PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) — An imam was stabbed in the middle of morning prayer at a New Jersey mosque Sunday, authorities said.

The incident happened at the Omar Mosque at 501 Getty Ave. in Paterson.

“The imam was in the middle of morning prayers,” a law enforcement source said. “A guy just got up and started stabbing him. The worshippers intervened and stopped him. The attacker was disarmed.”

The source told PIX11 News the imam, 65-year-old Sayed Elnakib, was rushed into emergency surgery and was in stable condition. 

The suspect, 32-year-old Serif Zorba, was arrested and charged with attempted murder, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and unlawful possession of a weapon.

“We are deeply saddened and hurt by the events that happened this morning at 5:30 a.m. at Omar Mosque. We had an individual enter the mosque, unknown to the mosque, and during the prayer he lunged forward with a knife and attacked the imam. He stabbed him at least two times in the back,” said Abdul Hamdan, a spokesperson for Omar Mosque.

Hamdan said the congregants acted bravely to stop the suspect and held him down until law enforcement arrested him.

Hamdan said they believe it was an isolated incident. He said the suspect has visited the mosque before but is not a member.

“We believe that he has visited the mosque on previous occasions, but we don’t know who he is,” Hamdan said.

The attack happened during the holy month of Ramadan. The motive for the stabbing is currently unknown.