The Origins of Idolatry

[Majlisul Ulama]

“And they (the leaders of the mushrikoon) said (to their  followers): ‘Don’t ever abandon (worshipping) your gods, and don’t ever abandon (worshipping) Wadd, nor Suwaa’,  nor Yagooth, Ya’ooq and Nasr.” [Surah Nooh, Aayat 23]

These  five, viz., Wadd, Suwaa’,  Yagooth, Ya’ooq and Nasr, were  the first idols made on earth. These were the names of  righteous men – Auliya  – who  lived from the time of Nabi  Aadam (alayhis salaam) until the  age of Nabi Nooh (alayhissalaam).
They were renowned for their  worship and piety, and the people followed their teachings which they had inherited from Nabi Aadam (alayhissalaam) and  Nabi Sheeth (alayhissalaam), the  eldest son of Hadhrat Aadam  (alayhissalaam) who had become  the Nabi after Hadhrat Aadam  (alayhissalaam). 

While these Auliya were alive, all  the people were following the  one true path of the Deen. There  was no shirk, kufr or any other  religion or ideology. The people  had profound love for these  Auliya and they followed their  teachings. After they died, their  followers were grief-stricken.  There was much crying and mourning.

Shaitaan appeared in human form to the people and  presented his plot to deceive  them from Siraatul Mustaqeem  (the Straight Path). He took  advantage of their love and yearning for these Auliya, and he  prepared perfect pictures which  closely resembled these Auliya.  He convinced the people to keep  the pictures solely to refresh  their memories of their noble    Guides and to derive greater  inspiration. This would enhance  the quality of their ibaadat.

The simple folk readily fell into  this satanic trap. Initially the  pictures were not worshipped.  They were only kept and viewed  to create greater enthusiasm for    worshipping Allah Ta’ala in the  way in which these Auliya had  taught them. When the next  generation arrived, Shaitaan 
convinced the people that their predecessors used to actually worship these pictures. The arguments and interpretations of  shaitaan convinced the people  that their predecessors had actually worshipped these  pictures of the Auliya. Thus they   resorted to actually worshipping the pictures. This was the origin of idolatry.

The pictures ultimately led to the  making of stone idols. Shaitaan  again arrived and convinced the  people that a better way of  worshipping these Auliya was to  erect their likenesses in stone.  Thus, came into origin the  worship of stone images.

According to one tafseer, Wadd  was actually the title of Nabi  Sheeth (alayhissalaam). This  word means ‘love’. It was the  profound love which people had  for him that he was given this title.

Nabi Nooh (alayhissalaam) according to the Qur’aan Majeed  lived for 950 years. This was not  the average age of the people.    Allah Ta’ala had granted him this  long age. During his lifespan  several generations came and  departed from the world. Allah  Ta’ala had granted him this long  age. During his lifespan several  generations came and departed  from the world. Despite his tableegh, every successive  generation obstinately clung to  the worship of these five idols.

The Mushrikeen of Makkah had  adopted these five idols for their  worship. The tribe of Kalb had  taken to the worship of the idol  named Wadd. The tribe of Huzail  worshipped the idol Suwaa’.  The tribes of Muraad and Banu  Ghateef had adopted for their  worship the idol Yagooth while  Ya-ooq was the idol of the tribe Hamdaan. Nasr was worshipped  by the Zil Qalaa’, an offshoot of  the tribe of Humayr.

More corrupt beliefs developed  with the passage of time. Wadd  was believed to be the god of  male virility and became the god  of love. Suwaa’ was made the  god of beauty, hence the idol  was erected in the form of a  woman. Yagooth was their god  of strength and power. This idol  was therefore moulded in the  forms of a lion and a bull. The  god of speed was Ya-ooq which  was made in the form of a horse  (perhaps a horse with wings).  Nasr was believed to be the god  of powerful vision hence the  form of this idol was an eagle.  Today in India, these idols are  also worshipped generally  symbolizing the same issues. 

The original idols did not have  these forms nor were these  beliefs attached to them. These  doctrines of shirk were later  accretions which developed    among the Arab mushrikeen after  the idols were retrieved.

During the Great Deluge of Athaab (Divine Punishment)   which destroyed the people in Nabi Nooh’s time, these idols were buried under the earth, and  the Arabs of Makkah had discovered them. After unearthing them, they were set up by the  different tribes as their special deities.

After steadfastly with the greatest toleration and  perseverance engaging in  tableegh for more than nine  centuries, Allah Ta’ala informed  Hadhrat Nooh (alayhissalaam): “Never will your people accept Imaan accept those who have already believed.”, Hadhrat Nooh  (alayhissalaam) supplicated to  Allah Ta’ala invoking curses on  his mushrik nation since all hope of their reformation had now  receded into oblivion. Thus he  supplicated: 

“O My Rabb! Do not leave on earth even a single house of the kaafireen. Verily, if You should leave them, they will only mislead  your servants and give birth to  only immoral unbelievers.”     [Surah Nooh, Verses 26 and 27]

Then came the mighty and tumultuous Athaab of the Great Flood which utterly wiped out the mushrikeen. Islam’s  uncompromising stance against all forms of picture-making of animate objects and its severe prohibition are therefore readily  comprehensible. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:  “The worst-punished people on  the Day of Qiyaamah will be the picture-makers.”

The story of the origin of idolatry  also illustrates the deception of  Iblees. He approaches sincere  and pious men to swerve from  Siraatul Mustaqeem with  ‘pious’  and ‘logical’ arguments. May  Allah Ta’ala save us from such  talbees of Iblees.

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