This article or section is being renovated.
Rashad Khalifa (رشاد خليفة; November 19, 1935–January 31, 1990) was an Egyptian-American biochemist, closely associated with the United Submitters International, which promoted a heterodox Quranist interpretation of Islam. Khalifa was responsible for popularizing the theory that the Quran is replete with numerological miracles related to the number 19. He was assassinated by his former student Glen Cusford Francis (a.k.a. Benjamin Philips), a traditionalist radical, on January 31, 1990.
Personal life, education, and career
Rashad Khalifa, born in Egypt in 1935, obtained an honors degree from Ain Shams University in Egypt before emigrating to the United States in 1959. In the States, he completed a Master's Degree in biochemistry at Arizona State University and a Ph.D. at the University of California, Riverside. Khalifa acquired U.S. citizenship, married an American woman, and had two children with her, a daughter, Beth, and a son, Sam.
Khalifa worked as a science adviser for the Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi for about a year. After this, he worked as a chemist for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. Next, in 1980, he worked as a senior chemist for the Arizona State Office of Chemistry.
As a Quranist, Khalifa promoted the doctrine that the Quran was sufficient for understanding Islam and that the hadith, which he considered later inauthentic additions to Islam, were a corrupting influence which had to be purged for the rejuvenation of the religion.
Khalifa coupled his belief in the sole-usefulness of the Quran with his doctrine of the Quran's miraculous mathematical / numerological relationship with the number 19. He maintained that the integration of the number 19 into the entirety of the text and structure of the Quran made it impervious to alteration and unassailably divine in origin, unlike the hadiths, which were irreversibly corrupted. Using his numerology, Khalifa determined that all of the Quran was perfect save two verses which, not fitting his numerological model, must have been inauthentic additions to the Quran and thus had to be removed.
To promote his religious sect, Khalifa founded the United Submitters International (USI) and opened a Mosque in Tucson, Arizona (ICS Masjid Tucson).
Khalifa authored several books promoting his views during his lifetime, including:
- Miracle of the Quran: Significance of the Mysterious Alphabets, Islamic Productions, St. Louis, Missouri, 1973.
- The Computer Speaks: God's Message to the World, Renaissance Productions, Tucson, Arizona, 1981.
- Qur'an: The Final Scripture, Islamic Productions, Tucson, Arizona, 1981.
- Qur'an: Visual Presentation of the Miracle, Islamic Productions, Tucson, Arizona, 1982.
- Qur'an, Hadith and Islam, Islamic Productions, Tucson, Arizona, 1982.
- Qur'an: The Final Testament, Islamic Productions, Tucson, Arizona, 1989.
The Rashad Khalifa verses
Verses said to predict his prophethood
Rashad Khalifa believed certain verses in the Quran implied his status as the true final messenger of Islam, rather than Muhammad. Rashad Khalifa produced his own translation of the Quran where these verse were interpolated with direct reference to himself. The quotations listed below are taken from Rashad Khalifa's translated edition of the Quran.
Verses deleted due to numerical error
Two verses in the Quran, according to Khalifa, were erroneous and not part of the Quran because they did not meet the mathematical criteria of the miracle of 19, as he had delineated it. Khalifa therefore removed these two verses from his translated edition of the Quran.
Criticism of Rashad Khalifa
In 1997, Martin Gardner, an American mathematics and science writer, published an article in the Skeptical Inquirer which extensively reviewed and debunked Khalifa's mathematical pretenses about the Quran.
Individuals online claiming to know him have accused Khalifa of multiple fraud.
Khalifa was a master of deception, lying and exploitation all his life. He claimed to be a chemist while the official certificates for Bsc, from Ein-Shams Univ, Cairo, Msc from Univ of Arizona, Tucson, and PhD from Univ of California, Riverside, all state he was an agriculturist-horticulturist, with a specialty in plant physiology, as myself. He defected from Egypt 1968 under the pretext to accompany his American wife for a family visit but never returned to fulfill obligations toward our country as preconditioned within the terms of our government scholarship to study abroad. While in Libya, he was contracted as a self-claimed chemist to turn Libya into a protein-rich and exporter country by converting its vast oil resources to animal protein. He never did that, while he abused the good-well of the Libyans delivering TV speeches on ISLAM!Suddenly, Khalifa the false chemist turned into a Muslim scholar/theologian deciphering a mysterious divine code of Qur'an based on absurd numerical calculations. He fooled some Muslim countries, particularly Libya and Saudi Arabia from which he received huge amount of money. Khalifa was a typical Jim Jones type misleading and abusing naive followers.
Raping a minor
In October of 1979, Khalifa (who was then aged 43, married with two children) was accused of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual contact with a minor.
After listening to the alleged victim and a police detective during three days of testimony, Justice of the Peace James R. West ruled that there was probable cause to hold Rashad A. Khalifa, 43, for trial on the three charges.
According to the girl, Khalifa recruited her to do research on the aura, a luminous radiation that supposedly surrounds the body, and met her Sept. 3 at an East Side office for that purpose.
The girl said Khalifa asked her to remove her clothing so that it wouldn't interfere with her aura and after massaging several parts of her body, he proceeded to have sexual relations with her.
The girl admitted to defence attorney David S. Hoffman that she did not try to leave, and explained that she was confused and scared.
During the hearing, Hoffman also said that there was no physical evidence of intercourse found when the girl was taken to a hospital for an examination.
But West said he found sufficient evidence in the fact that Khalifa admitted to the police that he had manipulated the girl's breasts during his research and in circumstances under which Khalifa obtained the office.
Police Detective Michael D. Garigan told West that his investigation showed that Khalifa got the key to the office from the building manager just a few days earlier, by saying he wished to show it to friends interested in office space while the manager was out of town.Deputy County Attorney John W. Dickinson said later that investigators are trying to locate other possible subjects who may have been recruited.
Tucson Citizen, p. 28, October 6, 1979, http://wikiislam.net/wiki/File:Rk_Tucson_Citizen.gif.
On January 31, 1990, Rashad Khalifa was found dead, having been stabbed 29 times and doused with flammable liquid, inside the mosque he founded in Tucson Arizona. Initially, a man by the name of James Williams was convicted for conspiracy in the killing of Khalifa. Williams was an alleged member of the terrorist Jamaat ul-Furqa organization. Williams, however, disappeared on the day of his sentencing in 1994, only to be apprehended in 2000 and sentenced, this time, to 69 years in prison.
19 years after the murder, in 2009, 52-year-old Glen Cusford Francis (a.k.a. Benjamin Phillips) was arrested on suspicion of having killed Khalifa. Following arrest, Philips was extradited from Canada to the United States, where he was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Philips had been a student of Rashad Khalifa starting in January 1990 and disappeared after the killing. His arrest came about when his two identities were understood to belong to the same person.
Celebration of assassination by mainstream western clerics
Bilal Philips—a popular Saudi-educated Salafist Islamic preacher, scholar, and writer who tours Western countries—celebrated the assassination of Rashad Khalifa, the manner of its execution, and prayed for the reward of its perpetrator in the hereafter. Philips is now banned from Australia, the UK, Germany, Kenya, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Denmark. In the United States, he was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, but has nonetheless been allowed to live in the country. Philips has lived for some time now in Canada. Most recently, he moved to Qatar.
- Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, a Hoaxer or a Murderer? - An Investigation into the Killing of Rashad Khalifa (19.org) (archived)
- The Rashad Khalifa Cult Exposed
- ICS / Masjid Tucson Website (archived from the original), https://web.archive.org/web/20210523163436/https://www.masjidtucson.org/
- Martin Gardner, Notes of a Fringe Watcher: The Numerology of Dr. Rashad Khalifa, 21 (5), Skeptical Inquirer, September/October 1997, https://skepticalinquirer.org/1997/09/the-numerology-of-dr-rashad-khalifa/