Al-Karim / Al-Kareem

(The Most Generous)

Al-Karim Meaning:

The Generous One, The Gracious, The Bountiful.

Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ is Al-Kareem (in Arabic: ٱلْكَرِيمُ) meaning the one who is the most generous, bountiful and esteemed. He is The One whose kindness knows no bounds and continually gives precious gifts to whomever He wills. He is gracious in giving and forgiving.

Mentions of Al-Karim:
From Quran & Hadith

Arabic Root:
From the root kaf-ra-mim (ك ر م), which has the following classical Arabic connotations: to be noble, grand, high minded. To be generous, giving, beneficent, to be highly esteemed, honored, prized, valued, to be excellent, precious, valuable, rare, to be productive, fruitful.

First Interpretation of the Name:
The name Al-Kareem is understood to have two meanings. More commonly understood to be the one who is generous or bestows honor. But some scholars have said Al-Kareem also possesses the same quality of being all honorable or noble. This interpretation is supported by the idea that Karam (same root k-r-m) is used to describe something honored or respected. In the Qur'an, it says, "Wa laqad karramnaa Baneee aadama," meaning, "And We have certainly honored the children of Adam" (Qur'an 17:70). This view also connects to the last name, Al-Jaleel (The Majestic). Al-Jaleel is the highest in rank, which makes Him Kareem - honored or highly esteemed.

Second Interpretation of the Name:
Similarly, in the hadith literature, you will read Kareem to be translated as being noble. Abu Hurayra reported the Messenger of Allah ﷺ as saying: إِنَّ الْكَرِيمَ ابْنَ الْكَرِيمِ ابْنِ الْكَرِيمِ ابْنِ الْكَرِيمِ يُوسُفُ بْنُ يَعْقُوبَ بْنِ إِسْحَاقَ بْنِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ, "The noble son of the noble son of the noble son of the noble one was Yusuf ibn Ya'qub ibn Ishaq ibn Ibrahim." [1] Note the repetition of the Arabic (ابْنِ الْكَرِيمِ), Ibn Kareem, as being translated as "The Noble Son." So together, we have the definition of being esteemed, noble, and honored. To have this reputation, to be called by these names indicates that you must have some virtuous qualities that have been perfected.

Another example, Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ in Surah Waqi'ah verse 77 says, Innahoo la quraanun kareem which translates to, "Indeed, it is a noble Qur’an." The connotation of Kareem being kind doesn't apply here because it's not clear what it means for a book to be gracious or generous. Instead, as the translation reflects, being a book of nobility does, meaning a book perfected in all its attributes.

Now, moving towards the more understood meaning of this name. Kareem refers to kindness or generosity. His greatest gift to mankind is His mercy. We show a lapse in judgment whenever we err and should be held accountable for our actions. But Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ is the generous one and has choosen to forgive. His mercy supersedes His wrath. He is also generous in His promise. The reward for the doer of good deeds far exceeds the effort of the action. It is not a one-to-one transaction. The reward that is with Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ far exceeds any imaginable notion of what's promised.

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلْإِنسَـٰنُ مَا غَرَّكَ بِرَبِّكَ ٱلْكَرِيمِ

Yaaa ayyuhal insaaanu maa gharraka bi Rabbikal kareem

English Translation:
"O mankind, what has deceived you concerning your Lord, the Generous," — (Qur'an 82:6)

قَالَ ٱلَّذِي عِندَهُۥ عِلۡمٞ مِّنَ ٱلۡكِتَٰبِ أَنَا۠ ءَاتِيكَ بِهِۦ قَبۡلَ أَن يَرۡتَدَّ إِلَيۡكَ طَرۡفُكَۚ فَلَمَّا رَءَاهُ مُسۡتَقِرًّا عِندَهُۥ قَالَ هَٰذَا مِن فَضۡلِ رَبِّي لِيَبۡلُوَنِيٓ ءَأَشۡكُرُ أَمۡ أَكۡفُرُۖ وَمَن شَكَرَ فَإِنَّمَا يَشۡكُرُ لِنَفۡسِهِۦۖ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ رَبِّي غَنِيّٞ كَرِيمٞ

Qaalal lazee indahoo ‘ilmum minal Kitaabi ana aateeka bihee qabla ai yartadda ilaika tarfuk; falammaa ra aahu mustaqirran ‘indahoo qaala haazaa min fadli Rabbee li yabluwaneee ‘a-ashkuru am akfuru wa man shakara fa innamaa yashkuru linafsihee wa man kafara fa inna Rabbee Ghaniyyun Kareem

English Translation:
"Said one who had knowledge from the Scripture, 'I will bring it to you before your glance returns to you.' And when [Solomon] saw it placed before him, he said, 'This is from the favor of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful – his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful – then indeed, my Lord is Free of need and Generous.'" — (Qur'an 27:40)

ٱقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ ٱلْأَكْرَمُ
ٱلَّذِى عَلَّمَ بِٱلْقَلَمِ
عَلَّمَ ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ

Iqra wa rab bukal akram Al lazee ‘allama bil qalam ‘Al lamal insaana ma lam y’alam

English Translation:
"Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous – Who taught by the pen – Taught man that which he knew not." — (Qur'an 96:3-5)

On the virtue of education:
Here Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ refers to Himself as being Al-Akram or the most generous. The following verses speak to how He taught us all we know with a pen (i.e., through His book). This highlights the noblest attributes Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ has gifted mankind. It's distinguished us from all other creations and has given us success as a species. Without this ability to learn from the pen, we would remain stagnant unable to transmit knowledge from one generation to the next.

This brings weight to the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword. If we recognize this, being educated is just about one of the most dangerous pursuits. It's one of the greatest skills, the ability to learn, read, and acquire knowledge because, from that, we can pick up any other skill. This is one of the many gifts Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ has given humanity, hence the perfect pairing with the name Al-Kareem. The ability to learn and know is the process that lifts us from ignorance. It's process which we come to know who Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ. It orients and directs all who would take the time to read.

Some of His Generosity Enumerated:
Just as He is generous, He is also gracious, meaning kind and merciful. An example of His mercy, Allah has written down the good deeds and the bad ones. Then He explained it [by saying that] he who has intended a good deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds to seven hundred times or many times over. But if he has intended a bad deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed.[2]

And in the Qur'an, it says He will give a "noble reward," meaning a multiplicative reward to those who give from their wealth to help those less fortunate.

إِنَّ ٱلۡمُصَّدِّقِينَ وَٱلۡمُصَّدِّقَٰتِ وَأَقۡرَضُواْ ٱللَّهَ قَرۡضًا حَسَنٗا يُضَٰعَفُ لَهُمۡ وَلَهُمۡ أَجۡرٞ كَرِيمٞ

Innal mussaddiqeena wal mussaddiqaati wa aqradul laaha qardan hassanany yudaa’afu lahum wa lahum ajrun kareem

English Translation:
"Indeed, the men who practice charity and the women who practice charity and [they who] have loaned Allah a goodly loan – it will be multiplied for them, and they will have a noble reward." — (Qur'an 57:18)

The scholars often list many other ways His generosity shines through. We enumerate some of the ways here:

  • He loves to give. Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ loves when His servant turns to Him to ask for something. And when He gives, He gives without any reluctance or measure.
  • He gives without asking and gives to whomever. We only see a few of these gifts as we've likely taken many of them for granted: our sight, intellect, health, friends, family, food, etc. It's often quoted, "A healthy man wants a thousand things, a sick man only wants one."
  • He gives more than one can imagine. Out of all the blessings in your life, how many did you explicitly ask for?
  • No discrimination. He gives to sinners and non-believers as well. He grants them the chance to see and accept the truth, "And whoever disbelieves - I will grant him enjoyment for a little; then I will force him to the punishment of the Fire, and wretched is the destination." (2:126)
  • Fulfills all promises and never turns His back on a supplicant. He does not reject an asker. Narrated Salman al-Farsi: The Prophet (ﷺ) said: Your Lord is munificent and generous, and is ashamed to turn away empty the hands of His servant when he raises them to Him. [3]
  • He gives even to those He knows who are insincere. "And when affliction touches man, he calls upon Us, whether lying on his side or sitting or standing; but when We remove from him his affliction, he continues [in disobedience] as if he had never called upon Us to [remove] an affliction that touched him. Thus is made pleasing to the transgressors that which they have been doing" (10:12)

A believer benefits from knowing that Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ is Al-Kareem. We recognize that our Lord is generous, bountiful, and kind. We can try our best to mimic some of the ways Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ has been generous with us. For example, to find joy in giving. We may know someone or may have felt this way before, but when they give, they do so reluctantly. There's an art to giving that needs to be mastered.

Imagine a scenario where you're getting a free shoe shine at the mall. You look down at the shoe and see the young boy just gave you one of the all-time greatest shines. And so now you decide to tip him. You look in your wallet and see a $1.00 coin or $5.00 bill. Which do you give? You feel a bit reluctant to pay $5.00 for a 5 minutes shine. As a personal rule, if two amounts cross your mind, go for the higher amount. Why? It will make all the difference in the world. If you give the boy $1.00, you start feeling bad. Every time you put on the shoes and recognize the shine, you'll say to yourself, I must be cheap. You don't want to go through the whole day with that on your mind.

Another way to try and to be generous is if you know someone who is in need, offer a helping hand and save them the dignity of asking. If you know of their financial situation, throw a lifeline before the storm ravages through. Try and offer help before the pain necessitates them to seek help.

We can also try to perfect our inner qualities to gain a reputation on earth as being noble. This includes working on perfecting attributes of graciousness, kindness, courage, intelligence, compassion, and communication. These are all skills that can be acquired but require a commitment to a lifelong journey of being a student studying, searching, and analyzing. As Imam al-Ghazali points out, it is good to recognize that these qualities may characterize us. Yet, we remain deficient by comparison with the one who is the superlative form, absolutely generous, all-wise, the oft-forgiving.

[1] Sahih (Al-Albani) Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 896
[2] Hadith #16, 40 Hadith Qudsi (As it was related in Sahih al-Bukhari 6491 and Sahih Muslim 131a)
[3] Sahih (Al-Albani) Sunan Abi Dawud 1488

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