When a mother has a son like you

Published: June 22, 2013

He begs even while fasting so that his children don't go hungry. PHOTO: REUTERS

He was 37; she was 18. They had known each other for just one year. She was a nurse in the dispensary run by him. Today, they are getting married in a simple ceremony. Rejected by seven girls a decade earlier, he had given up on the idea of marriage. But couples are made in heaven and this young nurse was the perfect bride for him.

A fateful wedding night:

After the function was over, they were heading home. I was somehow able to go along, invisible. They were near their dispensary just to check if anyone was waiting for medical help.

“Stop!” his wife screamed as she saw a human body lying on the roadside.

We went closer and saw that it was a 12-year-old girl, badly beaten and bruised, in urgent need of medical attention. I didn’t understand why a petty matter like this should dampen the mood.

Without any instruments, and even a first-aid box, what could this nurse have done? It was their wedding night anyway. They didn’t owe this girl anything. They could have left her there and headed home. At least that is what anyone else would do, especially on their wedding night.

But these two were not like others. They took the girl to a hospital, where they spent their wedding night sitting beside the poor girl who they didn’t even know. She was a human – a living being – and that was enough for them. After all, they were running the dispensary for the last few years only to serve the poor people without any motive for profit. I still remember vividly the scenes of that fateful night.

I wept tears of happiness to know that someone somewhere had a heart of pure gold.

Fast forward a few decades:

I was standing in one of the busiest markets in Peshawar – Saddar Bazaar. The sweltering August heat was getting to me, like it was to everyone. The roads were deserted and even the people who ordinarily swarmed the market in their air-conditioned cars were nowhere in sight.

I was lost in another scene. An old man was sitting right in the middle of the bazaar. He was 82-years-old to be precise. It seemed as though he was enjoying the sizzling heat. His old clothes were drenched in sweat, but he was in no hurry to leave. There was a certain satisfaction in his eyes – the kind you don’t see often. Curious, I went to him and stood by his side, only to discover something that shocked me.

He was begging.

What can be more heartbreaking for a mother than to see her son, weakened by old age, begging under the scorching sun? And that too in the month of Ramadan, fasting?

I scolded him and told him that he had done enough and now he needed rest. He replied,

“Mother, if I do not do this, your other children will die of starvation. They are hungry and waiting for me to buy them some food. They did not have anything for their sehri and have been fasting all day today; they will not have anything to break their fast with at iftar time. O’ mother, do you wish them to die? Dear mother, the children are asking for new clothes and toys for Eid. How can I rest? When they hold me with their little hands and ask expectantly what they will wear this Eid, what am I to tell them? I cannot see tears in their little eyes. O’ mother, allow me to do my work. I cannot rest and I will not rest until all your children are fed and sheltered. I will not give up till my last breath has left my body.”

I wept, and with me wept the heavens.

This was not the first time that I had seen him begging. He had done it in Karachi, in Lahore and in Quetta. In fact, he started begging all the way in England 60 years ago but he was unabashed.

I told him numerous times that at least he should buy some new clothes and perhaps a new home from his hard earned money, which he had every right to spend. However, every time, he would say something it would leave me teary-eyed so eventually I stopped making my pleas and allowed him to live for the desolate.

A special Friday:

Like every other Friday, I waited for him in vain. He never comes home on Fridays, I knew that. This particular day, I saw him with some special children. They were abandoned by their own mothers. Some of them were born out of wedlock, some were physically or mentally challenged, and the rest were simply unwanted because their parents already had too many mouths at home to feed.

My son bathed them. Then he ate with them and took them all to the mosque with him for Jumma prayers.

He has been doing this for years now.

My son now:

He still lives in a two-room dingy apartment with his wife and children. He has two pairs of clothes which he wears on alternate days.

His family is living on the income that comes from the securities and government bonds that were bought by him years ago.

About two decades ago, somebody told me that he holds the record for working the most consecutive days without any rest. I smiled because I know that this is the absolute truth.

His is not a regular, white collar 9-to-5 job kind of guy. His day starts at Fajr, well before dawn, and it ends around midnight. At night he sleeps on a mat on the floor.

Now two more decades have passed, and he still holds the record – 59 years and counting! For you, it is merely another record, but for a mother, it is awfully painful. I wept every moment of those 59 years, thinking about my poor son. He did not even find the time to attend his daughter’s wedding as he was busy elsewhere attending to the needy. And when he, along with his wife Bilquis, went for Hajj, it was in an ambulance full of medical supplies.

I wish I had just a few more children like him. I’d have been a prouder mother and my condition would have been much better. But alas! I don’t know for how long I will weep with my one son, whose shoulders are burdened beyond belief; a son who doesn’t want to stop. He is very sick nowadays and is bound to the hospital bed. He has fainted countless times for working more than he physically should. He does not listen to me, but he makes me very proud nonetheless.

Pray for my son, will you? I cannot afford to lose him because there can never be another like him…

I am his mother, Pakistan. He is my son, Abdul Sattar Edhi.

Follow Israr on Twitter @afficer

Muhammad Israr

Muhammad Israr

Having a PhD from the University of the Punjab, he is currently working on areas of human genetics and forensic DNA identification. He blogs at www.afficer.blogspot.com

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Rizwan Raja

    wow superb! and get better son Mr. Abdul Sattar Edhi. Edhi sab you are really a living hero of pak, God Bless you Edhi saab…Recommend

  • Zara

    Abdul Sattar Edhi is a brilliant man. After all he has done for our nation the least each one of us can do is say a small prayer for him.
    Insha’Allah he will be back on his feet soon.
    I am sure he is more worried about the people of Pakistan than he is about himself.
    The best example of what Pakistan stands for.
    I salute you, sir.
    Pakistan’s prayers are with you.Recommend

  • http://rafayali.wordpress.com Rafay Bin Ali

    A strong sense of emotion and pride took over when I read this. My vocabulary falls short when it comes to describing the greatness of Mr. Edhi. May he be blessed with a quick recovery. We and the future generations have a lot to learn from him.Recommend

  • Meera Ghani

    They why dont we learn from him and try to be more like him, rather than just praising him….why dont we join him??Recommend

  • musleh uddin

    Bro Israr i am fully agree with u….y we bring the definition of a good human being to religion…Humanity is above the religion because u cannot apply religion on the animals..So before to be a good muslim we should try to become a good huaman being 1st….I think legends like Edhi sb need our practical attention.Recommend

  • http://www.pakistani-revival.blogspot.com Ovais

    amazing article … a real patriot .. Thank you Edhi .Recommend

  • http://www.thegadgetcode.com Hameedul Haq

    One of the most well written blogs I have ever read….Recommend

  • NFI

    Beautifully written!Recommend

  • Rana Amjad

    Salute Edhi Sahib!Recommend

  • Sana

    This is really very beautiful. May sir Edhi live a long lifeRecommend

  • Truthful Mole

    Wonderful sentiment, but I would suggest a light edit. Could you remove the word begging and replace it with something on the lines of ‘asking for alms for the poor.’ Edhi sahib, an angel in our midst, deserves better vocabulary from Pakistan’s young writers.Recommend

  • http://www.sarimirfan.wordpress.com Sarim

    This is very well scripted and pleasantly surprising.Recommend

  • Shabir Afzal

    Real gem of Pakistan. Humanity is proud of you. No body can return for your efforts in this world but indeed Allah will.Recommend

  • zoya

    Heads-off to the writer! So beautifully written!!!!!! Got me Teary!Recommend

  • Another Pakistani

    What a brilliant piece! May ALLAH bless Edhi sahab with health and speedy recovery. AmeenRecommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Rizwan Raja:

    Thank you. May Allah bless Edhi sahib with long and healthy life.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Meera Ghani:

    Agree with you. We should contribute our own share of good deeds for the society.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @musleh uddin:

    Thanks dear. Yes first we have to be passionate before everything else.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Another Pakistani:

    Thank you. May Allah bless him. Ameen.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @zoya:

    Thank you. Actually Edhi is such a personality that one cannot control one’s tears when reading him.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Shabir Afzal:

    Ameen.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Sarim:

    Thank you.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Truthful Mole:

    Thank you very much. I agree with you. Someone else also said the same. But Edhi sahib himself used the term “bheek” or “bheek muhem” for this event. And I think he does not do it for himself so. I think if in Pakistan, anybody can generate same amount of respect and emotions across the political, ethnic and religious divide, it is Edhi. Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Sana:
    Thank you.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Rana Amjad:

    Yes :)Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @NFI:

    Thank you very much.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Hameedul Haq:

    Thank you very much. But it is the personality of Edhi sahib that such things can be written about him.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Ovais:

    Thank you.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Rafay Bin Ali:

    Thank you.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Zara:

    Thank you. May ALLAH give Edhi sahib a long and healthy life :)Recommend

  • kanwal

    GOD bless you sir. You and peopke like you have kept this country alive.Recommend

  • Nimra

    The best one from all the blogs I have read so far, just beautiful! What a personality Abdul Sattar Edhi has, flooded by humanity and determination! May Allah give him long and healthy life, AmeenRecommend

  • ME

    We are Proud of you sir, May Allah give you Health, we need you, our nation needs you.Recommend

  • Madiha

    Very well expressed. Recommend

  • Lubna1

    Very touching and inspiational piece of writing. Beautifully written blog!Recommend

  • anony

    @musleh uddin:

    You are very misinformed about Islam. What do you mean by religion doesn’t cover the animals? Do you not know our Prophet(S) told us about a woman who did many prayers and ibadat for Allah but went to Hell in the end because she didn’t take care of her cat? And the prostitue who did practically no worship of God all their life but went to Paradise for giving water to a thirsty dog?

    “All creatures are Allah’s family; and Allah loves most those who treat his family well and kindly.” (Bayhaqi)

    “All creatures” includes even more than the animals, it includes all living beings, whether you even know about their existence or not. I find it so so tragic that we talk about things like “humanity is above religion”, when we have a religion that teaches us so specifically, with full detail, HOW to take care of humanity, and beyond humanity.

    And by the way, pretty much every religion espouses human kindness. I love Edhi, I have always been inspired from him since my childhood, but I am thoroughly against this misguided and deceptive phrase that people are using for him “Humanity is above religion”. Not everyone is Edhi. We need religion. Without it, who’s going to teach us how to love? Certainly not our schools that only teach us how to get ahead in this system. Stop using Edhi’s humanitarianism as an excuse to bash religion. Religion was never our problem – our problem is our own ego.Recommend

  • anony

    @Muhammad Israr:

    What if Islam says that we have to love before anything else?

    “You shall not enter Paradise so long as you do not have faith; and you will not have faith as long as you do not love each other.” (Sahih Muslim)

    It’s clear that the prerequisite to being a good Muslim and going to Paradise is having LOVE and kindness for each other. Then why are we spreading misguided lies about religion and humanity? You can never be a complete Muslim without a being a completely good human being. How can we say “humanity is above religion”, when religion is the one that teaches us humanity, and even more than humanity, but love to ALL living beings?

    “All creatures are Allah’s family; and Allah loves most those who treat his family well and kindly.” (Bayhaqi)

    I have always been inspired by Edhi since I was a child. But my heart cries tears of blood when I see people placing him above religion. Not because I have some ego attached to religion. But because without it, we are LOST. Edhi is an exceptional person, but for ordinary people like us, what else besides religion can teach us how to love? All the Prophets of God (peace be upon them all) were all wonderful human beings, far above Edhi – they were our role models chosen for us by God Himself – the very Creator of love – and they were the teachers of religion.

    Please don’t do humanity such a heinous disservice as to place religion below it. It is only in religious sermons that humanity is taught. Secular schools teach little more than how to make money and get ahead for your own greedy self.

    Learn about Islam before you talk about it. I am sure you’re an honest and sincere person, and had you known the above (and many MANY MORE) injunctions of love and humanity in Islam, you wouldn’t have made such a dangerous and false statement. And by the way – don’t Pakistan is barely an Islamic country. It’s just a country full of Muslims who haven’t a clue about their religion.Recommend

  • Sab33N

    Very beautifully written. We cannot afford to loose our angel at a time like this. May Allah grant him health and many more years of life with health.Recommend

  • TM

    Master Piece. Once i read the Name ‘Abdul Sattar Edhi”, my eyes were in tears.
    May ALLAH bless him!Recommend

  • Fraz

    Superb write up.Long Live Abdul Sattar Edhi.Recommend

  • Syed Masood

    Brilliant!! Looking forward for upcoming blogsRecommend

  • ibn arastoo

    Pakistan needs to elect Abdus Sattar Edhi to the highest post in the country (president or PM). If he refuses we have to force him by order of some supreme court judge.

    People have been forced to lead a country before (the best people usually have been forced: Numa Pompilious the founder of modern Rome was forced to become Rome’s leader, Timoleon was forced to free and then administer Sicily, George Washington was forced to become President, and if I am not mistaken Hazrath Ali RA and Hazrath Usman RA were both forced to become Khulafa Rashideen). Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Kanwal
    agreed.

    @Nimra
    Thank you very much for liking it so much. But I think it is only because the personality of Abdul Sattar Edhi that I could write such things.

    @ME
    Ameen.

    @Madiha
    Thank you

    @Lubna1
    Thank you very much for liking it.

    @anony
    Well, we were not debating religions. The context was that there are many charities and trusts which only help people of their own religion or sect while Edhi does not ask about what religion one follows, it only help people in distress no matter which religion they practice.

    @Sab33N
    Thanks. Absolutely right. He is an inspiration for many many more Pakistanis and a hope in the hard times.

    @TM
    Thank you. That is Edhi, one cannot stop tears.

    @Fraz
    Thank you. Ameen

    @Syed Masood
    Thank you. I try.

    @ibn arastoo
    That is one point of view. But I think once you are in politics, you should be ready to lose some respect and ready for criticism. And we do not want Edhi to lose one bit of respect which he earned after years of services to this nation. May God bless him. Ameen.Recommend

  • MUSLEH UD DIN

    @anony:
    jnb u misunderrstood…..By saying that u cant apply religion on the animals i mean that u cant say any animal as Hindu , Muslim, Christian or Jew….So religion cant be apply on animals, bt it is the religious teachings which cover the animals rights ie how to behave or treat animals….So religion is directly applied only on human beings…..cuz huaman beings are answerable for their deed or actions in this world….So the most common link between all human beings is that they all are human not animals….. Recommend

  • anony

    @Musleh ud din, I see. I apologize for misunderstanding you. However, it is still important to correctly understand what it means to be Muslim. You may not have intended it to sound that way, but the phrase “before being a good muslim we should try to be good humans first” sounds misguiding because it seems to imply that being a good human and being a good muslim are two different things, when in fact as Muslims our duty is to be good Muslims, period. That already includes being good human beings, the best we can be. My intention is not to mess with the article on Edhi and mix things up out of context and start a new topic. But in the context of the benefit for humanity and Pakistan I just think that we cannot afford to misunderstand Islam at any cost, for our own good.

    May Allah cure our beloved Edhi sahib with the best shifa! May He accept all of his kindnesses and give us more current day role models like Edhi and more people who follow in their footsteps and grant our country success through their works.Recommend

  • http://www.umamahbasit.wordpress.com Umamah Basit

    Very heartwarming. There is no doubt that Mr. Edhi has done a lot for our people and our country. May Allah swt give him health and strength. AmeenRecommend

  • adian

    really great piece on a gigantic personality ,,,,,, its really sad as he even donated all his parts of his body bt today his kidneys failed to support him anymore,,,, I cant imagine his mother without him ;(Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Umamah Basit

    Agreed. May Allah give him long and healthy life. Ameen

    @adian
    thank you very much for reading and liking.. yes Edhi is undoubtedly a son that every mother will miss… may Allah bless him with long healthy life..Ameen.Recommend

  • Fizza

    Beautiful piece.Recommend

  • http://www.afficer.blogspot.com Muhammad Israr

    @Fizza:
    thank youRecommend

  • Sundas

    Mr Edhi is priceless…and so is this piece… I am out of words. Thank God someone was thoughtful enough to do a piece on him. We, as a nation don’t idealize our own heroes, shamefully. This piece is a reminder of what a great people Mr Edhi and his wife are. May they be blessed in both worlds. Recommend

  • SomeOne

    beautifully written, it really brought tears in my eyes!
    Long live Eidhi Long live Pakistan!Recommend

  • Hareem

    Sir Edhi is a godfather to me. Touching article :)Recommend