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The Pak Banker - - EDITORIAL -

y dis­tribut­ing in a hu­mil­i­at­ing man­ner the money col­lected as sadaqa and alms the coun­try's rulers and maulvi haz­arat are pro­duc­ing a na­tion of beg­gars while I have re­solved to change the ex­ist­ing sys­tem." - Ab­dul Sat­tar Edhi

WITHIN less than a fort­night of his pass­ing away the mission of Ab­dul Sat­tar Edhi, the uni­ver­sally ac­claimed friend of hu­man be­ings in dis­tress, is un­der threat from both foes and friends. After Edhi's death, the or­tho­doxy lost lit­tle time in un­sheath­ing their dag­gers. One re­li­gious leader re­port­edly de­clined to lead his funeral prayers on the grounds that he had fallen out of the Mus­lim fold. Another scholar heaped anath­ema on Edhi for putting cra­dles at all his cen­tres to re­ceive un­wanted in­fants. Fi­nally, a lead­ing au­thor­ity has de­nounced Edhi's de­ci­sion to do­nate his corneas as a vi­o­la­tion of Is­lamic in­junc­tions on the grounds that any ef­fort to re­store the eye­sight of a per­son who is blind un­der Al­lah's will amounted to in­ter­fer­ence in His or­der. The first two ob­jec­tions can eas­ily be dis­posed of. Al­though Edhi had prob­lems with pro­fes­sional cler­ics, there is no ev­i­dence of his hav­ing aban­doned his faith. The ulema need to think twice be­fore ar­ro­gat­ing to them­selves the Divine priv­i­lege to de­cide as to who is a gen­uine believer and who is not. The ob­jec­tion to the cra­dle scheme, an im­por­tant mea­sure of so­cial re­form started by Edhi, is dif­fi­cult to fol­low. The ulema op­pose abor­tion on the grounds that it amounts to ex­tin­guish­ing a life be­fore it is born, and they call for vir­tu­ally killing a child after it is born in some pe­cu­liar cir­cum­stances, and this for no fault of the child! Be­sides, the cra­dle scheme has helped poor par­ents to give away ba­bies they can­not nour­ish for want of eco­nomic means, es­pe­cially if the chil­dren suf­fer from dis­ease or de­for­mity that de­mands med­i­cal aid which is ex­pen­sive or hard to se­cure. After Edhi's death, the or­tho­doxy lost lit­tle time in un­sheath­ing their dag­gers. The third line of at­tack is likely to start a con­tro­versy the ulema would be ad­vised to avoid. Ev­ery­thing that hap­pens in the uni­verse, in­clud­ing, as they say, the move­ment of a leaf, does so with the sanc­tion of the Almighty. If a per­son loses his or her eye­sight this is in ac­cor­dance with God's will and if he or she re­gains his or her eye­sight that too must be un­der Al­lah's sanc­tion. The im­pli­ca­tions of the chal­lenge for or­gan trans­plant are enor­mously pro­hib­i­tive. If this ver­sion of re­li­gious in­junc­tions is ac­cepted, the en­tire scheme of hos­pi­tals and health­care will have to be de­mol­ished - for treat­ing peo­ple who be­come sick by the will of Al­lah would amount to in­ter­fer­ing in His do­main. Be­sides, the ulema have re­peat­edly been re­minded of the Fed­eral Shariat Court judg­ment of 2009, whereby it was held that or­gan trans­plant with the free choice of the donor is ac­cept­able in Is­lam, while the sale/pur­chase of hu­man or­gans is not. The court's ver­dict was based on the opin­ions of OIC, the Shariat Academy, Al Azhar Univer­sity, the Grand Ulema Coun­cil of Saudi Ara­bia, and the Ira­nian Re­li­gious Au­thor­ity. All peo­ple of good­will will ap­peal to the ulema against mak­ing their faith con­tro­ver­sial and to heed the de­ci­sion by all mem­bers of the Edhi fam­ily to do­nate their or­gans for trans­plan­ta­tion.

On the other side of the spec­trum, the friends of Edhi ap­pear de­ter­mined to idolise the great bene­fac­tor of the sick and the needy while ig­nor­ing the core of his mission. The State Bank is is­su­ing a coin and the postal depart­ment a postage stamp to com­mem­o­rate Edhi's work. Roads and in­sti­tu­tions are be­ing named after him. Ef­forts are on to give Edhi na­tional awards and to seek in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion for him. This is not what Edhi wanted. On many oc­ca­sions he de­clared that he sought help only for car­ry­ing out his work of mercy and no earthly re­wards. How­ever, these ges­tures may be passed over as ex­pres­sions of peo­ple's grat­i­tude to the departed icon and hope­fully this will per­suade cit­i­zens to go on sup­port­ing the Edhi net­work. How­ever, Edhi had set his sights much higher than the tra­di­tional dis­pen­sa­tion of char­ity. His tar­get was the sys­tem of man­ag­ing pub­lic af­fairs in a man­ner that made the rich richer and ren­dered the poor poorer, and left those with­out re­sources to die, un­sung, of dis­ease and hunger. He re­peat­edly de­clared that he had launched a move­ment for so­cial change and for the es­tab­lish­ment of a gen­uine wel­fare state. He re­ferred to the ideal of an Is­lamic wel­fare state with much greater sin­cer­ity than most of our politi­cians who tout this ex­pres­sion with­out re­al­is­ing what it im­plies. To all the heads and other rep­re­sen­ta­tives of gov­ern­ment he met, Edhi made only one re­quest: change the sys­tem of gov­er­nance and make it peo­ple-friendly. The most un­for­get­table fea­ture of Edhi's life was the fact that he made the coun­try's civil so­ci­ety proud by suc­cess­fully set­ting the state mod­els in the de­vel­op­ment of dis­as­ter re­lief and health care ser­vices. The best homage to Edhi will be to fight the scourge of in­equal­ity that is push­ing Pak­istan into the abyss of back­ward­ness, in­tol­er­ance and ig­nominy.

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