They had no places of worship, nor, though they had sacred wooden figures, is there any reason to consider that they were idolaters in the strict sense of the word.
When they first appeared in Europe they were idolaters or Shamanists, and as such they had naturally no religious fanaticism; but even when they adopted Islam they remained as tolerant as before, and the khan of the Golden Horde (Berkai) who first became a Mussulman allowed the Russians to found a Christian bishopric in his capital.
For Zoroaster they sink to the rank of spurious deities, and in his eyes their priests and votaries are idolaters and heretics.
Possessing no images of Yahweh the Jews were also not exposed to the same risk as were idolaters of having their gods stolen by their foes and used against them.
The new honours received from the caliph gave fresh impulse to Mahmud's zeal on behalf of Islam, and he resolved on an annual expedition against the idolaters of India.
But Mahmud found he had not yet sufficiently subdued the idolaters nearer his own border, between Kabul and the Indus, and the campaign of 1022 was directed against them, and reached no.
For the purpose of his inquiry he adopts an obvious threefold division into idolaters, Jews and Christians.
Idolaters, or, as he more gently terms them in addressing the emperor, "those who worship what among you are said to be gods," he subdivides into the three great world-civilizations - Chaldeans, Greeks and Egyptians.
Thus, for example, the Koran contains very different directions, suited to varying circumstances, as to the treatment which idolaters are to receive at the hands of believers.
He has much less to say against the Christians, with whom he never came closely in contact; and as for the idolaters, there was little occasion in Medina to have many words with them.
And there is this to be said that idolatry may be an outward symbol of a real indebtedness to idolaters which is not necessarily wiped out when the tangible idols are smashed.