sheltering, educating and giving technical training to homeless boys and girls, who are
otherwise mentally fit.
Offering a permanent shelter to helpless girls and women. Educating them and giving
nursing and midwifery training and monthly allowances to those who are somewhat educated.
Offering shelter and security to girls and women, from various parts of Pakistan, who have
left their homes in anger. Also, convincing them to return home and helping them in
getting back to their relatives.
Restoring lost and runaway children, from various parts of Pakistan, to their heirs.
Taking care of newborn babies who have been abandoned in garbage dumps, on the streets or
in our "Jhoolas". Giving them medical care and finding foster parents for them.
Free Ambulance Service throughout Pakistan for injured and dead victims of any kind of
emergency, disaster, floods, riots, earthquakes, droughts and accidents on roads and
highways. Besides providing free blood, life saving drugs and other medicines, if needed
Edhi ambulances and helicopters also shift the injured to major towns free of cost.
Patients and dead bodies transported within city limits and to other towns and cities, at
a 200% financial loss, by a fleet of 400 ambulances, one helicopter and two used as air
Emergency relief to millions of affectees in case of any emergency, natural calamity,
drought, flood etc including provision of ration, cloths, medicines, blankets, duets and
other articles of daily use.
Free services of Edhi voluntary divers to recover the bodies of those drowned in rivers,
canals and the sea.
Standing surely for and getting released innocent, kinless, and mad prisoners, with the
help of voluntary lawyers, and providing them shelter.
Supplying hundreds of kilograms of meat daily to various government hospitals, patients of
T.B. sanatoriums and residents of poor localities.
Free treatment of thousands of patients daily through a network of Edhi dispensaries
established all over Pakistan.
Hundreds of blood and urine tests carried out daily at Edhi Free Laboratories for patients
of diabetes and other diseases.
Free treatment and medicines provided daily to patients at Edhi Diabetes Centers.
Medical assistance by doctors specializing in various diseases offered at "Edhi Free
Free treatment and medication for tuberculosis patients at Edhi Chest Hospital at
Hyderabad and Clinic at Sabzi Mandi in Karachi, Pakistan.
Hundreds of babies delivered every month at Edhi Maternity Homes.
Free vaccination services whereby expected mothers and newborn babies are inoculated
against various diseases.
Free inoculations carried out in case of outbreak of any contagious disease.
Thousands of wheelchairs, crutches, latrine chairs and pots, and white sticks of
international standard for blind, given every year to those who are penniless and
Oxygen cylinders, wheelchairs, suction machines, patients beds, crutches and latrine
chairs provided to needy patients, round the clock, for a very nominal deposit.
Distribution of cloths and sweetmeats to prisoners in all jails and remand homes of
Pakistan, regardless of their faith or religion, on all major occasions for celebration.
Constant supply of daily use items to refugee camps established in unoccupied Kashmir and
for refugees arriving from occupied Kashmir.
Shelter for homeless or abandoned animals at Edhi Village.
And much much more
Q.22 What is the daily expenditure on all Edhi
Welfare Services and from where do you get the amount?
A.22 For the performance of all the above welfare
services, Edhi Welfare Centers are incurring expenses of Rs. 500,000 (5 lacs) daily. All
these welfare activities are carried out solely on the basis of donations received from
the public, and without any aid from any government or international donor agency. Every
single paisa that is donated is spent on ameliorating the sufferings of the ailing
humanity and acts as welfare insurance for the citizens of Pakistan.
Q.23 What are the different Heads for payment and
donating at Edhi Centers?
A.23 There are different heads of accounts and
the expenditure is done accordingly. The details are as follows:
Free ambulance service is provided for
transporting unclaimed bodies and for victims of accidents, emergencies, riots etc.
Expenses for this are met from funds received as zakat, sadqat. If you want you can
deposit money under these heads at any Edhi Welfare Center.
Charges for transporting patients/dead bodies locally to their homes or hospitals are
fixed and are displayed on the walls of all Edhi welfare centers. After paying for the
ambulance charges please do not forget to take a receipt for the charges paid by you. In
case of non-issuance of a receipt, kindly inform us at once in writing.
The maximum distance for local service for transporting patients/dead bodies is 100-115
kilometers from any Edhi welfare center. Ambulance are not sent for distances exceeding
this limit, as providing services at too far a distance creates hindrances in the
performances of the other activities.
Edhi Welfare centers perform community welfare services. The organization does not give
any cash funds under any heads or any funds for helping in marriages, going abroad for
We request you to give your donations only at our centers. You should receive two official
receipts. Please remember to read the instructions on the receipts.
For the sake of security of your donations, for any donation exceeding Rs 2000/- please
donate in the form of cheque/bank draft/pay order in the name of Abdul Sattar Edhi
Foundation. Account # 640, Muslim Commercial Bank, Bombay Bazar Branch, Karachi or send
your donation directly to the head office. In cities where there are branches of Muslim
Commercial Bank, you can also directly deposit into foundations account in these
Edhi Welfare Centers need your constant financial cooperation. You can help us in serving
the ailing humanity by becoming a permanent donor and donating at least Rs. 20.00 per
month (SR. 15.80).
Q.24 As I heard that you personally beg for donations at any place. In Pakistan from which
province do you get the most donations?
A.24 My mission is to serve the humanity. For
that I do not feel ashamed in begging it myself for the humanity. I have been getting
donations from all the provinces of Pakistan. Further, people of Pakistan from all the
provinces abroad also give me donations. To tell you the truth the people from Punjab
Province are the one who give donations whole heartedly no matter where they are. I have
seen them in all parts of the world and whenever I ask for donation they are the first to
respond and give as much as they can. I thank all Pakistanis with whose help I am serving
humanity, which is the mission of my life.
Q.25 Do you have any message to the Pakistani
Community through ContactPakistan?
A.25 I want to convey a message to all Pakistani
Community members that " To all of you who have been richly blessed by ALLAH and for
the sake of humanity, I beseech you. Help me to help those who are less fortunate than
you. May ALMIGHTY ALLAH Bless you all."
Q.26 Please give the details of your address and accounts for our members?
A.26 The details of my address and the accounts
are as follows:
Address: Abdul Sattar Edhi
Abdul Sattar Edhi Foundation
Sarafa Bazar, Boulton Market
Account in Pak Currency: Account No: 365-1
MCB Chappal Bazar Branch
Account in Foreign Currency: Account No: 1126
(US $ or U.K. Pounds) MCB Head Office
I.I. Chundrigar Road
Q.27 Edhi Sahib, I have seen the list of National
and International awards you have received, dont you think that you should be
nominated for the Noble Prize?
A.27 Thanks for the appreciation. I do not
believe in all that, I have a mission and I am firm and strong on it and I have full faith
in ALMIGHTY ALLAH, the reward is what I hope to get it there and the award here does not
Edhi Sahib, it was a pleasure talking to you. We at ContactPakistan wish you all the best
and pray to ALMIGHTY ALLAH to give you health and strength to carry out your mission as
you have planned. We hope that Pakistani Community in Saudi Arabia and rest of the world
will do what they can to support your mission.