The place was Palestine. The time was roughly six centuries before the birth of Prophet Muhammad (sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam). The nation was called Bani Israel (Children of Israel) because these people were the descendants of Prophet Yaqoub (alayh as-salaam), whose title was “Israel”. There was much corruption and ignorance in the land. Palestine was ruled by a ruthless super-power of the time, namely the Romans, who were idol-worshipping pagans. The Bani Israel themselves, who were the Muslims of that time, had strayed away from the guidance of their Prophets. Even though they claimed to believe in Allah and to follow Allah’s messengers, their lives were full of bad deeds, hypocrisy, dishonesty and greed. The Taurat, revealed to Prophet Musa (alayh as-salaam), had been lost, then rewritten from memory, then edited, re-edited and altered many times over through the centuries by various priests. It no longer existed as it was originally revealed.
It was in this environment that Allah sent Prophet Isa (alayh as-salaam), who is also known as Jesus. The mission of Prophet Isa (alayh as-salaam) was to revive the religion and the pure way of Prophet Musa (alayh as-salaam) and the other prophets, as well as to invite the Bani Israel to put their faith into practice, instead of just giving it lip-service. In his cradle, he spoke to the people and told them that he was a slave of Allah and a Messenger. As a grown man, he started preaching the message of Allah to the people, and was given the book Injeel along with many miracles, such as curing the blind and raising the dead.
Many people who were sincere and wanted to earn the pleasure of Allah and the reward of the hereafter became the followers of Isa (alayh as-salaam), chief among whom were his close disciples, the “Hawariyyoon”. Many others, however, did not accept his message and started harassing his followers. One such enemy of the believers was a man called Paul of Tarsus, who was famous for being harsh on the believers. Many of the priests and rabbis of Bani Israel also turned against Isa (alayh as-salaam), because his teachings were against the exploitation of the common people by the priests. The priests and rabbis at that time were very corrupt; they would take other people’s money by deceit, using their religious positions as a means of fooling the people.
When the enemies of Prophet Isa (alayh as-salaam) plotted to kill him, Allah saved his life by lifting him up alive to the heavens. Some time after the miraculous ascension of Isa (alayh as-salaam), Paul of Tarsus started saying that he too now believed in the message of Isa (alayh as-salaam). Paul used this as a trick to preach a totally different religion, which slowly developed over the next three centuries into the religion of Christianity, and people gradually started worshipping Isa (alayh as-salaam) instead of Allah alone. This is especially sad considering that the main mission of Isa (alayh as-salaam) was to call people to worship Allah alone. Allah, however, has promised that He will send Prophet Isa (alayh as-salaam) to the world again before Qiyamah. He will then lead the Muslims as a just ruler and destroy the false religion of Paul and his followers. The lesson, then, is that the truth will always defeat falsehood, even if falsehood flourishes for a while.