For many generations Noah’s people 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 Waddan, Suwa’an, Yaghutha, Ya’auga, and Nasran, (These idols represented, respectively, manly power; mutability, beauty; brute strength, swiftness, sharp sight, insight) according to the power they thought these gods possessed.
Allah the Almighty revealed:
– سورة نوح –
“They (idolaters) have said: “You shall not leave your gods nor shall you leave Wadd, nor Suwa, nor Yaghuth, nor Ya uq nor Nasr (names of the 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 sometime, 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 Allah the Almighty Who would punish them for their evil deeds, they became cruel and immoral.
Ibn Abbas explained: “Following upon 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 version, Ibn Jarir narrated: “There were righteous people who lived in the period between Adam and Noah 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, Iblis crept into their minds saying:’Your forefathers used to worship them, and through that worship they got rain.’ So they worshipped them.”
Ibn Abi Hatim related this story: “Waddan 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 Iblis 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 Iblis 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 remember him?’ They agreed. Their children learned about and saw what they were doing. They also learned about their remembrance of him instead of Allah. So the first to be worshipped instead of Allah was Waddan, 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 picture sand as the ages passed they made these pictures into statues, so that their forms could be fully recognized; afterwards they were worshipped instead of Allah.
It was narrated that Umm Salmah and Umm Habibah told Allah’s Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم about the church called “Maria” which 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 unto Allah.” (Sahih al Bukhari).
Worshipping anything other than Allah is a tragedy that results not only in the loss of freedom; its serious effect reaches man’s mind and destroys it as well. Almighty Allah created man and his mind with its purpose set on achieving knowledge the most important of which is that Allah alone is the Creator and all the rest are worshippers (slaves). Therefore, disbelief in Allah, or polytheism, results in the loss of freedom, the destruction of the mind, and the absence of a noble target in life. (By worshipping anything other than Allah, man becomes enslaved to Satan, who is himself a creature and becomes harnessed to his own baser qualities). Into this environment Allah sent Noah with His message to his people. Noah was the only intellectual not caught in the whirlpool of man’s destruction which was caused by polytheism.