6 life-changing lessons from the life of Abdul Sattar Edhi

Written by Maryam Dodhy ·  3 min read >
Abdul Sattar Edhi

One of the greatest humanitarians of the world, Abdul Sattar Edhi, passed away yesterday night. The void he left might never be filled, but his legacy will live forever, in the hearts of his loved ones, in the actions of his followers and in the good deeds of those who want to serve humanity.

Edhi Foundation founded and bootstrapped by Abdul Sattar Edhi was started with a mere sum of only 5 thousand rupees. But with the leadership, focus and a passion for serving the humanity, Edhi made it as one of the most successful charitable foundations in the world.

Although, Edhi’s whole life is a case-study that we should all learn from and apply in our lives. Here are some life-changing lessons from a remarkable man’s extraordinary life that will be helpful for entrepreneurs, leaders of tomorrow, or anyone who just strives to live a better life.

1. Never judge others

Abdul Sattar Edhi was one of the least judgmental people. It was one of his most defining traits that allowed him to serve everyone equally regardless of where they came from. If we judge someone based on how they look or what they may have done, we unconsciously wire our brain to not look beyond that. Every encounter we have with that person will be measured against that judgment we first formed. This means that based on your first impression of someone, which is often deceptive, you will probably never get to discover the best part of their personality.

Edhi was often regarded as the most tolerant – which came from his unflinching ability to accept people as they are.

2. Humanity above religion

When asked, ‘Why must you pick up Christians and Hindus in your ambulance?’, his reply was, ‘Because the ambulance is more Muslim than you.’

All religions of this world emphasize on empathy, care, peace, coexistence and love. It is easy getting carried away by the religious beliefs of someone and turn your back on them. But, what is difficult and truly exemplary is, irrespective of these differences, being able to help fellow humans.

Abdul Sattar Edhi was just that – a human who believed in love and empathy irrespective of religion, cast, creed and gender. His strong emphasis on humanity above religion helped him grow his organization beyond the borders.

3. Accolades don’t matter

You cannot be a true humanitarian unless you have closely seen misery, hardship, and suffering. Abdul Sattar Edhi had witnessed all these things and more, which is why he is perhaps the greatest humanitarian who ever lived. He had no interest in worldly prizes and accolades. To him, caring for people came naturally and he was more than happy to do it.

Despite the numerous accolades he was awarded during his lifetime, he was never presented the Nobel Peace Prize. A few years ago, Malala Yousafzai’s father started an online petition for awarding Edhi with a Nobel Peace Prize. The petition garnered a large number of signatures from our country’s big names as well. However, Edhi, the down-to-earth person that he was, expressed no interest in it.

Awards and prizes bring you momentary fame but what lives on forever is the legacy you create with your work. No one embodies it better than Abdul Sattar Edhi.

See also: 7 lessons entrepreneurs can learn from Muhammad Ali

4. Head down, focus on your work

When running an organization it is easy getting carried away with good things that come bundled. Especially money and fame – Edhi wasn’t interested in any of these.

The organization, Edhi Foundation, had a very humble beginning. Edhi personally requested people on streets to give him charity for buying an ambulance. Edhi Foundation’s trust started with an investment of just 5,000 rupees. It was Edhi’s sheer focus and passion for the cause that once the organization started there was no looking back. With focus, Edhi and his volunteers continued to work for the welfare of human-kind and ignoring the ‘petty things’ which might appear to be shiny but add no real benefit to the organization.

Today, Edhi Foundation runs the world’s largest ambulance service that offers 24 hours of emergency services. The foundation also has shelter homes, hospitals with free medical care, drug rehabilitation centers. All of this would not have been possible without focus.

5. Don’t wait for others to change the world

Be the change you want to see in the world.

In 1951, a 23-year-old Abdul Sattar Edhi started the Edhi Foundation with an aim to become a caregiver for the poor and the helpless. In the years that followed, he single-handedly transformed the face of welfare in Pakistan. The start was rough but eventually money started pouring in, people began giving generous donations and gradually Edhi’s vision came to life. The orphaned children, abandoned women, helpless old-age persons, homeless all found a guardian.

Had Edhi not taken the plunge to start, we may not have had Edhi Foundation today.

So, if something about the way the world runs bothers you, don’t sit around waiting for someone to change it. Because others don’t see the world as you do. Be brave enough to see your vision through to the end.

6. Just do it, don’t be afraid

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.

It is natural to have second thoughts and doubts on your abilities — everybody does. If you’re waiting for the right moment, stop waiting because it may never the come. The right moment is now. There will be times when everything seems against you but learn how to brave the storm.

All you need is determination and passion to see you through. This is exactly what Abdul Sattar Edhi did. Take the leap for what you believe in!

Written by Maryam Dodhy
I love bringing to light stories of extraordinary people working in Pakistan's tech and startup industry. You can reach out to me through Profile