Sectarian Islam in America: The Case of United Submitters International–The Foundation
AbstractGiven to several intellectual, social, economic, or political factors, religious sectarianism has been an ancient and ongoing phenomenon of human history. Sectarian “Islamic” groups also have a long history and some enjoyed substantial following and power. Recent resurgence of the classical sectarian “Islamic” groups and growth of the new ones, however, took place under the Western colonisation project. The discovery of Americas provided a haven to all sorts of religious sects. Individuals identifying with various sectarian “Islamic” groups have also been immigrating to the US for more than a century, and found in American environment a context for freedom of religious expression and potential to propagate and flourish. This paper skimming through these issues seeks to focus on the foundational stage of a unique American-born small modernist sectarian group, United Submitters International. Its founder, Rashad Khalifa, going through several stages finally claimed to be “God’s messenger to the new world” and “God’s messenger of the covenant.” This claim, according to him, is validated by his discovery, through a rigorous computer-assisted analysis of the Quranic text, that the ultimate proof of the Quran’s truth and its being ultimate miracle is based on and revolves around number 19. This paper studies issues related to Khalifa’s birth, education, professional life, activism, and initial claims and culminates with the study of his computer-assisted discovery that the ultimate miracle of the Quran is based on number 19. The study of his further and final claims and the group’s activities will be the focus of another paper.
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