(The Most Generous)
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 bound and is continually giving precious gifts to whoever he wills. He is gracious in giving rewards in multiple even for the smallest acts.
From the root k-r-m 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.
The name Kareem is understood to mean kindness or generosity but this is just one of many layers. It also belongs under the categorization of the names of beauty. As we discussed in the previous name al-Jaleel, He is the all majestic, the one who's qualities are perfected and because of this inner perfection He is said to be beautiful. You may see in books of Asmaul Husna one of the translation of al-Karim is "The Most Esteemed". This comes from the idea that karam is also used to describe something that should intrinsically be 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)
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."  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 really 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, meaning a book perfected in all its attributes, does.
Now, moving towards the more understood meaning of this name. Kareem refers to kindness or generosity. Akram, a name derived from the same Arabic root (k-r-m), is used to reflect an increase, being more generous. With the superlative alif-lam (al), you get the more emphatic form meaning in perpetuity, for forever and always. For examples, al-Akram, THE most generous or al-Karim, THE all gracious.
Yaaa ayyuhal insaaanu maa gharraka bi Rabbikal kareem
"O mankind, what has deceived you concerning your Lord, the Generous," (Qur'an 82:6)
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
"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)
Iqra wa rab bukal akram Al lazee ‘allama bil qalam ‘Al lamal insaana ma lam y’alam
"Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous – Who taught by the pen – Taught man that which he knew not." (Qur'an 94:3-5)
Here Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ refers to Himself as being al-Akram or the most generous. The following verses speaks to how He taught us all we know with just a pen. And it is often said the pen is mightier than the sword, so being educated is just about one of the most dangerous things you could possibly be. It's one of the greatest skills, the ability to learn, read, and acquire knowledge because with that we can pick up any other skill. This is one of the many gifts Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ has given humanity.
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.
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.
Innal mussaddiqeena wal mussaddiqaati wa aqradul laaha qardan hassanany yudaa’afu lahum wa lahum ajrun kareem
"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:
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.
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, always go for the higher amount. Why? It will make all the difference in the world. If you gave 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 like Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ 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.