CAIRO, OCT. 14 -- Naguib Mahfouz, the only Arab ever to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, was stabbed and seriously wounded today outside his home in a Cairo suburb.

The motive for the attack on the 82-year-old Egyptian author was not clear, but police said they suspected Muslim militants, some of whom once declared Mahfouz an infidel and put him on their hit list.

The Interior Ministry said a man attacked Mahfouz with a sharp instrument and wounded him in the neck as he sat in a friend's car outside his house in the suburb of Agouza.

The man fled in a car in which others were waiting for him nearby, security sources added.

Mahfouz, who has written numerous novels about life in Egypt, is in the intensive care unit at the police hospital in Agouza, the sources said. He had been bleeding profusely, but his condition was stable and "reassuring," they added.

Al-Azhar, the highest Islamic authority in Egypt, has banned one of Mahfouz's novels, "The Children of Gabalawi," on grounds that it offends Islam by including characters who clearly represent God and the prophets.

In June 1992, Muslim militants from the Jihad group in Cairo shot and killed Farag Foda, a prominent intellectual who had mocked their ideology. Police included Mahfouz on the list of other intellectuals they thought Jihad might try to kill.

Mahfouz, who won the Nobel Prize in 1988, has concentrated on writing and has not been an active opponent of the Muslim militant movement fighting to overthrow the government.

Earlier this year, however, he joined hundreds of other Egyptian writers in signing a statement condemning the "cultural terrorism" of a fundamentalist member of parliament who attacked Culture Minister Farouk Hosni.

Mahfouz has received death threats in the past, but security sources said he had refused police protection.

After the attack, which took place near the west bank of the Nile at 5:15 p.m., police set up roadblocks on Nile bridges in a search for the getaway car. The security sources said the car had customs plates from either Suez or Nuweiba. Most such cars are recent imports from Jordan or the Persian Gulf states.

The attack coincided with the day that Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat and two Israeli leaders, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their agreement on Palestinian self-rule.

Mahfouz has written more than 40 novels. He has lived for many years in an apartment in Agouza. Despite his age, he has continued visiting his favorite cafe in downtown Cairo and the offices of the government newspaper al-Ahram, for which he writes a short column.