Allah (SwT) has said,
“...certainly Allah has pardoned them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing” (Qur’an, 3:155).
Al-Haleem is an Attribute of the Almighty derived from the root word hilm which means: taking the time to do something. It also means care, attention and sensibility. Allah’s hilm is His postponement of chastising those who deserve to be chastized, so He delays the penalty of some of those who deserve it. After that, He may penalize them or overlook their faults.
Or He may swiftly penalize some of them. He witnesses the transgression of transgressors and the disobedience of those who disobey Him without being provoked by anger or overwhelmed by wrath, and He does not rush to penalize despite His ability to do so. Allah (SwT) has said,
“Had Allah destroyed men on account of their iniquity, He would not have left on earth a single creature” (Qur’an, 16:61).
Al-Haleem does not bring about a swift vengeance; had He intended to effect revenge at a later time, He would have been called spiteful, vengeful, and if He does not intend to seek revenge at all, then surely He is Forgiving. He can also be called al-Haleem if He does not intend to seek revenge at all provided He does not declare His intention. If He does declare it, He then is called Forgiving. Al-Haleem quite often overlooks sins and covers up shortcomings. He forgives after having covered up. He safeguards His affection for His servants. His promise is good. He fulfills His promise. Al-Haleem shields those who indulge in sins with His forgiveness, Who pardons those who violate His laws, Who is not slighted by the rebellion of the rebellious, and no oppression of any oppressor can ever provoke Him.
The Holy Qur’an has described some of Allah’s messengers as haleem; clement. For example, Abraham (‘a), the Friend of Allah (SwT), is described as,
“... most surely Abraham was very tender-hearted, forbearing” (Qur’an, 9:114),
and in Surah Hud (‘a), he is praised likewise:
“Most surely Abraham was forbearing, tender-hearted, oft-returning (to Allah)” (Qur’an, 11:75).
The Holy Qur’an states the following in Surah al-Saffat about Ishmael
“So We gave him the glad tidings of a boy [Ishmael] possessing forbearance” (Qur’an, 3:101).
Hilm is a gracious and a noble attribute, so much so that one tradition recorded by Ibn al-Athir cites the Messenger of Allah (S) as saying,”hilm is the master of all good norms of conduct.” It also records another such tradition saying,”One who is haleem is almost on the same footing with Allah’s prophets.” hilm enjoys a high status and esteem despite the abundance of one’s sins and the repetition of one’s repentance.
Allah (SwT) has said,
“Allah does not call you to account for what is vain of your oaths, but He will call you to account for what your hearts have earned, and Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing” (Qur’an, 2:225).
He has also said,
“The seven heavens declare His glory and the earth, too, and those who are in them, and there is not a single thing but glorifies and praises Him, but you do not understand their glorifying; surely He is Forbearing, Forgiving” (Qur’an, 17:44).
A forbearing and munificent person, then, is one who often forgives the sins and conceals the shortcomings. He is the one who forgives after shielding one’s sins, who safeguards his compassion, who is true to his word, who forgives those who break his law, who is not stirred by the rebellion of transgressors, nor is he provoked by oppression. Allah’s Munificence regarding the sinners is great:
“... and He is the Most High, the Great” (Qur’an, 2:255).
It is narrated that Abraham (‘a) saw a man committing a sin, so he prayed Allah (SwT) to cause him to perish, and so it happened. He saw a second and a third, and he repeated his plea, and they, too, perished. Then he saw a fourth and invoked Allah (SwT) likewise to annihilate him. It was then that Allah (SwT) inspired him,”O Abraham (‘a)! Stop! If We were to annihilate each one of Our servants who commits a sin, then only a small number will survive; but if one sins, We give him a respite; if he repents, We accept his repentance, and if he persists, We postpone his penalty knowing that he cannot escape from Our domain.”
It is also narrated that a young man used to commit many sins, and he used to persist in sinning; nay, he even used to repent and immediately go back to sinning. Having done so quite often, he was addressed by Satan thus,”For how long will you keep sinning and repenting?” Satan wished that Allah (SwT) would cause that man to lose hope in His mercy and become despondent.
When night came, the man performed his ablution and offered two rek’ats, then he raised his eyes to the heavens and said,”O You Who protects the righteous against sinning, Who safeguards those who are protected from sinning, Who makes the righteous what they are! If You neglect me, You will find me losing heart; my forelock is in Your hand; my debts are before You! O You Who changes the hearts! I invoke You to keep my heart firm on following Your creed!” Allah (SwT), thereon, said to His angels,”O angels of Mine! Have you all heard his statement? Bear witness, then, that I have forgiven all his past sins and safeguarded him against sinning for the rest of his life.”