PESHAWAR -- Muslims are expressing widespread outrage and condemnation following a suicide attack outside the Prophet Muhammad's Mosque in Medina as preparations for Eid ul Fitr were under way.
During July 4 sunset prayers at the mosque, known in Arabic as al-Masjid al-Nabawi (Masjid-e-Nabvi), a suicide bomber approached the mosque and blew himself up as security officers approached to question him. The attack killed four police officers and injured five other officers, according to the Saudi Interior Ministry.
The mosque, where the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is buried, and nearby Jannatul Baqi, the cemetery where relatives and close companions of the prophet are buried, attract millions of pilgrims each year.
Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) previously urged its supporters to carry out attacks during Ramadan.
The bombing, at one of the holiest sites for all Muslims, caused many to break into tears of anguish, even on the penultimate day of Ramadan.
"[The Prophet's Mosque] is a very sacred and holy place for every Muslim, regardless of the sect he belongs to, and the message the terrorists wanted to give to the world community by targeting it is incomprehensible," Qibla Ayaz, a Pakistani religious scholar and former vice chancellor of University of Peshawar, told Pakistan Forward.
Ayaz said his heart was weeping with shock and grief.
"It is very horrifying and deplorable to see how people are becoming extremists ... so much so that they lost reverence for Ramadan and Masjid-e-Nabvi, the resting place of our Holy Prophet," he told Pakistan Forward.
The perpetrators are renegades who have no regard for places revered by the faithful and who are bent upon violating everything that is sacred to others, he said.
At the same time as the Medina attack, another suicide bombing occurred near a mosque in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, and earlier in the day, two police officers were wounded in a suicide bombing in Jeddah.
The Medina bombing "could not have been perpetrated by someone who had an atom of belief in his heart", Saudi Shura Council head Abdullah al-Sheikh said, while the kingdom's supreme council of clerics said the blasts "prove that those renegades... have violated everything that is sacred".
Pakistan's top leadership -- including President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, and the chief ministers and governors of all four provinces -- have expressed strong condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia.
"This is the worst kind of inhumanity and terrorism, which has hurt the sentiments of the entire Muslim ummah [community]," KP Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra said in a statement July 5.
"It is the desire of every Muslim to visit [the Prophet's Mosque] and even die in Medina because of the religious importance of the mosque and city," Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) leader Maulana Abdur Rehman, a former KP Provincial Assembly member, told Pakistan Forward.
"I could not find words to express my condemnation and denunciation of this despicable act," Prof. Abdul Ghafoor, former director of the Shaykh Zayed Islamic Centre at the University of Peshawar, told Pakistan Forward.
All Muslims are united over the sanctity of Makkah and Medina, Ghafoor said.
Those who have disregarded the holiness of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina are not actually Muslims and should be openly declared non-believers so that no one follows their misguided ways, he said.
"Medina is the second holiest place after Makkah al-Mukarramah in Saudi Arabia and both are considered 'Cities of Peace' by the Muslim world," Nazir Ghazi, a former judge on the Lahore High Court and a religious scholar, said.
It is unbearable for Muslims that terrorists targeted the mosque of their prophet, he said.
"The incident has raised questions over the religious background of the attackers, because it is unbelievable that a Muslim can commit such a sin," Ghazi said.
"It has exposed the real face of terrorists who have no link with Islam," he said. "For a Muslim it is impossible to target the resting place of the Holy Prophet."
No Muslim could ever contemplate perpetrating such a heinous act, Mufti Amin Shaheedi, leader of Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen Pakistan, said.
"The entire Muslim ummah is in a state of severe grief and sorrow over the incident, which has... left us aghast," he said in a news broadcast July 4.
ISIL might be behind the attack, as its leadership has openly vowed to target Muslim holy places, Mufti Amin said.
The terrorists have shown to the world that they have no religion and that their hearts lack any sense of sacredness or reverence, JUI leader Rehman said.
ISIL likely committed the Medina bombing, because the group despises all holy sites and considers any opponent a "non-believer", he said.
Ghazi, the former Lahore High Court judge who also is president of the International Seerat Forum Pakistan, urged Muslims to unite and investigate the Medina attack so that they could reveal the perpetrators' identity.
The so-called Muslims who planned and perpetrated the bombing "are proving to be a mark of shame for other faithful who have such regard for Makkah and Medina that they would like to die in both of these holiest cities", he said.