Al Haleem is one of the Names of Allah. It is part of the 99 Names of God, by which Muslims regard God and which are traditionally maintained as described in the Qur'ān, and Sunnah, amongst other places.
Haleem comes from the root "hilm", 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; or to exhibit moderation. Having "hilm" can be understood to have a wisdom and a forebearance that allows a person to control their anger. Hilm is an intelligence that, in our terms, allows someone to control their anger, even if their anger is justified. It allows you to, when you are justifiably angry, control it and not manifest it.
Al-Haleem is the One Who has the following characteristics: Knowledge (to know what happened); Wisdom (to control that which makes you angry); the notion that you must be justifiably angry (only a foolish person gets angry for no reason); and finally the notion that the person who’s angry justifiably could take revenge on you but doesn’t.
In his book, "Al-Maqsad Al-Asna fi Sharah Asma' Allahu al-Husna" (aka The best means in explaining Allah's Beautiful Names), Imam Al Ghazali translates Al Haleem as "The Non-Precipitate and Forbearing One". He states that Al Haleem is "the One Who Witnesses the disobedience of the disobedient, the One Who Sees the violation of the command (amr). But Anger does not rouse Him and Rage does not seize Him. He is not one Who is prompted by haste and recklessness to take Swift Vengeance, even though He has unlimited Power to do so." He then quotes verse 35:45 from the Quran: "And were Allah to punish men for what they earn, He would not leave on the back of it (surface of the earth) any creature..."
Al-Sa’di said in his Tafseer: “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.”
Occurrence in Quran
Al Haleem is seen in various ayat in the Quran. For example, 2:235, 2:263, 4:12, 5:101, 17:44, 22:59, 33:51, 35:41, 64:17. It is interesting to note that Al Haleem is usually paired with various other Names of Allah in the Quran.
For example, it is paired with Al Ghaffur (The Most Forgiving One) and some have said that this pairing means that not only does He overlook our actions and not get Angry, He forgives and covers them up and protects us from the effects of them. This is so because Al Ghaffur is said to come from the verb ghafara (غَفَرَ), which means to cover.
It is also paired with the Attribute Al Aleem (The All-Knowing), which some say implies that despite His Knowledge of our actions, He’s still controlling His Anger, though we deserve to be shown His Anger.
Another pairing is with His Name, Al Ghani (The Self Sufficient, Rich beyond any need). Some say this pairing means that He doesn't need anything from us and yet He is still forgiving us for our mistakes and sins. This shows His Attribute of Clemency. It can be argued that when a judge or a police officer lets a person off the hook with a crime; maybe they chose that action because of some benefit towards them. Allah does not benefit in any way, shape or form from any of his creation. This can be greatly understood by Prophet Musa in his statement in verse 14:8 in the Quran: “If you were to be ungrateful, you and everyone on Earth, Allah is Rich Beyond Need, Praiseworthy."
Another pairing is with His Name As Shakur (The Appreciative). This pairing can mean that not only will the sins of believers be overlooked, they will be rewarded with more than they deserve.
Occurrence in Hadith
It was narrated by Imam Ahmad, Imam Bukhari, and Imam Muslim, on the authority of Ibn Abbas that the Islamic prophet Muhammad, encouraged the saying of this supplication at the time of distress: La illaha il Allah al-Haleem al-Kareem, La Illaha Il Allah Rabb al-‘Arsh al-‘Adheem, La Illaha il Allah Rabb al-Samawat al-Sabi‘ wa Rabb al-‘Arsh al-Kareem (There is no god but God the Gentle and Generous. There is no god but God the Lord of the Great Throne. There is no god but God the Lord of the Seven Heavens and the Lord of the Generous Throne.)"
Imam al-Tabarani also narrated on the authority of Ali ibn Abi Talib that Muhammad taught him to say the following words at times of fear: "la illaha il allah al-Haleem al-Kareem, Subhan'Allah wa tabarak Allah rabb al-‘Arsh al-‘Adheem, wal Hamdulilahi Rabb al-‘Alameen" (There is no god but God, The Forbearing and Generous. Glory be to Allah and Blessed is Allah, The Lord of the Mighty Throne and all praise is due to Allah, The Lord of all the worlds).
Concept of Allah's Forgiveness
When reading "one-word" translations of the Attributes or Names of Allah, one can wonder why there are certain Attributes that are very similar. For example, Al Ghaffar, Al Ghaffur, Al Haleem, Al-Afuw and At Tawwab all seem to belong to the concept of forgiveness. One may ask why there are so many Attributes that deal with one subject. This can be better understood if a person uses the analogy of color. For example, when dealing with children, a typical crayon box will have the basic fundamental colors, such as black, white, blue, green, red etc. However, a person with knowledge knows that one color can have many different shades. When taking the color "blue" into account, it can range from various shades. The child does not understand the concept of different shades of "one" color until he either learns from a teacher or experiences them. Likewise, though forgiveness can be deemed as one subject, Allah was many different "shades" of Attributes that deal with forgiveness. It is very, very important to keep in mind that one Attribute of Allah should not be deemed "inferior" to another Attribute.
When contemplating how Allah deals with an individual's forgiveness, the root definition of each of these words help a great deal. In general, an individual has sins that he is aware of and sins that he is not aware of. Al Haleem has been explained to mean that Allah is Forbearing and Clement, where He gives an individual respite, or time to ask Him for forgiveness. Allah is not in haste to punish an individual for his sins. He even at times overlooks sins due to His Attribute of Haleem. Al Ghaffur has been described as meaning Allah is "The Most Forgiving One". He forgives a particular sin, no matter how large it may be. If the person returns to the same sin, Allah is Al Ghaffar, The Very Forgiving One. Al Ghaffar gives the notion that Allah continuously and repetitively forgives an individual for his sins. If an individual returns to Allah and asks for repentance, it can be accepted due to Allah's Attribute of being Tawwab, the Acceptor of Repentance. Once Allah accepts the repentance of an individual through His Infinite Mercy, He can erase the sin altogether because of His Attribute, Affuw. It would be as though there is no sin at all. Since man is not perfect, he repetitively sins and asks for forgiveness and seeks repentance, so the cycle of Forgiveness can repeat from Allah.