Pearl of Wisdom
'Two women came to Imam 'Ali, one of them was an Arab and the other was a non-Arab. They asked him for assistance. He equally gave money and food to them. One of them protested, saying, 'I am an Arab woman, and she is a non-Arab.' He said, 'By Allah, I do not see in this shade that the children of Ishmael have any merit over the children of Isaac.'
Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib [as]
Sharh Nahj al-Balagha li Ibn Abl al- Hadid, v. 2, p. 200, no. 201
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"... whoever is grateful, he is grateful only for (the good of) his own soul, and whoever is ungrateful, surely my Lord is self-Sufficient, Honored" (Quran, 27:40).
Scholars say that anything regarded as good, precious, of great importance, is kareem.
Linguistically, a person who is out-giving is also called kareem, generous. Anything held in its own category in high esteem is called kareem.
Allah is called "al-Kareem," an Attribute that describes His benevolence and beneficence. Allah has always been Generous, and He will always be so. He is high above any lowliness; He gives abundantly, and He gives beautifully.
Al-Kareem forgives though He is capable of inflicting the most severe of punishment; He fulfills His promise; He gives more than what one pleads to Him for; He does not mind how much He gives and to whom; He does not permit anyone who seeks refuge with Him to suffer loss; He does not need means to do what He does. One who can combine in Him all these qualities is the Absolute al- Kareem; none other than Allah is as such.
The Almighty has said, "O man! What has beguiled you from your Lord, the Gracious One...?" (Quran, 82:6), and, "Read and your Lord is the Most Honorable" (Quran, 96:3).
Arabs are used to calling anything kareem if it has a commendable merit or quality. Muhammed, the Messenger of Allah, has said, "Yusuf is the most kareem of people," meaning in lineage and descent. They may describe something the presence of which can be identified by one of the physical senses as kareem.
For example, the Egyptian women, upon seeing Yusuf said, "... this is but a noble angel" (Quran, 12:31).
Describing Paradise, the Almighty says it is a "... noble place" (Quran, 44:26).
This word may also be applied to anything honorable; the Almighty has said, "... surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one who is most careful (of his duty towards Allah)" (Quran, 49:13).
Arabs may also apply it to something that has many benefits or advantages, such as what is implied in this verse which narrates the story of Prophet Solomon: "Surely an honorable letter has been delivered to me" (Quran, 27:29). According to exegesis, kareem in this verse means quite significant and weighty, containing very good statements.
One of the signs of His greatness and generosity is that He provides His bounties even to those who do not deserve them. He doles out His benevolence even without being asked. If a suppliant prays Him for forgiveness, one of the signs of His greatness is that He will erase that suppliant's sin if he truly repents, and He records a good deed for him in its place. Allah has said, "The parable of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like the parable of a grain growing seven ears (with) a hundred grains in each, and Allah multiplies for whomsoever he pleases, and Allah is ample-Giving, Knowing" (Quran, 2:261).
Among the signs of His greatness is that in the life of this world He covers the sins of the sinners and hides their shortcomings.
In one incident, the Messenger of Allah has narrated a story about the forgiveness of the Almighty which is thought-provoking. He said, "I know the last person who will enter Paradise and the last one to get out of hellfire. He is a man who will be approached and it will be said, `Show him his minor sins and suspend the major ones,' whereupon he will be shown his minor sins. He will then be asked if on such-and-such a day he did such-and-such and he will answer in the affirmative, fearing the penalty from his major sins. He will be told, `In place of each of your sins, you will be granted a good deed,' whereupon he will say, `Lord! But I have committed other sins which I do not see here among them!'" The narrator of the anecdote says that he saw the Messenger of Allah smile at that juncture of the story till his front teeth became visible.
Allah is "al-Kareem mutaghafil," that is, the Great One Who deliberately and quite often overlooks. One of the signs of His Greatness is that He forgives whenever He is prayed for forgiveness; Allah has said, "Ask forgiveness of your Lord; surely He is the most Forgiving" (Quran, 71:10).
And among the signs of His Greatness is that He forgives without reminding those whom He forgives of the types of sins and ugly things they had committed.
And among the signs of His Greatness is that if they come to Him after having obeyed Him only a little, He will grant them quite a generous reward and will honor them by praising them beautifully. Among the signs of His Greatness is that He includes them in His Covenant; He has said, "... fulfill (your) covenant with Me, I will fulfill (My) covenant with you" (Quran, 2:40).
He even makes them worthy of His love: "... He shall love them and they shall love Him" (Quran, 5:54).
Among the other signs of His Greatness is that He has made this world the loaned property of His servants saying, "He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth" (Quran, 2:29), and the hereafter as well, "... and a Garden, the extensiveness of which is like the heavens and the earth, prepared for those who guard (themselves against evil)" (Quran, 3:133).
Also among the signs of His Greatness and generosity is that He has made everything in the heavens and the earth subservient to man: "And He has made whatever in the heavens and in the earth, all of it, subservient to you, [a gift] from Him" (Quran, 45:13).
One of the signs of a believer's good conduct in as far as the Attribute "al-Kareem" is concerned is that he directs himself wholeheartedly towards His Lord. He makes it his habit to feed and clothe the orphans and be good to his kith and kin. In order to attract the attention of the Muslims to this weighty matter, Prophet Muhammed has said, "If someone held in high esteem by his folks comes to you, be generous to him." He has also said, "Your Lord, Honor and Glory belong to Him, is ever-Living, Generous, too shy to disappoint any of His servants who plead to Him."
It is a sign of good manners to habitually forgive the doers of evil deeds, including repeated offenders, and to cover the faults of your brethren in all circumstances. Such generosity of manners is surely more precious than any materialistic generosity, for the latter preserves the body whereas the first sustains the soul. The Messenger of Allah has said, "You will not be able to please all people with your wealth; so, do please them with your good manners." He has also said, "Allah, Honored is His Name, is Generous, and He loves good manners and hates a lowly conduct." The Messenger of Allah has said, "The generous one is close to Allah, close to [the hearts of] people, close to Paradise, distant from the fire. A miser is distant from Allah, distant from people, distant from Paradise, close to the fire."
As for "al-Akram," i.e. the most Generous, surely it is Allah, the Most Generous of all those who are generous. This Attribute may also bear the same meaning embedded in that of "al-Kareem."