RIYADH - A top Saudi cleric has slammed suicide attacks by Islamist martyrdom-seekers as devilish acts that do not qualify as jihad, a Saudi newspaper reported on Friday.
"He (a suicide bomber) claims to be a mujahed (holy warrier) in the name of Allah, but he is not. He is fighting in the name of the devil who has tempted him and convinced him" to carry out the attack, said Sheikh Saleh al-Fawzan.
"A Muslim is prohibited from killing himself," the member of the Saudi supreme council of Islamic scholars said in a lecture in Riyadh, according to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.
He said acts of violence branded as jihad, or Muslim holy war, were nothing more than "sabotage."
"This is not jihad. This is sabotage and unrightful killing," the cleric said, adding that jihad in Islam should only be declared by the leader of the Muslim community.
"Jihad has rules and regulations. It should be called for by the leader of the Muslims," he said.
Martyrs in the Islamic faith are promised generous rewards in paradise.
Fawzan also condemned the New Year's Day bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt that killed 21 churchgoers, slamming it as an act of "treachery."
The newspaper termed his condemnation of suicide attacks as unprecedented in a country which was home to 15 out of the 19 hijackers of the passenger planes used in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.