Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ramadan Challenge Day 26 - Bilquis Bano Edhi

65 years ago, Pakistan was created on the 27th of Ramadan, the Gregorian calendar date being 14th August 1947. Today too, 14th August has fallen on the 27th of Ramadan (well at least in many parts of the world). I wanted to include a woman from Pakistan in this series but seeing feedback from a previous post, wanted to make sure that the reader understands why I would include someone who might not have contributed to "Islamic studies" in the traditional sense of the word, but could be included in the list of one of the most exceptional Muslim women in terms of their contribution to society. Hence, I choose to write about someone not give as much recognition as she deserves - Bilquis Edhi!

In the Qur'an, Allahs states:
 “Verily those who give sadaqah, men and women, and lend Allah a goodly loan, it shall be increased manifold, and theirs shall be an honourable good reward (Paradise)” [57:18].

Bilquis Edhi manages "jhoola" service of the Foundation
Bilquis Bano Edhi, wife of Abdul Sattar Edhi, is one of the leading if not the most active philanthropists of Pakistan. Interestingly enough, she too was born on 14th August 1947, the very day Pakistan was celebrating its independence. From very humble beginnings, themselves, Bilquis and her husband have managed to successfully run the largest charity in Pakistan. Her support for her husband has been phenomenal and very few women would stand next to their husbands to serve the poor and the needy with such a positive attitude and such gratitude. She truly is an example of a person who would certainly be close to Allah.
Largest ambulance service
 The Edhi foundation includes hospital, emergency service in Karachi, an adoption service, soup kitchen, shelter for women and children, old age home, rehabs and mental asylums etc. Edhi Foundation runs the world’s largest radio-linked ambulance service all over the country Pakistan with over eighteen hundred ambulances, twenty eight rescue boats and two airplanes. Additionally, they also run twenty-four hour medical dispensaries, a missing persons hot line and own the largest morgue in Pakistan. Their charity has also responded to international calamities around the world including donating to victims of Hurricane Katrina, cyclone relief in Bangladesh, aid to tsunami-impacted regions in 2003 and ambulance services in Afghanistan.

A cardinal support to her husband, Abdul Sattar Edhi:
Bilquis Edhi has been providing cardinal support to her husband ever since she married him 1952, running every aspect of his charity together with him and their children. In fact, Edhi proposed for her hand in marriage seeing her passion for charity and health-care.

Bilquis Edhi vividly remembers her first major experience at Edhi Foundation, when during the war; the bombings resulted in a number of brutally mutilated bodies which she had to wash for burial. At times only an arm, leg or head was recovered. She, along with about 60-70 workers including voluntary workers, collected and then washed these bodies.

"Jhoolas", girls and women:
A professionally trained health-service nurse, Bilquis Edhi took over her husband's charity project of "jhoolas" in 1952. Literally translated into swings, these are swing bassinets placed outside each Edhi centre with the message in both English and Urdu saying "Do not kill, leave the baby in the cradle."

For varying extremely unfortunate reasons, poverty and lack of education topping them, people leave behind their disabled or unwanted children in rubbish heaps and isolated places. Edhi transformed that vision by introducing these swings where thousands of babies have been saved. Due to lack of Islamic awareness, I would say, it is really sad to note that over 90% of the babies left in the cradle are female. These children are nourished and looked after until they are taken up for adoption or grown up and choose to get married. 

It can definitely be said that this alternative introduced by the Edhi foundation has reduced the number of babies left to die and the cradle concept is now a much-accepted and widely acknowledged alternative all over Pakistan.

No discrimnation:
When Abdul Sattar Edhi started his first free dispensary for the poor with the money he collected from begging and sitting on street corners or asking people himself, he hired Christian and Hindu nurses here to begin with. In fact his wife was the first Muslim nurse he hired and impressed by her enthusiasm then asked to marry her.

In their women and children centres too, or shelters for abandoned adults, Bilquis Edhi and her husband never refuse any one in. In acountry which has lost its respect for women, leave mothers of children for mistakes they make and kick them out of the house, patriarchy, not even providing for their children. If someone asks to leave, they do not refuse that either as this they consider is a right to decision and freedom to live of any adult independent person.

Humble in face of fame:
Abdul Sattar Edhi has dedicated his life for the needy
Bilquis and her husband have received numerous local and international awards and honors. In a recent show on Geo TV, when the host was telling the audience how small her room was, she kept repeating with a content smile on her face "it is very big, very comfortable, I love my room." Edhi has never owned more than two pairs of clothes, and despite being one of the largest income generating charities in Pakistan, him and his wife Bilquis Edhi have never taken salary from their charity. They live in a small rented two-bedroom apartment which is part of the building of their orphanage. Bilquis Edhi shared how Abdul Sattar Edhi himself has never driven any other car besides an ambulance in his life.

But as for you, O believers,] never shall you attain to true piety unless you spend on others out of what you cherish yourselves; and whatever you spend – verily, God has full knowledge thereof.
(Surah Al-e-Imran, ayah 92)


  1. It is so touching to learn about such amazing people who have dedicated their lives to save and help others. May Allah (swt) bless them in this life and grant them Jannah-e-Firdous in the hereafter.

  2. The Edhis are inspirations for their service to humanity and their dedication to their cause and the simple lifestyle they lead are examples to be taught to our kids.

  3. What an amazing family. May Allah reward them bountifully. Ameen.