In 2001, a group of friends came up with the idea for Akhuwat at the Lahore Gymkhana. They were critical of microfinance programs that aimed to alleviate poverty but charged exorbitant interest rates. The idea of initiating a successful interest-free microfinance program was brought forth as a challenge, although at that point, no one knew exactly what this experiment would look like. One of the friends pledged a donation of 10,000 rupees, while another friend, Dr. Amjad Saqib, decided to put that donation to use as an interest-free loan.
The First Loan
Akhuwat gave its first loan of $100 USD to a widow who was striving to earn a decent living through honorable means. She wasn’t looking for charity; she was only seeking a helping hand. By utilizing and returning that loan within a period of six months, she reinforced the belief that when we help the poor with trust and respect, they exhibit unshakable integrity.
The success of that first loan brought in more donations, and that group of friends became convinced that their venture into interest-free microfinance was viable. And so, Akhuwat was born, with these friends forming the first Board of Governors and Dr. Amjad Saqib serving as the first Executive Director.
This marked the beginning of a new chapter in microfinance, one that found its inspiration not only in economic logic, but in the spirit of compassion and generosity.
One of Akhuwat’s primary deviations from conventional microfinance is that it charges no interest rates.
Akhuwat has sought to base its movement on the principles of Qarz-e-Hassn found in the Islamic tradition, which entails helping someone in need with interest-free loans, a practice favored over charity and doles. While drawing on the tradition of Qarz-e-Hassn, Akhuwat has, over time, grown to incorporate many of the lessons learned from conventional microfinance movements from across the globe, as well.