ATP Quiz: Yes, it is Abdul Sattar Edhi

Posted on January 23, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, ATP Quiz, Books, People
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Adil Najam

Suspense over. Yes, so many of you were right. Our mystery man IS Abdul Sattar Edhi.

I have really enjoyed this ATP Quiz thread (here and here). I had hoped that this method will get people more engaged than just writing a post on Edhi sahibs work. I also really wanted people to read and think about the passages that I had included from his autobiography – Edhi: A Mirror to the Blind. They are thought provoking passages and worthy of our attention. I was surprised by many things in the book, and it is obvious from the comments that so were you. A lot of you actually got the answer fairly early on but it was interesting to see how some of the facts were so surprising and so contrary to our popular perception of the man that it kept many others wondering. So, first of all, thank you for your participation and your patience.

For those who have not read the book, this should be an invitation to read it. It is compelling reading. I should say, however, that I find the book (written by Tehmina Durrani, who had earlier written My Feudal Lord) to be rather badly written. This is a pity. Because the material in the book is quite spell-binding. For those who have met or talked to Edhi sahib, the most wonderful portions of the book are the passages where you can actually see him talking. In your mind’s eye you can see him waving his hands, that twinkle in his eyes, that polite smile hiding a resoluteness and firmness that is now legendary amongst those who have worked with him. However, there are also long passages that read much more like ‘Tehmina Durrani’ than ‘Abdul Sattar Edhi’ (in terms of diction, style, and form). I do not mean to be harsh, but I do think that the book needed a better editor and Edhi sahib needed a better biography.

That said, for the content alone it is still a spell binding book and most highly recommended.

In addition to the passages alredy quoted in the two earlier posts (here and here) there are so many other things that I was surprised by. Here are some examples:

  • I did not realize how much he dislikes being called ‘Maulana.’ There are so many times in the book where he explains that he does not consider himself worthy of that title and how he stops his associates from using it, but they do anyhow.
  • He seems to have a rather nasty temper. But he knows it. And he knows that he is a tough task master on those he works with. He recounts incidences where he literally throws things in the room and at walls and shouts at people because they did not follow instructions or indulged in waste. But as he points out, he never asks others to do any more than he does himself.
  • The accounts of his romantic side. Including his falling for this Turkish girl on a train.
  • How his distractors have always been out to malign him. First the “memon seths” who did not like his style of self-help social work. Then the religious leaders who did not like his style of, what he calls, “ijtihaad” and “sufiism” and who tried to drive him out of the lucrative hide-collection business. Then the MQM folks. And more.
  • By far the most riveting part is where he recounts how some military people (intelligence agencies) – he seems to be saying Hamid Gul’s people – tried to use him as a front man for a counter coup and ultimately things got so bad that he had to leave the country and take temporary exile in London.

Personally, I find his interpretation of the meaning of religion to be both practical and deep in meaning. Here are some excerpts from the book:

[While performing Hajj] I refrained from symbolically throwing stones at Satan and gave my pebbles to a traveling 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 the stones in Pakistan where there are many Satans.” … [On sacrifice after Hajj] It is a sacrifice not of a goat, or a cow or a camel but of need, love, desire, habit, greed and a thousand other obstacles in the way of submitting to truth. It represented the death of ego, whereas Muslims merely slaughtered an animal. Bilquise [his wife] commented, “You are even stranger than I thought. Standing here before the house of God, you have an opportunity to be with Him, but you are still involved with your dispensary, as if you still stand in Mithadar. Why do you not pray all the time?” I told her, “I am praying.” More than ever before I was praying now. Working for Him with the labor of mind and body. By submitting to his demand of practical devotion, I was becoming worthy of having been created. [I asked Bilquise], “What do you think He feels about my form of prayer? Is it not the best way, if not the only way?”

There is so much more that I could, should, want to write from the book. But let me stop here so you can read the book yourself.

But this is not the end of my Edhi binge. Later today, I will have one more post on Edhi sahib and nominating him for the Nobel Award. The Edhi Foundation has set up a nomination page and is asking people to sign the petition. Please do so. A number of Paksitani bloggers have already joined in the call to do so (here, here and here) and I want to join them in this call.

However, I have another idea too for how we can, maybe, do something even more. And I will need all your help on that. So, please, stay tuned. Come back and join me in that. I really need your help there.

18 Comments on “ATP Quiz: Yes, it is Abdul Sattar Edhi”

  1. January 23rd, 2007 4:13 am

    We are all geared up for your idea, lay it on is ASAP…..

  2. January 23rd, 2007 4:28 am

    Teeth Maestro. Just a little longer; I should have it written by afternoon my time.

  3. January 23rd, 2007 4:29 am

    By the way, for those who wondered about his year of birth and calculated back from how old he was during Ayub’s Basic Democracy elections, the issue there is that like many in his generation, he does not really know (or care) exactly when he was born. But he hasa sense that it was somewhere around then. So, any date you see on teh web is approximate, as is his estimate of how old he was then.

  4. G.A. says:
    January 23rd, 2007 7:35 am

    Thanks for this post. I just knew of him as a philanthropist and was completely ignorant of most of the information presented it your posts. I will definitely read this book.

  5. Naveed says:
    January 23rd, 2007 9:31 am

    Adil, I was in tears on the first few pages itself; this is where Sattar Edhi tells us about a huge personal loss but he decides to have his family attend to it whereas he leaves Karachi for interior Sindh where there had been a major train accident. I absolutely agree that the biographer and the editor have not done justice to Sattar Edhi or the subject. But it is a important book which is also hugely subsidized in Pakistan at under Rs. 100. And I cannot agree more with the title of the book. Indeed we are all blind and oblivious of the suffering around us and Edhi sb is most worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize

  6. Baber says:
    January 23rd, 2007 9:42 am

    He was awarded a honory doctrate degree so we as might call him Dr. Abdul Sattar Edhi.
    http://www.dawn.com/2006/11/12/local1.htm

  7. Akif Nizam says:
    January 23rd, 2007 10:59 am

    I’m in shock! Now I HAVE to get the book.

  8. Samdani says:
    January 23rd, 2007 11:43 am

    Interesting indeed. Must say, I am now even more impressed by him than I already was. This man is deep and profound and plus he really brings about real change.

  9. January 23rd, 2007 11:46 am

    [...] Headers « ATP Quiz: Yes, it is Abdul Sattar Edhi [...]

  10. Asad says:
    January 23rd, 2007 2:48 pm

    Yes, as Dr. Awab said, do tell us your ideas on how we can spread news about this. The nomination deadline set by the Nobel prize committee is 1st of February.

    Do tell if there is any other way to spread the word. I have already posted it in my sig on several forums and people have nominated him from there.

  11. Asad says:
    January 23rd, 2007 3:15 pm
  12. Pakpics says:
    January 24th, 2007 8:36 am

    He is a very nice personality of Pakistan. May Allah bless him

  13. Muhammad Ilyas says:
    January 26th, 2007 2:35 am

    I have no words to describe the personality of this great person. As a nation we should proud, that we have such a nice person among us.

  14. mahi says:
    February 5th, 2007 1:44 pm

    Hi. Thanks for quoting the passage about his Hajj pilgrimage. Reading that gave me goosebumps. That to me is true spirituality. Its amazing how much it resonates with my own outlook, albiet shaped within the Hindu context.

  15. Daktar says:
    May 17th, 2007 10:32 pm

    If you read the book – which is really good – the parts about MQM intimidation are very pertinent to what is happening today

  16. basit says:
    August 27th, 2007 8:05 am

    dis peson has a very cool personality….nd i love da profession of dis guy…

  17. July 31st, 2008 7:12 pm

    if any body in the world have done this much effort, they have designated him a nobel price. He deserve that ..We love you

  18. Altaf says:
    July 31st, 2008 7:41 pm

    He’s bigger than Nobel Prize. If they don’t give him Nobel Prize the prize giving authority’s judgment mechanism is questionnable. He’s got all the features found common in all the Nobels, i.e larger than life level of achievement (the guy holds more than one Guiness records for crying out loud), history making, reshaping/redefining the discipline of his work, etc. What else do you want? O yes, perhaps Gori chamrri or not belonging to the blacklisted religion perhaps would’ve given him a Nobel longbtime ago. Well let’s see, there is a limit to discrimination…other religious fundamentalists (not belonging to the blacklisted religion) have also gotten Nobel on their work similar to that of edhi. So should he.

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