Allah blessed the descendants of Adam (peace be upon him), his children and grandchildren, and they spread the multiplied. If Adam had come back and seen them all, and someone had said to him, ‘These are your descendants, Adam, he would have been astonished. He would have said ‘Glory be to Allah! These are all my descendants!’ But what happened to Adam’s descendants? Why did they need messengers?
Adam’s descendants founded many villages. They built many houses. They ploughed the land, grew crops and lived in comfort and contentment. They followed the way of their ancestor, Adam. They worshipped only Allah and didn’t worship anything else besides Him.
They were one united community. Adam was the one father of all of them, and Allah was their One Lord.
Satan hadn’t bowed down to Adam when Allah had commanded him to do so. So, he was driven out and damned forever. But how could Satan and his descendants be content with this? Were not people still worshipping Allah? Were not people still a single community with no differences? That couldn’t be! Shouldn’t he take revenge on the sons of Adam so that they would go to the Fire with him?
But how could Satan do that when people were worshipping Allah?
He decided to call them to worship idols so that they would go to the fire and never get to the garden. He knows Allah forgives people all sins, if He so wills, except one. Allah never forgives people worshipping other things besides Him or as well as Him.
So Satan decided to call the people to associate other things with Allah so that they would never go to the Garden (Jannah). But how could he persuade them?
If he went to the people and said to them ‘Worship idols. Don’t worship Allah,’ they would curse him and close him off. They would say ‘Allah forbid! How can we associate other things with our Lord? How can we worship idols? You are a cursed Satan! You are a foul Satan!’
So Satan had to look for another way, a cleverer way, to get the people to do as he wanted.
Here had been men who feared Allah and worshipped Him night and day and who remembered Him often.
They had loved Allah, so Allah had loved them and answered their prayers. People loved them and spoke of them with respect long after they had died and gone to Allah’s mercy.
Satan was well aware of this. So he went to the people and mentioned those men. He said, ‘what do you think of so-and-so and of so-and-so?
They said, ‘Glory be to Allah. They were men of Allah and His friends. When those men prayed, He answered them. When they asked, He gave to them.’
Pictures of Righteous Men
Satan asked, ‘How great is your sorrow for them?’ They replied, ‘Very great indeed.’
He asked, ‘How great is your longing for them?’ They replied, ‘Very great indeed.’
He asked, ‘Why don’t you look at them every day then?’ They said, ‘How can we do that when they are dead?’ He said, ‘Make pictures of them and look at them every morning.’
People liked Satan’s idea and made such pictures and looked at them every day. Whenever they saw the pictures, they remembered how those holly men had lived.
From Pictures to Statues
In time, the people moved on from making pictures to making statues. They made many statues of the holly men and put them in their houses and their mosques.
They still worshipped Allah and didn’t associate anything with Him. They knew these were only statues of holy men and that they could neither help nor hurt them nor provide for them. They showed them respect because they were reminders of the holy men.
As time passed, the number of statues increased. The people respected them more and more. They got used to having them around and looked for blessings in them. Now whenever one of their holy men died, they would make a statue of him and name it after him.
From Statues to Idols
Sons saw their fathers looking for blessings through the statues and saw how much respect they had for them. They saw them kiss the statues, dress them and pray to Allah in their presence. They saw them lower their heads and bow down in their presence.
When the fathers passed away, the sons added what their fathers had done. They began to prostate themselves before them, to ask the statues for things and to sacrifice animals for them. In this way the statues were turned into idols.
People began to worship them as they had worshipped Allah before. They had a lot of these idols. One was Wadd. Another was Suwa`. This was Yaghuth. That was Ya`uq. Another was Nasr.
Allah became very angry with the people. He cursed them. How could Allah not be angry with the people because of what they were doing? Was this what they were created for? Was this what they were given provision for?
They walked on Allah’s earth, but rejected Allah! They ate Allah’s provisions, but associated others with Allah! How terrible a sin!
Allah was so angry with the people that he held back the rain and made things hard for them. Their harvests were small and few children were born for them.
But the people didn’t learn the lesson from that, they didn’t understand. They didn’t turn to Allah in repentance. They needed good counsel.
Allah does not speak to each person individually or tell each one to do this or do that. The angles are a race just like mankind. It is possible to see them and hear what they say, if Allah wills. But the angels don’t speak to each person individually either, or tell each one to do this or do that.
Only Allah can choose the person who will receive His message to give to the people. Allah wanted to send messengers to the people who could speak to them and counsel them. Allah chose to send the children of Adam a man from among themselves to speak to them and give them good counsel.
Man or Angel?
Allah wanted His messenger to be a man and to be one of the people. That way they would recognize him and understand what he said.
If the messengers had been angels, the people might say, ‘What has he got to do with us? He is an angel and we are mortals! We eat and and drink and we have wives and children. How can we worship Allah?’
But if the messenger were a man, he could answer, ‘I eat and drink; I have a wife and children. But I worship Allah. Why don’t you worship Allah?’ If the messengers had been an angels, the people might say to him, ‘You don’t get hungry or thirty. You don’t get ill or die. So you can worship Allah and remember Him always!’
But if the messengers were human, he could answer, ‘I am just like you. I get hungry and thirsty. I get ill and will die. But I worship Allah and I remember Him. So why don’t you worship Allah? Why don’t you remember Him? In this way the people would not be able to make up excuses.
The article is excerpted from the book “Stories of the Prophets”, by Sayyed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, published by UK Islamic Academy.