Prophet Nooh (Noah) was one of the prominent Prophets whom Allaah Almighty sent to guide people to His Path – that of Monotheism. Ibn ‘Abbaas narrated that Prophet Muhammad said: “The period between Aadam and Nooh was ten centuries.” [Al-Bukhaari]
Nooh was therefore born some one thousand years after Aadam’s creation, or after he left the Garden of Eden. For many generations, the people of Nooh had been worshipping statues that they called gods. They believed that these gods would bring them good, protect them from evil and provide all their needs. They gave their idols names such as Wadd, Suwaa’, Yaghooth, Ya’ooq, and Nasr.
Allaah Almighty revealed in the Noble Quran (what means): “And [the idolaters] said: ‘Never leave your gods and never leave Wadd, nor Suwaa’ or Yaghooth and Ya’ooq and Nasr [i.e., the names of their idols].”[Quran: 71:23] Originally, these were the names of good people who had lived among them. After their deaths, statues of them were erected to keep their memories alive. After some time, however, people began to worship these statues. Later generations did not even know why they had been erected; they only knew their parents had prayed to them. That is how idol worshipping developed. Since they had no understanding of Allaah Almighty who would punish them for their evil deeds, they became cruel and immoral.
Ibn ‘Abbaas explained: “Following the death of those righteous men, Satan inspired their people to erect statues in the places where they used to sit. They did this, but these statues were not worshiped until the coming generations deviated from the right way of life. Then they worshipped them as their idols.”
In his description of this story, Imaam Ibn Jareer narrated: “There were righteous people who lived in the period between Aadam and Nooh, may Allaah exalt their mention, and who had followers who held them as models. After their death, their friends who used to emulate them said: ‘If we make statues of them, it will be more pleasing to us in our worship and will remind us of them.’ So they built statues of them and, after they had died and others came after them, Iblees (Satan) crept into their minds saying: ‘Your forefathers used to worship them, and through that worship they got rain.’ So they worshipped them.”
Imaam Ibn Abu Haatim related the following story: “Wadd was a righteous man who was loved by his people. When he died, they withdrew to his grave in the land of Babylonia and were overwhelmed by sadness. When Iblees saw their sorrow caused by his death, he disguised himself in the form of a man saying: ‘I have seen your sorrow because of this man’s death; can I make a statue like him which could be put in your meeting place to make you remember him?’ They said: ‘Yes.’ So he made the statue like him. They put it in their meeting place in order to be reminded of him. When Iblees saw their interest in remembering him, he said: ‘Can I build a statue of him in the home of each one of you so that he would be in everyone’s house and you could thereby remember him?’ They agreed. Their children learned about and saw what they were doing. They also learned about their remembrance of him instead of Allaah. So the first to be worshipped instead of Allaah was Wadd, the idol which they named thus.”
The essence of this point is that every idol from those earlier mentioned was worshipped by a certain group of people. It was mentioned that people made pictures and, as the ages passed, they made these pictures into statues, so that their forms could be fully recognised; afterwards they were worshipped instead of Allaah.
It was narrated that Umm Salamah and Umm Habeebah who were two of the wives of the Prophet informed him about the church named ‘Maria’ that they had seen in the land of Abyssinia. They described its beauty and the pictures therein. He said: “Those are the people who build places of worship on the grave of every dead man who was righteous and then make therein those pictures. Those are the worst of creation in the sight of Allaah.” [Al-Bukhaari]