The subject of reincarnation has perplexed people from a long time. People have understood it differently during all times. As written above, there is a Hindu view on the subject (i.e. view derived from books dear to Hindus), a Buddhist view (i.e. view derived from scriptures dear to Buddhists, which is similar but not exactly the same as Hindu view) and a Muslim view (derived from their understanding of Quran, which is similar to the views of other Abrahamic religions like Christians and Jews, but altogether different from the Hindu view). All the differences that exist are because of people’s inability to understand the true path, otherwise all these scriptures are talking of one and only path.
If I summarize in one sentence, there is indeed rebirth. People have tried to understand it differently, and there are those who say that we will know the truth when we die. Will you be able to affect your rebirth, if you don’t try to understand the truth in this birth? To be able to move to a better birth in next life, you will have to understand the true concept of rebirth as laid down by God.
Vedas tell that there was nothing in the cosmos, but the Ever-existent, Omnipresent God. This created a Manifest Self, which was in the form of light or power. This is referred to as the Manifest Self viz. Vishnu. Quran and Old Testament too sheds light on the creation of this Manifest Self. This was followed by creation of one noor or Brahma, which divided to create several noors or devatas (as per Paingala Upanishad and Brhad-Aranyaka Upanishad). This entire process has also been described by Prophet Mohammad. The earth and the moon and sky etc. was created consequent to this. Mankind had the choice to follow both the paths, that of evil or Satan and that of good or Noor. The atma within our body had the capacity to get united with the Paramatma (Manifest Self) but only if it followed the path of Noor and abstained from the path of distracting forces viz. Satan.
Upanishads say that one day of God is equivalent to 1000 creations. They also say that this is the 994th creation of the 1000 and after 1000 creations, everything converges back into God. This is followed by a Divine Night, which is equivalent to the duration of the Divine Day, followed by which God creates through the same process yet again.
This in nutshell is the Divine Plan. This too can be endorsed by Islamic text. Our atma was created at the beginning of this Divine Day and has been created till the end of the Divine Day, after which everything will converge into Divinity. Every act that we do in remembrance of God and for the pleasure of God leads our atma towards the elevation and every evil act leads the atma downwards. We have capacity to be influenced by Rishis and Prophets and Avatars and we have the capacity to get influenced by Satanic forces. This is why Gita says that every act that we perform may be performed either in Satvik mode (i.e. keeping the remembrance of God and/or his Prophets/avatars), Rajasik mode (i.e. for worldly benefit) and Tamasik mode (i.e. on the path of Satan or forces of darkness). Quran says that if you had been told the good and bad, why you didn’t tread the uphill slope beyond which there was bliss and happiness? Treading the uphill slope is possible if we remember God in all our acts at all times. The moment the remembrance of God slips, our acts are performed in either tamasik mode or rajasik mode and the level of atma degrades. It is extremely difficult to keep moving upwards. Once we reach a certain desired stage of elevation where atma is pure enough to unite with Paramatma and we remain at that level till atma gets out of the body, we attain moksha or salvation or nirvana. Quran too has described this as the most desired thing. Chapter Waqiya of Quran describes these people as those who moved ahead, i.e. they were the people who went to attain salvation while the atmas of others remained behind on earth. Though Muslims will find it difficult to digest this view of mine, I can supplement it with several examples from Quran itself.
Those who are unable to attain salvation, their atma needs to remain on earth. And it needs a body on earth to sustain itself.
Gita says that those people who performed very good deeds but were unable to attain salvation are given birth either in the family of devatas or kings, so that it is easier for them to recognize the path and attain salvation. But Gita also says that those who know the truth see the Brahman and dog and flesh-eaters as equal, because an atma which is in a Brahman can descend and upon leaving the body of Brahman, get into a dog and vice versa. Body is given to the atma by the devatas (those made from Divya or Noor) depending on the stage of purification of the atma at the time of leaving body. Buddha has described this process in detail in one of his sermons.
Upanishads also say that the atmas which were dutiful attained salvation during the satya yug itself. Today we see more of evil on this earth because there are more of disobedient atmas that remain on earth. These atmas continue to remain on earth, as they were unable to attain salvation due to their own inabilities. This is why we find more savagery, more untruth, more evil during these times.
Instead of acting with complacency regarding the concept of rebirth, we must remember that if we are still living in this world, even in this kalyug, it is because our atma has been disobedient and/or inefficient to such an extent that it has been unable to attain moksha during several thousand years of its stay on earth.
Prophet Mohammad presented Islam when Kaliyug had already begun. The atmas that remained by his time were more those who were unable to attain salvation despite several avatars being sent prior to him. Therefore, though he presented salvation as the best course, the concept of heaven and hell and Day of Judgment was presented in full force by him. As we have said, this is the 994th creation of this Divine Day, which is to have 1000 creations. At the time when this creation ends, all the atmas which will be unable to attain salvation by then, will undergo a process on the Day of Judgment where they will be given punishment or reward, depending on their stage of purification, and when the 995th creation sets in, by that time these atmas will have undergone the reward/punishment of their deeds in the 994th creation and will therefore be sent once again to earth. Ultimate aim remains salvation or moksha or nijaat, as per all scriptures. This will continue to happen until the entire cosmos converges back into Divinity after the end of the 1000th creation.
The precondition for moksha/salvation is not just performance of good deeds but performance of good deeds in knowledge of the Divine Path; doing our acts while keeping the remembrance of God alive and identifying the Divine Guides (avatars and Prophets) who are like a rope between us and Paramatma, through which alone it is possible to attain salvation. Those who are unable to meet these conditions don’t attain to the level of salvation.
Often Muslims are criticised because they adhere to the concept of heaven and hell whereas Hindus have a concept of union of self with Manifest Self. Fact is that both these are true and if Gita laid stress on salvation and talked very little about heaven and hell, it was because the atmas, till that time, were still attaining the level of salvation without much difficulty. But since the onset of kalyug, only those atmas remain on earth who are not competent enough to attain salvation because of their own vagaries and conditioning (during all this period). These atmas will either have to totally change themselves and start ascending to the path of salvation or else, if they still continue to remain on earth till the end of this creation, they will have to pass through a Day of Judgment, when they will be rewarded or punished, depending on their level.
Hadees-e-Qudsi says that Prophet Mohammad, during his ascent to the sky, was bestowed with one gift by God. That gift was that Prophet’s Ummat will be free from the azaab of maskh. Maskh, I have reasons to believe (and can give elaborate response if desired) was nothing but rebirth. Prophet Mohammad’s ummat is not undergoing rebirth because God knew that the end time for this creation was near.
Question may arise why we don’t remember our previous lives. It is because remembrance is the function of physical body and not atma. Atma is like electricity in a computer. When electricity comes, the entire computer starts functioning. When the electricity goes, the computer (along with the hard disc inside it that stores information) becomes dead and is of no use without electricity. The mind that stores the events of our life remain in the body at the time of atma leaving the body. This explains why we don’t remember the events of previous birth/s.
This is the concept of reincarnation, understood by me through study of various scriptures. Those who claim that they can control where they would take birth are on the wrong because the place and state of birth is decided by divinities depending on the state of atma at the time of leaving the previous body.