Allah calls Himself Al-Barr—The Source of Goodness, the kind Benefactor— on one occasion in the Quran. He is the one is the most kind and courteous, the one who is gentle with His servants. Al-Barr is the source of all kindness and goodness, doing good to creation through all His blessings and favours!
The Kind and Gracious Benefactor, The Righteous
Barr comes from the root baa-raa-raa, which points to five main meanings. The first main meaning is to be devoted and gentle and the second is to be just, proper and honest. The third main meaning is to be have regard for someone’s circumstances and the fourth is to bestow bountiful gifts and be ample. The fifth main meaning is to do good and be righteous.
This root appears 32 times in the Quran in three derived forms. Examples of these forms are al-birra (the righteousness), al-abraari (the righteous) and al-barr (the land).
Linguistically, al-Birr is a unique word that entails all acts of righteousness and good conduct [Ibn ‘Hajar Al-Haytami] Al-Barr is the source of all righteousness, the One from whom every good deed comes. Al-Barr is the One who does not stop His ihsaan because of the sins and disobedience of His slaves [Imam al-Qurtubi] He is the One who is kind to the wrongdoers, pardons transgression, forgives the sinner, turns to the one who repents to Him, accepts the plea of those who ask Him. He has turned to His slaves with praiseworthy actions and good expectations, while He is the most deserving of them [Ar-Raazi]!
Al-Barr Himself says: Indeed, we used to supplicate Him before. Indeed, it is He who is the Beneficent, the Merciful. [Quran, 52:28]
Al-Birr versus al-‘ithm
In the sunnah we find a beautiful explanation of what al-birr is and it’s opposite: al-‘ithm. A man came asking the Messenger of Allah salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam about righteousness and sin. So the Prophet said: Righteousness (al-birr) is good behaviour, and sin (al-‘ithm) is what fluctuates in your chest, and you would hate that the people discovered it about you [At-Tirmidhee]
How Can You Live by This Name?
Allah ‘azza wa jall explains beautifully the definition of al-birr in one ayah in the Quran. This ayah is a list of characteristics for the true believer to live by[Quran 2:177]:
1. Take care of your emaan.
Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets.. [Quran, 2:177] The first thing is to have faith and believe in Allah Al-Barr, in the Day He will recompense you according to your good and bad deeds and in the Angels He sends of which some to write down your actions of righteousness and sin. Al-Barr revealed His message to mankind through His books and the prophets, in order to guide you on the path of al-Birr! Make sure you study the arkaan ul emaan (the pillars of faith).
2. Spend on charity.
. . . and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves . . . [Quran, 2:177] Straight after emaan Al-Birr mentions spending your money on family and those in need for it. Money sometimes gets dearer to us than anything else, Al-Barr reminds you that spending in His cause is the way to gain al-birr!
3. Purify yourself to prayer and zakah.
. . . [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakah . . . [Quran, 2:177] Let your prayer purify you spiritually by learning the meanings of what you say and concentrating on your salah, taking every moment to ask Al-Barr for goodness and righteousness. Give zakah to purify your wealth!
4. Keep your promises and speak and act upon the truth.
. . . [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise . . .[Quran, 2:177] Keep your promises, no matter how big or small, even if it’s a promise to your sibling to help with homework or promising a sweet to your child. The prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam also said, Truthfulness leads to Al-Birr and Al-Birr leads to Paradise. And a man keeps on telling the truth until he becomes a Siddiq (truthful person). Falsehood leads to Al-Fujur (i.e., wickedness, evil-doing, etc.), and Al-Fujur leads to the (Hell) Fire, and a man keeps on telling lies till he is written as a liar before Allah [Al-Bukharee] Don’t accept any lies from yourself, not even “white lies” or lying while joking!
5. Have sabr.
. . . and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous [Quran, 2:177] Practising patience in hard times is your best training to cultivate al-birr. Next time you go through a test, tell yourself: it’s all part of a bigger plan. Your vehicle is sabr, on the road of al-birr, leading you to Jannah in shaa Allah!
6. Treat your parents and children well.
Ibn ‘Umar said: Allah has called them the ‘dutiful’ (al-Abrar) because they are dutiful (birr) to their parents and children. Just as you have a duty which you owe your parent, so you have a duty which you owe your child. [Al-Bukharee] Make an effort to be a good child to your parents and a good parent to your child!
7. Don’t be hasty.
On the day of `Arafat, the Prophet salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam heard a great hue and cry and the beating of camels behind him. So he beckoned to the people with his lash, “O people! Be quiet. Hastening is not a sign of righteousness. [Al-Bukharee] Try to do your daily life activities in a modest manner, for example don’t walk loudly and hasty on the street in a way you are causing others inconvenience!
8. Ask Al-Barr.
Ask Al-Barr to guide you to al-birr. A supplication of the sunnah asking for al-birr, is the dua for travelling; make sure you apply it each time you travel!*
O Allah, Al-Barr, we know that You are the source of all that is good. Adorn us with the characteristics of the abraar (righteous ones), guide us in good conduct in each company we are in, and make our righteousness a way to lead us to Your Paradise, ameen!
Wallahu ta’alaa ‘alem.
The Understand Quran Academy Team