Bi-la kaifa

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The Arabic phrase bi-la kayfa (Arabic: بلا كيف) is roughly translated as "without asking how." It addresses the theological problem in Islam of how to deal with verses in the Qur'an that refer to God (Arabic: اللهAllāh) as having human characteristics such as the "Hand of God" or the "Face of God." These verses are problematic because they give God human characteristics, something which is contrary to the Islamic concept of God as being transcendental as evident in the Quranic verse "There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing."[1]


Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (ca. 873-936) originated the use of the term in his development of a theological system that would resolve some of the paradoxes[citation needed] in Mu'tazilah thought. Instead of explaining how God can have a face (which would anthropomorphize God) or explaining the verses as metaphorical (which would cast doubt on the literalness of the Qur'an) readers simply accept the verses as they stand, without asking how or why.[citation needed]

From roughly the 12th century onward, the newly formed Ash'ari sect left off the theological system considered the primary concept of al-Ash'ari himself, abandoning "bi-la kayf" and accepting the metaphorical interpretations al-Ash'ari once opposed so strenuously.[2]

Literalism and Interpretation[edit]

The term "bi-la kayf" is the belief that the verses of the Qur'an, particularly those related to the names and attributes of God, should be taken at their apparent meaning rather than employing figurative interpretation. An example would be the belief that Allah has literal hands; the Qur'an mentions specifically that Allah created man with his two hands. The difference of opinion arises when reconciling the attribute with the statement that Allah is unlike the creation. According to this methodology, the reconciliation is done by affirming the apparent meaning of the verses and negating the similarity of the attributes of the creator to the attributes of the creation. Precisely how Allah's attributes function are not elaborated upon and left as part of the Al-Ghaib.

Other uses[edit]

Bi-la kaifa is also a religious phrase used by the Fremen people in the Dune universe created by author Frank Herbert. It has roughly the same meaning as the word amen and translates literally to "Nothing further need be explained".[citation needed]


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