The word Haleem comes from the root ha-laam-meem which has the following classical Arabic connotations:
– to be forbearing, mild, lenient, clement
– to be forgiving, gentle, deliberate
– to be leisurely in manner, not hasty
– to be calm, serene
– to manage one’s temper
– to exhibit moderation
Different Meanings of Allah’s Name: Al-Haleem
✦ Al-Haleem gives Respite and Does Not Hasten Punishment
Ibn Jareer said Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is al-Haleem such that He gives respite and does not hasten to punish the one who disobeys Him or goes against His command. Al-Haleem waits for His servant to repent from his sin and seek His forgiveness.
✦ Al-Haleem Forgives when He is Able to Punish
Al-Khattaabi said Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is al-Haleem such that He forgives and grants respite. His anger does not overwhelm Him and is not provoked by the ignorance of the ignorant or the disobedience of the disobedient. He who forgives when he is not able to punish does not deserve to be called haleem; rather the one who is al-Haleem is the One Who forgives when He is able to punish and Who gives respite and does not hasten the punishment.
✦ Al-Haleem is forbearing towards the Disobedient
Qiwaam al-Sunnah al-Asbahaani said Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is al-Haleem such that He is Forbearing towards the one who disobeys Him, because if He wanted to punish him at the time of the sin, He could do so, but He grants him respite until the appointed time. Even though this is a name that may be applied to a person, the forbearance of a person is not a quality with which a person is born and which then develops when he grows older; it may change at times of sickness or anger, or because of events that happen. His attribute dies when he dies, but the forbearance of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala abides and never disappears. A person may forgive one thing but not another; he may forgive those against whom he is powerless to exact revenge, but Allah forgives even though He is able to punish.
✦ Al-Haleem keeps Bestowing despite Disobedience
Al-Sa’di said, “Al-Haleem is the One Who keeps bestowing blessings, both visible and hidden, on His creation, even though they disobey Him and make many mistakes. So He forgives and does not give the sinners the punishment they deserve; He encourages them to repent and gives them time to turn to Him.”.
“And if Allah was to impose blame on the people for what they have earned, He would not leave upon the earth any creature. But He defers them for a specified term. And when their time comes, then indeed Allah has ever been, of His servants, Seeing.” [Surah Fatir :45]
In this scenario there is a specific action done and blame to be earned for that action. But Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala defers it—so a logical question would be, why does Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala defer it? A person could defer punishment because he is weak, because he is unable to act. But Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is the Most Powerful and can do as He wills. So why does He defer punishment?
As humans, we appreciate forbearance. We appreciate being given chances to rectify ourselves before seeing the consequences of our actions. If there was a rule that you would be sent to detention for not doing your homework, wouldn’t you be grateful that your teacher let it slide? How about the second time she does so, or the third? What about when a police officer catches you speeding, but doesn’t give you a ticket? Many of us would feel relief and then check ourselves to ensure we don’t do the same thing again. So Allah’s forbearance is for us to return. And we should be grateful for this attribute, just like we would be grateful to anyone who overlooks our faults and mistakes.
Imagine being punished for every wrong deed that we did. How many punishments in a day?
We take for granted that we do not see the consequences of our actions. Perhaps, we assume that what we are doing is not a big deal. Perhaps, we believe that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala does not mind what we are doing despite having clear commandments regarding what to do and what to abstain from.
Sometimes we need a wake-up call. The calamities and punishments are al-Haleem‘s way of bringing us back to Him,. We have been taking too much advantage of Allah’s forbearance and we need to be made aware of it.
Living by Allah’s Name: Al-Haleem
1. Be forbearing for others. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said that forbearance is the best characteristic. If we want al-Haleem to overlook our mistakes, we must learn to overlook the mistakes of others.
Forbearance does not mean letting an incident pass once or twice and exploding like a volcano the next time it occurs. This indicates we have been letting rancor reside in our hearts. Most relationships suffer because of not being able to let go.
Tell yourself: “I’m suppressing my anger because I want al-Haleem to overlook my mistakes and forgive me. By letting it go I’ll be following the Sunnah of my beloved Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.”
A pertinent point to mention here is when this turns into abuse then it’s time to set some boundaries.
2. Be a good example to the sinner. If you are aware of someone’s sins instead of reproaching them harshly or being arrogant towards them gently make them aware of al-Haleem’sforbearance. Let them know that the doors of repentance are open. Connect them with Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
3. Don’t take advantage of al-Haleem’s forbearance. If Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala does not send an immediate punishment for our disobedience then it does not mean He is unaware. He is only giving us respite and expecting us to return. Let us not wait for Allah’s punishment to wake us up. The heart has a fascinating mechanism of letting us know when we have done wrong.
4. Be grateful to al-Haleem. If Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala lets our mistakes slide then what should be our attitude? We should increase our shukr (gratitude) and astaghfar (repentance). Be grateful that He allowed us the chance to wake up and turn to Him.
O Al-Haleem, we know You are the Most Forbearing and You delay and cancel Your punishment with great wisdom. Protect us from taking advantage of Your hilm (forbearance) by persisting in bad deeds; aid us to return to You after sinning; adorn us with gratitude for Your forbearance and patience in hardships; make us of those who are forbearing and kind to others, never be arrogant and help us to develop hilm in times of anger. Aameen.