Clouds of multilayered darkness covered the minds and lives of the people of Jahiliyyah (Pre-Islamic Days of Ignorance of Allah), who were dragged down into the evil depths of idolatry, debauchery, and sin.
An idol was worshipped inside almost every house in Makkah. When traveling, the last ritual before leaving home and the first on coming back was to rub the body against the idol as a blessing. Idolatry even crept in and desecrated the Ka‘bah, the first house built on earth for the worship of Allah alone, where three hundred and sixty idols were laid within it and its courtyard. The illness showed its symptoms everywhere; sculpted images, raised statues, erected rocks with devout worshipers circumambulating and prostrating. It even reached the worship of bare substances, according to the testimonies of people who lived through that era:
“Any man traveling and stopping at a place would take four stones and choose the best one to make it his god and the other three as andirons. When he departed, he left his god, and did the same on traveling to another place.”
“We used to worship stones. When we found a better stone than the one we had, we would throw it away and take the better one. If we could not find a stone, we would collect some earth and then bring a sheep and milk that sheep over it, and then circumambulate it.”
Shirk and idolatry originated in their minds from the conviction that angels, messengers, prophets, and pious people were the closest to Allah; that He raised them to the highest ranks and gave them special powers to avert harm or bring good, which entitled them to be mediators between Allah and the people. So, no help should be sought, a need begged for, or worship offered to Allah except through them.
Once this false belief was rooted and ingrained in their minds, they sculpted images and statues of them, took them as helpers and protectors, and made them the indispensable means of reaching Allah and drawing closer to Him.
Those who take Awliya’ (protectors and helpers) besides Him (say), “We worship them only that they may bring us near to Allah
(Az-Zumar 39: 3)
And they worship besides Allah things that harm them not, nor profit them, and they say, “These are our intercessors with Allah
(Yunus 10: 18)