A NEW DIRECTION
MAYOR OF MILANS RECEPTION: BALZAN AWARDS 17th NOV 2000
My controversial initiatives to further the evolution of Muslim Women, have led me to speak about a direction that is in my opinion, the only possible way to achieving World Peace. But first, I will briefly introduce myself, for by knowing my journey it will be easier to understand why I am speaking of the issue I have raised.
My Feudal Lord and Blasphemy, are my first two books. Both are true stories about women married into the oppressive feudal system, waging a personal war against gender discrimination; one of those women is me.
If I believed that I was one woman fighting a family, a society, a tradition, as well as century’s old conditioning, very soon I found out that I was not one, but all women.
That experience is my qualification.
The experience of belonging to the oppressed class. To that part of society that cannot cry out, the one I could not leave behind when I walked away. The one I have since, had a deep desire to free. And as politics is the usual way to serve people, further to holding a politician accountable in My Feudal Lord, I demanded the Accountability of all public servants by observing a hunger strike that lasted for seven days in 1993.
The demand I made as a lone voice, became an uproar in 1999.
Today, in 2001 Accountability is a household word.
But in the process of raising awareness to Accountability, I realized that neither I nor anyone else, visible on the political scene understood the core issues of the people; suggesting solutions to their woes was therefore meaningless and unqualified. I also recognized the importance of preserving the two assets I had attained from my struggle, courage and the freedom of speech. Both, I concluded, would be diluted if I lent them to any existing political sector. That politics gave me no scope to serve the people became clear, and the need to understand the core problems of the people became the road that led me to Mr. Abdul Satar Edhi. A man perceived by most as a simple social worker. I recognized him as a role model for the world. With him, I stepped onto the other side of the divide, the side on which the people lived instead of the one on which the leadership basked. Practical involvement in Mr. Edhi’s work is natural to anyone in his presence. Bathing corpses and wrapping coffins, spending entire days at
collapsed building sites, in psychiatric centers and orphanages was very much a part of writing his narrated autobiography, ‘A Mirror To The Blind’.
Mr. Edhi’s book was therefore a fit outcome of my own search for the truth.
I delved deep, to find the motivations and inspirations that guided one of Islam’s finest examples. I searched and studied the personal philosophy of a man who had donated his life to its purpose. A man who had not taken a single day’s vacation in his entire lifetime. A man who spoke of a hundred years ahead, instead of the next two. A man, who conceptualized, created and sustained a welfare network that covered the length and breadth of a nation where every other institution was failing. A man who, without education, affluence and power, labored ceaselessly to one day convert a third world country into a welfare state; a model for underdeveloped countries to adopt at low cost and high profit.
Mr. Edhi’s interpretation of Islam as humanitarian instead of militant, is the fastest, simplest and perhaps only way presently available for promoting peace between the Muslims of the world and the peoples of the West. Above the rituals and the dogma, Mr. Edhi has practiced his faith by living it like an open book for fellow men to study. He offers in his way of life an old direction lived anew; a direction that will soften the hearts, and change the stance of the Muslim people towards their brothers and sisters in the West. In my opinion, Mr. Edhi, as Islam’s role model for the twenty-first century, is the most likely way to awaken the Muslim people to the other, kinder, face of Islam.
The one that lies dormant while militancy grows rapidly.
When the Muslim people understand Mr. Edhi’s life and message, instead of joining the militant quarter they will follow the humanitarian way. When the environment is congenial to charity the promotion of war will become a contradiction. In an environment that prioritizes human rights there will be less Muslim soldiers with guns and more with compassion and aid. But only IF the Muslim People HAVE that choice.
Nations, searching for ways to promote World Peace, must help the people of the Muslim World to recognize that choice. Muslims who wish to live in peace should have a choice between Jihad for humanitarianism as opposed to Jihad for hegemony; the humanitarian way instead of the militant way.
Those who want to serve in holy wars should have a choice between war for humanity and war for blood. Those who wish to contribute to the growth and prosperity of Islam should have a choice between narrow views of destruction and grand visions of universal peace.
Mr. Edhi presents that choice. The choice of a role model from among the people, not one that the majority cannot emulate. For the Muslim World is unfortunately, by and large, illiterate today and an example of commitment and perseverance from among the deprived majority, will make the achievement of great goals a possibility instead of an illusion. Just as commitment of purpose made up for the lack of a formal education in Mr. Edhi’s case, so it can be for them. Bilquis’s support to her husband’s vision, in Mr. Edhi’s own words is 70 % of his success. This gender balance is the direction that the Muslims of the twenty-first century will take if they follow in the direction of Mr Edhi. Administering the right medicine at the right time is in the hands of those who know the ailment. Building bridges is in the hands of those who know what to build.
An understanding of Mr. Edhi’s life and message cannot be over emphasized and must not be underplayed.
And I quote Mr. Edhi in his narrated biography, ‘A Mirror to the Blind’.
“Whereas the entire meaning of the Quran must easily be interpreted by the lives of Muslims, Islam’s followers abandoned its essence. I concluded that this is the actual starting point. But, how could I teach the people Islam? I was not a religious scholar, and yet, how could I promote humanitarianism unless the Muslim people understood the message of the Quran? The two were so integrated. Nor was the essence achievable by words and declarations, writings and proclamations, khutba’s, and debates.
The essence was in the example.
I would have to interpret the message with the way I lived my life. I would set a personal example of Islam’s practice and that, one-day, would become its simple interpretation. But, it was a journey traversing a life time.”
Before I end I’d like to say that capitalizing on Mr. Edhi’s life and message, is just as much your need as it is ours.
To conclude, I quote Victor Hugo, with belief, that, ‘There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come’.
Tehmina D urani
Tehmina introduces Mr. Abdul Sattar Edhi at Pakistan Power 100
“That I am as always humbled to be in a position to speak for Abdul Sattar Edhi sahib, is apparent by the fact that when I wrote ‘A Mirror To The Blind’, the official narrated autobiography of the Founder of Edhi Foundation, a document stamped with the Foundations seal for approval on every single page before it was published by the Edhi Foundation itself, I had the common privilege of placing my photograph above the writer’s introduction….But I did not have the audacity. The man was too great for such an imposition.
Introducing Edhi sahib is difficult. There is too much to say about him, I would like to stand here and read his entire book to you right now, but as that is not possible I will relate one instance that will encapsulate the relevance of Edhi Sahib to our world today.
As a young boy at the time of Pakistan’s independence from India, Edhi Sahib recognized that the direction of the people of Pakistan was fundamentally flawed because they ‘strongly’ followed a religion that they did not even have a basic understanding of….Edhi Sahib also knew that as he was neither a Muslim scholar, an Aalim, an Imam of a mosque or a Maulvi… let me clarify here that Edhi Sahib’s beard is in the spirit of the revolutionaries and not because he is a Maulana, in fact it irks him to be referred to by that title.
Edhi Sahib made a decision. The only way he could teach the Muslim people Islam was by a personal example. He decided to interpret the Holy Quran by the way he lived his life. That mission, however would have to traverse a lifetime….it now has. Edhi Sahib is now in his mid 90s. It is time for us to discover what exactly he has spent his lifetime teaching us. Let me clarify here that Edhi Sahib is not a social worker; he is a reformer….an agent of change. The reform that he represents is today most relevant to both, the Muslim people and the entire world. The change essential for the Muslim world today lies in the name EDHI. His example is the key to our growth, prosperity and future. The Muslim world has capitulated in only one direction…militant Islam. In the last decade Al Qaeda and its call to arms has become a household philosophy…why has nobody thought of countering it with humanitarian Islam represented by Edhi Foundation? And whereas Bin Laden has become a household name… why has Abdul Sattar Edhi’s name not driven us on an alternate route?
As the Muslim people have been presented with only one option, i.e. militant Jehad, we cannot blame them for not choosing a peaceful path. Therefore, let this occasion not just be an evening of entertainment, which becomes more interesting because we have a great man among us, let it instead become a decisive moment. It is time for us to carry Abdul Sattar Edhi’s message forward…his lifetime service for the downtrodden was intended to one day be a universal service for world peace. Although our government nominates him every single year for the Nobel Peace Prize, it is imperative that we make it
materialize. It is now our duty to use every influence we can muster to press for Edhi Sahib to be awarded for the exceptional and unique work rendered by the ONLY credible and authentic representative of our religion. We must do this for the Muslim world to have an option, for the world to recognize the true image of Islam, and to sow the seed for the future of world peace.
When the name EDHI resonates, the Muslim people will throw down their arms and turn towards humanitarian Islam… It is the only weapon with which violence can be fought within the doctrine of Islam. Let me end by informing you that Edhi Sahib has not taken a single holiday in his entire lifetime, nor has he slept a single night without being on emergency call in our service. He has never taken even a token financial assistance from any government in the world including our own in Pakistan. He has refused the aid of all donor agencies including The World Bank, USAID, UN, and The Vatican to name a few. He has always and only accepted funds from the people of Pakistan to create a Social Welfare Industry, in which the people are shareholders… not beggars for charity….Instead, Edhi Sahib himself has spent his lifetime begging for us. Edhi Sahib has established a network that runs the length and readth of Pakistan at every twenty-five kilometers. He has provided Pakistan with the largest ambulance service in the world…and in case you are not aware, when you call 115, anywhere in Pakistan, you are connected with the emergency service of Edhi Foundation… NOT the government of Pakistan. Therefore I will not ask an audience of Pakistanis to stand up and honor the most revered man born to our country…. we
are all, I am sure too indebted to him to remain seated when he stands up before us.