[Surah Al-Qalam 68:4]
The religion left by Abraham was Islamic Monotheism and the land of Arabia was supposed to safeguard it. Here, dwelled the children of Abraham. From the children of Ishaq, the Bani Israel had a chain of prophets amongst them while the Arabs, the children of Ismail did not have one, till Muhammad ﷺcame.
There was a rich man amongst the Arabs, Amr bin Luhaib, who also was an influential person amongst the Arabs. Historians say that it is because of him that the Arab creed got corrupted. One day, he traveled to Sham and saw a huge crowd outside the city. He went to see what was all the fuss about, and spotted an idol.
It was the first time an Arab had seen an idol. He inquired about it. The people said, “This is a very lucky idol and during drought we bring it out here and pray to him to intercede to Allah on our behalf. We get rain in abundance by it.” Amr bin Luhaib got impressed by this and asked if he could get that idol for himself. The people refused, but allowed him to make a copy of one those idols. He returned to Makkah with an idol and told the people about his experience. That was the introduction of idolatry to the unlettered Arabs, who were following pure monotheistic religion as taught by their father Abraham.
The next year during Hajj when the Arabs gathered, Amr bin Luhaib introduced his new lucky mascot to the people gathered for Hajj; The idol whose presence and invocation could get them rain and drive away calamities. People who were influenced by this, picked up stones from the valley and started making a copy of the idol and took the copied version along them when they left Makkah after Hajj. Idol worship became rampant in Arabia and soon every stone of Makkah was considered to be a lucky stone. It went on to become a part of the Arab culture and creed till the advent of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. A promise of Allah which proved to be true when Makkah was conquered and Qur’anic Surah was revealed,
“When the help of Allah arrives and victory too, you will see people entering the Religion of Allah in hordes. So praise your Lord and repent, Indeed He is oft forgiving .”(Surah Nasr)
Idols - Made of food stuff
In those days, people used to consider small idols as a source of protection, when they traveled. Everyone had different idols for different purposes; one for blessings in trade, other for protection etc. This made their luggage very heavy. So they used to make idols of sattu, a flour of mixture of ground pulses and cereals, meant for eating. Such ignorant were they, that they used to eat them (their idols!) up when hungry! In the days of ignorance, Abu Darda, who later became a prominent companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him), used to wash his favourite idol and dress it before he started his journey. One day he gave a wash to the idol and kept a cup of milk nearby as an offering to the idol. He used to believe that milk being cool would cool down the anger of idol. His wife was sitting there. A dog came, drank up all the milk and then lifted its leg and urinated upon the idol.
Umm Dar (Allah be pleased with her) told her husband that she wonders how could the idol who could not save itself from being urinated upon, save anyone else? She wondered how could the lifeless stone help her to get a kid if it could not prevent the dog from snatching the milk served to it. That was the reason that changed their minds and they became Muslims. She even composed a poem about it. Later, in lighter moments, whenever the Prophet (peace be upon him) recalled the incident, he used to remind the couple about the poem and asked the wife of Abu Darda (Allah be pleased with him), “Why don't you recite the poem that you had composed when your husband had embraced Islam?”
From then on till now - The Arabs are the torch bearers of Monotheism in its purest form.