In the times of Prophet Nuh a.s, after those generations of pious people, certain matters took place whereby people turn to idol-worshipping. The reason for that is found in a Hadith of Bukhari transmitted by Ibn Jarij from ‘Ata from Ibn Abbas in his exegesis of the verse 23 of Surah Nuh.
Ibn Abbas r.a said, “These were the names of the pious and righteous people among the people of Nuh. When they died, Satan inspired the people to sculp out idols and place them where these pious people used to sit and to call them by their names. The people did so but did not worship these statues but when they died and the origin of the statues was forgotten, the (new) people began worshipping them.”
Ibn Abbas r.a. said, “ These idols then came to be worshipped by the Arabs.”
Ibn Jarir has stated in his Tafsir that Muhammad bin Qays said, “There were righteous people between Adam a.s and Nuh a.s , and they had devotees who followed in their footsteps. When these people died, their companions who had been their admirer said, “If we carved their statues, that will encourage us in our worship by reminding us of them,” So, they cast statues but when they too died, and others came over, Iblis, the cursed, prompted them, “Surely, they used to worship them and that brought them rain.” So, they worshipped the statues.
Ibn Abu Hatim has said that Wadd, Yaghuth, Ya’uq, Suwa’ and Nasr were children of Adam a.s. Wadd was the eldest and most pious. When he died, the people gathered around his grave in Babylon and mourned him. Iblis saw them mourning at his grave and appeared to them in the form of a human being and said to them,” I see you weeping over this man. So, shall I make you an image in your meeting place like this man, that you remember him?” They said, “Yes!” So he made them an image in their meeting place. Abu Ja’far continued, “when they had the image with them, they kept remembering him, Iblis asked them if they would each wish an image in their own houses and they affirmed that they would like to have that. Soon, they all had an image in their houses, and remembered their man with it. Their children followed suit but their grandchildren could not remember what it was about and worshipped the image as god. So, the first one to be worshipped besides Allah was Wadd, whom they name Wada."
The consequence is that after long ages had passed by, everyone started to make an idol for his family or group and worshipped it at the exclusion of Allah. Bukhari and Muslim have transmitted a Hadith. Umm Salamah r.a and Umm Habibah r.a, described to the Prophet s.a.w the cathedral in Habshah (Abyssinia) called Maria. They described its beauty and pictures in it. He said, “ they, when, their pious persons died, built a place of worship on their graves, and then drew the images there in. They were the worst of creatures in the sight of Allah.”
Allah swt sent Nuh a.s to curb the mischief that spread through the land in this way. As a messenger, it was his mission to put a stop to idol-worshipping, and invite people to worship Allah swt, the One Who has no partner. He was thus the first Messenger sent by Allah swt to the people of earth as is evident from the Hadith of Abu Hurairah r.a. in Bukhari and Muslim, known as the Hadith of Shifa’ah.
REFERENCEIbn Kathir Ad- Damishqi (700-774H), Stories of the Prophets – Appendix including Life of Muhammad:The last of the Prophets, pg 61-64, ISBN:81-7101-558-1