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Abdul Sattar Edhi – 28 February 1928 – 08 July 2016:
Abdul Sattar Edhi was a Pakistani humanitarian, philanthropist and ascetic who founded the Edhi Foundation, which runs the world’s largest volunteer ambulance network, along with various homeless shelters, animal shelters, rehabilitation centres, and orphanages across Pakistan. Following his death, his son Faisal Edhi took over as head of the Edhi Foundation.
Edhi’s charitable activities expanded greatly in 1957 when an Asian flu epidemic (originating in China) swept through Pakistan and the rest of the world. Donations allowed him to buy his first ambulance the same year. He later expanded his charity network with the help of his wife Bilquis Edhi.
Over his lifetime, the Edhi Foundation expanded, backed entirely by private donations, which included establishing a network of 1,800 ambulances. By the time of his death, Edhi was registered as a parent or guardian of nearly 20,000 adopted children. He is known amongst Pakistanis as the “Angel of Mercy” and is considered to be Pakistan’s most respected and legendary figure. In 2013, The Huffington Post claimed that he might be “the world’s greatest living humanitarian”.
Edhi maintained a hands-off management style and was often critical of the corruption commonly found within the religious organizations, clergy and politicians. He was a strong proponent of religious tolerance in Pakistan and extended his support to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the 1985 famine in Ethiopia. He was nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize, including by Malala Yousafzai. Edhi received several awards including the Gandhi Peace Award, Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize and the UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize.
Abdul Sattar Edhi was born in 1928 in a small village of Bantva near Joona Garh, Gujrat (India). The seeds of compassion for the suffering humanity were sown in his soul by his mother’s infirmity. When Edhi was at the tender age of eleven, his mother became paralysed and later got mentally ill. Young Abdul Sattar devoted himself for looking after all her needs; cleaning, bathing, changing clothes and feeding. This proved to be a loosing battle against the disease, and her helplessness increased over the years. Her persistent woeful condition left a lasting impression on young Edhi. The course of his life took a different turn from other persons of his age. His studies were also seriously affected and he could not complete his high school level. For him the world of suffering became his tutor and source of wisdom.
Edhi’s mother died when he was 19. His personal experience made him think of thousands and millions, suffering like his mother, around with nobody to look after them. He thought that he had a call to help these people. He had a vision of chains of welfare centres and hospitals that could be opened to alleviate the pain of those suffering from illness and neglect. He also thought of the in-human treatment meted out to the mentally ill, the insane and the disabled persons.
Even at this early age, he felt personally responsible for taking on the challenge of developing a system of services to reduce human miseries. The task was huge he had no resources. But it was some thing that he had to do even if he had to walk to the streets if he had to beg for this purpose.
Edhi and his family migrated to Pakistan in 1947. In order to earn his living, Abdul Sattar Edhi initially started as a peddler, later became a commission agent selling cloth in the wholesale market in Karachi.
After a couple of years, he left this occupation and with the support of some members of his community decided to establish a free dispensary. He became involved in this charity work. However, soon his personal vision of a growing and developing system of multifarious services made him decide to establish a welfare trust of his own and named it as “Edhi Trust”.
An appeal was made to the public for funds. The response was good, and Rs.200,000/- were raised. The range and scope of work of Edhi Trust expanded with remarkable speed under the driving spirit of the man behind it. A maternity home was established and emergency ambulance service was started in the sprawling metropolis of Karachi with a population of over 10 million.
More donations were received as people’s confidence in the activities of the Trust grew. With the passage of time, masses gave him the title of the” Angel of Mercy.”
Abdul Sattar Edhi was married in 1965 to Bilquis, a nurse who worked at the Edhi dispensary. The couple have four children, two daughters and two sons. Bilquis runs the free maternity home at the headquarter in Karachi and organises the adoption of illegitimate and abandoned babies. The husband-wife team has come to share the common vision of single minded devotion to the cause of alleviation of human sufferings and a sense of personal responsibility to respond to each call for help, regardless of race, creed or status.
Edhi involves himself in every activity at Edhi Foundation from raising funds to bathing corpses. Round the clock he keeps with him an ambulance which he drives himself and makes rounds of the city regularly. On finding a destitute or an injured person any where on the way, he escorts him to the Relief Centre where immediate attention is given to the needy person. Inspite of his busy work schedule with the Foundation, Edhi finds enough time to spare with the residents of the orphanages called “Edhi Homes”. He is very found of playing and laughing with the children. A short strongly built man in his early seventies with a flowing beard and a ready smile, Edhi is popularly called “Nana” (Grandfather) by the residents of “Edhi Homes”.
Despite his enormous fame and the vast sums of money that passes through his hands, Edhi adheres to a very simple and modest life style. He and his family live in a two room apartment adjacent to the premises of Foundation’s headquarter. Neither Edhi nor Bilquis receives any salary. They live on the income from government securities that Edhi bought many years ago to take care of their personal needs for the rest of their lives, thereby freeing them to devote single mindedly to their missionary work.
He shuns publicity for the fear of becoming haughty. As the credibility and fame grew and the name of Edhi became a house-hold word, people started approaching him for becoming chief guest on special occasions.
In an interview given to a journalist in Lahore in 1991, Edhi said,”I want to request the people not to invite me to social gatherings and inaugural ceremonies. This only wastes my time which is wholly devoted to the well being of our people.”
Although Edhi has a traditional Islamic background, he has an open and progressive mind on a number of sensitive social issues. He strongly supports the notion of working women. Of the 2,000 paid workers of the Edhi Foundation around 500 are women. They work in various capacities in-charges of Edhi centres, heads of maternity homes and dispensaries and office workers. More-over, several women volunteers help Edhi Foundation in fund raising. Edhi encourages women to do all sorts of work without differentiation.
Edhi was born into a Memon Muslim family, and publicly expressed that he was not a “very religious person”, and that he was “neither for religion or against it”. On his faith, he stated that he was “a humanitarian” and spiritual, telling others that “empty words and long phrases do not impress God” and to “show Him your faith” through action. In 1965, Edhi married Bilquis, a nurse who worked at an Edhi Trust dispensary. They had four children, two daughters and two sons. Bilquis is responsible for running the free maternity home at the foundation’s headquarters in Karachi and organizes the adoption of abandoned babies including those who are otherwise at risk of being killed as a potential consequence of being born out of wedlock or due to rape. Edhi was known for his ascetic lifestyle, owning only two pairs of clothes, never taking salary from his organization and living in a small apartment next to his organization’s office. Edhi often ran into trouble with Islamist terrorist organizations and conservative religious and political leaders who opposed him because of his offering of full humanitarian services to everyone—particularly low-class citizens, Hindus, and other non-Muslims. Aside from these, Edhi and his organization have also run into trouble with the MQM Prominent Pakistani figures such as Maulana Tariq Jamil and Pakistani−Canadian Sheikh Faraz Rabbani often expressed their strong support for Edhi and his work.
Bilquis Bano Edhi:
Bilquis Bano Edhi wife of Abdul Sattar Edhi, is a professional nurse and one of the most active philanthropists in Pakistan. She has been nicknamed, The Mother of Pakistan. She was born in 1947 in Karachi. She heads the Bilquis Edhi Foundation, and with her husband received the 1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service. Her charity runs many services in Pakistan including a hospital and emergency service in Karachi. Together with her husband their charity has saved over 16,000 unwanted babies.
It is true, as the saying goes: “There is a woman behind every man”. Bilquis Edhi is a woman of substance, for sure; and she has come a long way with Edhi for a cause that is simply great.
Bilquis Bano Edhi, wife of Abdul Sattar Edhi, is a humanitarian, a social worker and one of the most active philanthropists in Pakistan, holds the honor of being awarded the prestigious ‘Hilal-e-Imtiaz’, and with her husband received the ‘1986 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service’. She is also the recipient of the ‘Lenin Peace Prize’. Her charity runs many services in Pakistan including a hospital and emergency service in Karachi.
Bilquis Edhi – the young lass who was not very good at studies, joined the nurses training course at the Edhi Nurses Training Centre when she was in the 8th grade. Later Abdul Sattar Edhi proposed to her and they got married in April 1966. Since then, she has been working with the Edhi Foundation – A Foundation which was started by Abdul Sattar Edhi with the mission to provide aid to Pakistan’s poor and down-trodden has become Pakistan’s major relief organization under the leadership of the husband and wife – team of Abdul Sattar and Bilquis Edhi. Today, in addition to services provided in Pakistan, Edhi foundation is a major resource for assisting victims of disaster internationally.
Abdul Sattar Edhi’s possessions at the time of his marriage were a broken old car and a small dispensary. There was a maternity home on the first floor with 6-7 beds, a small room – 6’ X 6’ on the ground floor which served as an office and a similar room on the first floor. There wasn’t much else but even in those days when the newly wed couple had very limited resources, people used to leave their kids with them and Bilquis Edhi used to look after them.
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.
Her current responsibilities include looking after the ladies section, giving away children for adoption – mostly looking after women-specific and children related sections throughout Pakistan. Her two daughters also work closely with me. She regularly visits Edhi Homes all over Pakistan to monitor their activities and give suggestions and recommendations on how she feels the work should be done. She is also instrumental in making Edhi Homes ‘Centers of Excellence’ – in the true sense of the word.
With regard to child adoption, she makes sure the criteria are fulfilled to approve / disapprove of couples who want to adopt a child. Couples who want to adopt a child are interviewed by Bilquis Edhi. Her criteria for adoption are that even after 10-12 years of marriage the couple is still childless, prospective father’s salary should be reasonable, prospective father should not have alcohol or drug-related problems, prospective mother’s age should be younger than 50 and the couple should own a house. Her foundation doesn’t give children to couples who keep changing their house – keep moving from one place to another. Kids who are physically or mentally disabled are cared for by Edhi Foundation. They have a separate section for them where they clean them, feed them, play with them etc. The kids remain with them for the rest of their lives. Aside from the disabled children, the other children who don’t get adopted do not pose any problem, whatsoever. Edhi Foundation has over 4,000 applications in hand. They don’t have enough kids to give to people. So they are careful in selecting prospective parents. They have a ‘shariat-nama’ in place which they make the parents sign where it is explicitly mentioned that in case of separation between the parents, the Centre will reclaim the child or let the child stay with the mother.
Edhi Foundation keeps expanding by adding new welfare services every now and then Bilquis Edhi sees Pakistan’s future as bright, provided if people feel the pain and work for a better future. When she goes abroad with Edhi, they come back with lots of ideas. The couple dreams of the day when welfare facilities in Pakistan would be comparable to those we find abroad. She feels that this seems to be a distant dream. She said: “We don’t even have clean drinking water here. Load shedding is an ongoing problem. After the recent oil spill [in Karachi] when the oil tanker broke in half, people were saying that our country had gone back 20 years in time. As far as I am concerned in the last 55 years we have not moved forward. We are still where we were 55 years ago.”
Abdul Sattar Edhi and Bilquis Edhi, both think of things for the future. She told us that when Edhi comes up with an idea he writes it down. In 1976, the couple was involved in an accident which took place near a village with no airport or landing strip nearby. Around that time a building collapsed in Karachi – Bismillah Building. At that time Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was in power. Noticing Edhi’s absence from the scene of the disaster he inquired as to his whereabouts upon which he was told of the situation. Bhutto immediately dispatched a small airplane to pick them up. Edhi was admitted to the Civil Hospital in Karachi where shortly after gaining consciousness; he remarked that he would also like to buy a plane. Bilquis Edhi asked how he will be able to afford a plane as his current situation was such that if he put his hand in the pocket for some loose change, thread used to come out instead. However, Edhi never got disheartened and pulled along with conviction and dedication. By the Grace of Allah, they now have a plane, helicopters everything.
Bilquis Edhi is honored to be the life-partner of a person whose love for humanity is ‘larger than life’. She regards him as a good man – Albeit a little short tempered but good at heart. The couple has still not built their own house yet. Bilquis Edhi fondly remembered her first 4-5 years after marriage when she used to live on the roof. Later, after the birth of her four kids, she moved to her mother’s house. Her mother looked after the kids. On a daily basis she used to shuffle between her house and the Edhi Centre. After the kids grew up and got married, Bilquis Edhi’s mother passed away. The couple spends their days and nights at the Edhi Centre. In their 36-37 years of married life, there may have been at least 36 occasions when they never even came home at night. Even now when their children want to see him, they bring lunch from their home and come and eat with them.
They seldom take time out from their work but they have spent some good time together on the job. In the last 34-35 years there have been many occasions when they had to drop off patients and deceased people to far off villages. After dropping them off, on the way back they used to stop over in villages and rural areas where they have been treated with lassi, chicken in gravy among other delicacies and looked after extremely well by the people of those areas. They also sat on charpoys with their feet in the water – fresh cold water streams abound in these areas. They have had some good times together. On these trips they used to feel like they were extremely rich people with cars of their own. Others who lived in those areas didn’t have any cars so they used to request them to take them along whenever they went on such trips.
Faisal, Kubra, Zeenat and Almas – the Edhis have an educated progeny, bright young people. After Bilquis and Abdul Sattar, they will look after the Edhi Foundation and carry the torch forward.
Bilquis Edhi has spent her life for a noble cause and she continues to do so. She is lucky as a human-being and even luckier as a woman for she got a helping hand in the form of her husband. Abdul Sattar and Bilquis complement each other – in the very true sense of the word.
The Edhi Foundation:
Edhi resolved to dedicate his life to aiding the poor, and over the next sixty years, he single-handedly changed the face of welfare in Pakistan. He subsequently founded the Edhi Foundation. Additionally, his previously established welfare trust, named the Edhi Trust was restarted with an initial sum of Rs.5000, the trust was later renamed after his wife as the Bilquis Edhi Trust. Widely regarded and respected as a guardian and saviour for the poor, Edhi began receiving numerous donations which allowed him to expand his services. To this day, the Edhi Foundation continues to grow in both size and service and currently remains the largest welfare organization in Pakistan. Since its inception, the Edhi Foundation has rescued over 20,000 abandoned infants, rehabilitated over 50,000 orphans and has trained over 40,000 nurses. It also runs more than 330 welfare centres throughout rural and urban Pakistan that operate as food kitchens, rehabilitation homes, shelters for abandoned women and children, and clinics for the mentally and physically handicapped.
The Edhi Foundation is funded entirely by private donations and full services are offered to people irrespective of ethnicity, religion or status. It runs the world’s largest volunteer ambulance service (operating over 1,500 of them) and offers 24-hour emergency services. It also operates free nursing homes, orphanages, clinics, women’s shelters and rehabilitation centres for drug addicts and the mentally ill. Outside of its main base of operations all over South Asia, the Edhi Foundation has also run relief operations in the Middle East, Africa, the Caucasus region, Eastern Europe, and the United States. In 2005, the foundation donated US$100,000 to relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. As of 2020, the Foundation has international head offices present in the United States, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Australia, Nepal, Bangladesh, India and Japan.
His son Faisal Edhi, wife Bilquis Edhi and daughters managed the daily operations of the organization during his ill health and continue to do so after his death. He was called Pakistan’s equivalent of Mother Teresa by India Today in 1990, and the BBC wrote that he was considered “Pakistan’s most respected figure and was seen by some as a saint.”
In 2014, the foundation was targeted and robbed of approximately US$500,000 and has been the victim of right-wing attacks and competition from Pakistan’s militant far-right as well as being the victim of “strong-arm tactics” from political parties such as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
Edhi Foundation is the single best foundation across Pakistan and one of the best social welfare service providers across the world running on non-commercial, non-political, and non-communal basis, serving round-the-clock without any discrimination of color, class, and creed is enjoying exclusive credentials in the shape of awards and shields conferred upon Mr. Abdul Sattar Edhi and Mrs. Bilquis Edhi by governmental and non-governmental organizations on national and international level for rendering their exemplary services to humanity in multidimensional fields.
The diversified fields in which Abdul Sattar Edhi played his greatest role for; saving the lives of thousands of newborn babies by placing the cradles outside the Edhi centres, fostering the abandoned babies and children, free nurturing disabled and handicapped people, free caring and feeding women and elderly people who were subjected to torture or neglected by their families, free supporting to ailing patients by providing free medication and medicines through his mobile dispensaries, hospitals, and the diabetic centre at Karachi.
In addition to above, he offered his services in many other areas—like providing land, air, and marine ambulance services during accidents to shift patients to hospitals, national and international relief and aid assistance to the affectees of natural debacles, providing relief aid to refugees in various countries, providing emergency services to the sufferers of drought, fire, and flood, saving the lives of drowned people added with recovering dead bodies from the seas and floods, free rehabilitating the drug addicts, free tracing the missing people, free arranging marriages for the helpless girls and boys, providing free food, clothing, and blankets to needy people.
Besides above, he also served the humanity by offering his services by, providing free technical education to needy people to make them self sufficient through the technical knowledge and skills, providing religious education to the children to make them the best human beings, providing consultancy on family planning and maternity services, providing free blood and plasma to the disadvantaged people, providing free shelter, food, and caring to mentally retarded people, caring by giving shelter and food to orphan and helpless children.
Services to humanity rendered by Abdul Sattar Edhi and his spouse Mrs. Bilquis Edhi never end here, he played his role in some more areas—such as; provided free legal aid to bail out or the prisoners from the prisons, financial and medical support to the prisoners, provided crutches and supporters to the handicapped people, and gave exclusive free bathing and shrouding services to unclaimed dead bodies, so on and so forth. All these services are so much outstanding and exceptional that Edhi Foundation’s role can truly be attributed to an unprecedented example of services to the nation and country of Pakistan as well as humanity, across the globe.
Every society is destined to face the problems of looking after the welfare of the sick, the weak, the destitute and the needy. All societies are alike in this respect. One way of assessing the status of a society on the road to civilization is the value accorded to an individual and his basic human needs. These have not always received the attention they deserve in the planning of economics, particularly in developing countries. Most of the available resources are consumed by defense needs and pressing demands for technological progress.
Programs for development in the social sector remain a long way behind, mainly because of financial constraints. Special efforts are, therefore, needed to mobilize community resources to initiate and develop programs for the welfare of the weak and the disadvantaged members of society.
How and Why a Man with Primary School Education
Made such a legendry service to humanity
History reveals that at exclusive occasions, the circumstances of any nation become so critical and crucial that those enormous issues prove greatly hazardous and perilous, by bringing misery and gloom as well as pain and suffering into their lives, that engender ignorance, crime, and lawlessness in the society. At such grave and severest times, by the will of Almighty Allah, a personality with the determination like mountain in front of storms of difficulties, with perseverance like a rock in the ocean of threats, and having vision and wisdom to assist less-privileged people, reaches at the stage, and starts to drive out the darkness by providing the light of education, trying to decrease the poverty by fostering and feeding the needy, extending his blessing hands to the neglected, deprived, and depressed segments of the society, and providing every type of assistance to make such needy people happy – this example absolutely fitting on the personality of legendry social service provider – Abdul Sattar Edhi.
Major features of Edhi Foundation which make it unique:
Edhi Foundation—the largest organizational set-up running in multidimensional areas in Pakistan modifies the catchphrase “Live and Let Live” by “Live and Help Live”, which means Edhi guides others that whilst passing the life, don’t let to live with hardships and difficulties, yet extend your every possible assistance to others, in case, any assistance is sought from you, to live with happiness and ease.
The largest organization with its biggest number of fleet, and bigger number of working professionals, working round the clock has set the best examples, for other social service providers to tread upon his footprint.
The services which make the Edhi Foundation unique among all other social welfare service providers, is its exemplary services in the areas of—such as providing free shroud and burial services to unclaimed dead bodies, shelter for the disabled and destitute people, orphans and abandoned children, provision of free hospitals and dispensaries in the highly neglected areas, rehabilitation of drug addicts, and so on.
Edhi Foundation services is an open book that has many remarkable chapters, one of them is—offering supporting system to the handicapped—like wheel chairs, crutches, and so on, family planning counselling, maternity services, national and international relief efforts during the disasters to provide relief to the victims of natural calamities.
Edhi Foundation has set many examples, which can’t be traced by other NGOs and trusts actively serving in Pakistan that Edhi believes in the principle of self help, thus he is running all his social welfare driven activities without getting funding from any government or donor agency. It is a fact that Edhi isn’t entertaining even he refuses the concept of support from others. The only donations are entertained from the individuals and few leading businessmen.
Edhi strongly believes in protecting basic human rights without any discrimination of color, caste, and creed. My religion is “service for humanity” that is spanned over 56 years, thus our efforts and services are greatly liked and commended by all schools of thought, across Pakistan and many parts of the world.
- Online Qurbani Service
- Ambulance Service
- Children Services
- Edhi Homes & Orphanage Centres
- Helpline Services
- Educational Services
In the early 1980s, Edhi was arrested by Israeli troops while he was entering Lebanon. In 2006, he was detained by authorities in Toronto, Canada, for over sixteen hours. In January 2008, U.S. immigration officials at the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City investigated him for over eight hours after seizing his passport and other documents. When asked by media officials about the frequent detentions, Edhi said: “The only explanation I can think of is my beard and my dress.” His appearance in traditional Pakistani clothing and a long beard made him appear visibly Muslim and therefore, in a post-9/11 climate, prompted U.S. and Canadian travel authorities to keep him for additional questioning.
Illness and Death:
On 25 June 2013, Edhi was hospitalized due to failing kidneys; it was announced that he would be on dialysis for the rest of his life unless he found a kidney donor. He later died on 8 July 2016 at the age of 88 due to complete kidney failure after having been placed on a ventilator. One of his last wishes was that his organs be donated for the use of the needy but due to his poor health, only his corneas were suitable for later use in donation. He was laid to rest at Edhi Village in Karachi.
Reactions and Funeral:
Reactions to his death came from several high-ranking Pakistani officials, with then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif saying in an official statement: “We have lost a great servant of humanity. He was the real manifestation of love for those who were socially vulnerable, impoverished, helpless and poor.” Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif called him a “true humanitarian”.
Prime Minister Sharif declared national mourning on the day following Edhi’s death and announced a state funeral for him. He became the third person in Pakistan’s history to receive a state gun carriage funeral after Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Zia-ul-Haq. He was the only Pakistani without a state authority or a state role to receive a state funeral. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), state honours were given to Edhi by a guard of honour and a 19-gun salute. The attendees at his Janazah (Islamic funeral prayer) included dignitaries such as Mamnoon Hussain (President of Pakistan), Raza Rabbani (Chairman of the Senate of Pakistan), Ishratul Ibad (Governor of Sindh), Qaim Ali Shah and Shehbaz Sharif (the Chief Ministers of Sindh and Punjab, respectively), Raheel Sharif (Chief of Army Staff) along with Muhammad Zakaullah and Sohail Aman (the Chiefs of Staff of the Pakistani Navy and Air Force), at the National Stadium, Karachi.
On 4 July 2016, the Defence Housing Authority announced its decision to rename the 5 kilometre-long Beach Avenue in Clifton Beach, Karachi as ‘Abdul Sattar Edhi Avenue’ in recognition of the welfare services by Edhi over the course of his lifetime.
On 28 February 2017, Google celebrated Edhi with a Google Doodle hailing his “super-efficient” ambulance service.
On 31 March 2017, a Rs.50 cupronickel commemorative coin was issued across the country upon the recommendation of the State Bank of Pakistan to Prime Minister Sharif, who decided to commemorate Edhi’s services on the national level. Edhi became the only social worker and the fifth Pakistani personality to have been honoured with a commemorative coin.
World-renowned photographer Shahidul Alam photo-documented Edhi since 1995.
On 8 July 2021, a huge statue of Abdul Sattar Edhi was installed at Hockey Chowk, Quetta.
Honours and Awards:
- Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service (1986)
- Lenin Peace Prize (1988)
- Paul Harris Fellow from Rotary International (1993)
- Peace Prize from the former USSR, for services during the Armenian earthquake disaster (1988) Hamdan Award for volunteers in Humanitarian Medical Services (2000), UAE
- International Balzan Prize (2000) for Humanity, Peace and Brotherhood, Italy
- Peace and Harmony Award (2001), Delhi
- Peace Award (2004), Mumbai
- Peace Award (2005), Hyderabad Deccan
- Gandhi Peace Award (2007), Delhi
- Seoul Peace Prize (2008), Seoul
- Honorary doctorate from the Institute of Business Administration Karachi (2006).
- UNESCO-Madanjeet Singh Prize (2009)
- Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize (2010)
- Honorary Doctorate by the University of Bedfordshire (2010)
- London Peace Award (2011), London
- Silver Jubilee Shield by College of Physicians and Surgeons (1962–1987)
- Moiz ur rehman Award (2015)
- The Social Worker of Sub-Continent by Government of Sindh (1989)
- Nishan-e-Imtiaz, civil decoration from the Government of Pakistan (1989)
- Recognition of meritorious services to oppressed humanity during the 1980s by Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Government of Pakistan (1989)
- Pakistan Civic Award from the Pakistan Civic Society (1992)
- Jinnah Award for Outstanding Services to Pakistan was conferred in April 1998 by The Jinnah Society. This was the first Jinnah Award conferred on any person in Pakistan.
- Shield of Honor by Pakistan Army (E & C)
- Khidmat Award by the Pakistan Academy of Medical Sciences
- Bacha Khan Aman (Peace) Award in 1991
- Human Rights Award by Pakistan Human Rights Society
- 2013 Person of the Year by the readers of The Express Tribune
In 2011, then-Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousaf Raza Gilani recommended Edhi for a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. Again in early 2016, a petition signed by 30,000 for a Nobel Peace Prize for Edhi was moved by Ziauddin Yousafzai, the father of Malala Yousafzai. In her condolence message on Edhi’s death, broadcast by BBC Urdu, Malala quoted that “as a Nobel Peace Prize winner, I hold the right to nominate people for the prize and I have nominated Abdul Sattar Edhi”.
Najam Sethi, a governing board member of the Pakistan Cricket Board proposed to rename Gaddafi Stadium after Edhi.