Nuh - peace be upon him
The beginning of Shirk
Nuh (peace be upon him) was the first of the blessed Ulul Azm, the five arch-prophets of Islam.
After the death of Prophet Idris (peace be upon him), the Muslims were left without prophetic guidance for a long time. So they began to look at the pious companions of Idris for leadership. The Qur'an mentions the names of these pious and righteous people from the time of Idris in the chapter of Nuh (Surah 71): Wadd, Suwa, Yaghuth, Yauq and Nasr. They consulted the people, advised them and judged between them. So far, so good: But the Shaytan was plotting and planning. He came to the people in the generations after Idris, and he whispered to them: Let's make statues of these pious people so that we remember them. Perceiving no harm in it, the people did it.
After a long time, after many generations had passed, Shaytan returned to the people and whispered again: Look at these statues! Your ancestors used to worship them, and they brought them goodness.
Thus, humans committed their first ever act of shirk. For the first time, they began worshipping idols instead of worshipping Allah the Almighty.
By the time Nuh was sent to his people, not one single Muslim had been left on the face of the Earth. Everybody on Earth was a Mushrik, except for Nuh. Nuh was sent by Allah to guide his people back toward Islam. Allah gave him evidence, eloquence in speech and clear wisdom and proof. For 950 years he called his people towards Tawheed, and he was an example of patience. Few accepted his message.
When Nuh came and began his Dawah, he pointed out the signs of Allah: The day and the night, the moon and the stars, the plants and the animals, the heavens and the earth. He told them of the Supreme Creator that all of these things point to, and he told them of the deception of Shaytan. He warned them of the severe punishment that would fall upon them if they turned away.
Nuh wanted to save these people and help them. But most of them were arrogant, they disbelieved and refused to take heed of Nuh's message. It was only the poor and needy among them who accepted his call.
The misguidance of the wealthy
The rich elites saw themselves as better than these poor believers while they were in fact much worse in the sight of Allah. Their own status and wealth deceived them. They accused Nuh of being only a man like themselves, they accused his followers of following him thoughtlessly, and they accused him of being a liar. And they came to Nuh and told him that they would not become Muslims as long as these poor people were among his community.
Nuh responded to them and said;
وَيَا قَوْمِ لَا أَسْأَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مَالًا ۖ إِنْ أَجْرِيَ إِلَّا عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ وَمَا أَنَا بِطَارِدِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ۚ إِنَّهُم مُّلَاقُو رَبِّهِمْ وَلَٰكِنِّي أَرَاكُمْ قَوْمًا تَجْهَلُونَ
"And O my people! I ask of you no wealth therefor. My reward is the concern only of Allah, and I am not going to thrust away those who believe - Lo! they have to meet their Lord! - but I see you a folk that are ignorant.
وَيَا قَوْمِ مَن يَنصُرُنِي مِنَ اللَّهِ إِن طَرَدتُّهُمْ ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ
And, O my people! who would deliver me from Allah if I thrust them away? Will ye not then reflect?
وَلَا أَقُولُ لَكُمْ عِندِي خَزَائِنُ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ وَلَا أَقُولُ إِنِّي مَلَكٌ وَلَا أَقُولُ لِلَّذِينَ تَزْدَرِي أَعْيُنُكُمْ لَن يُؤْتِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ خَيْرًا ۖ اللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا فِي أَنفُسِهِمْ ۖ إِنِّي إِذًا لَّمِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ
I say not unto you: "I have the treasures of Allah" nor "I have knowledge of the Unseen," nor say I: "Lo! I am an angel!" Nor say I unto those whom your eyes scorn that Allah will not give them good - Allah knoweth best what is in their hearts - Lo! then indeed I should be of the wrong-doers."
(Surat Hud 29-31)
For 950 years, he delivered his Dawah. Day after day, year after year, in the day and the night, openly and secretly, he called the people toward Al Islam. But whenever he called to the people, he only made them run away further. They put their fingers in their ears, covered themselves with their garments, and persisted in their arrogance. They mocked, they rejected, even threatened and became angry.