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Mohammed himself laffirmed that the Quran had an esoteric foundation: it was "sent jn seven dialects; and in every one of its sentences there is an external and an internal meaning... I received from the messenger of God two kinds of knowledge: one of these I taught...if I had taught them the other it would have broken their throats (meaning: it would have put them in utter confusion)" The inner meaning of many texts included a reincarnation sensibility, but this was lost over the course of time. The Koran says, "And you were dead, and He brought you back to life, And He shall cause you to die, and shall bring you back t0 life, and in the end shall gather you unto Himself." (Surah 2:28)
in a series of articles, "Reincarnation - Islamic Conceptions," M. H- Abdi, a Muslim scholar, points to the specific events that led to the expulsion of reincarnation as a doctrine in mainstream Islam: "The position adopted by the successive luminaries who followed Mohammed was to affirm the belief in reincarnation but not to propagate it as a teaching for the masses. This attitude was due to psychological reasons. The emphasis in Islamic teachings has throughout r,een on the purity of action.... Another factor to remember is that the defensive wars, which have beerf described as Jehad or holy wars, which the Muslims fought in the early days and the wars of conquests (therefore not holy), which the Muslims fought in later days...gave a different shift to Islamic teachings. Philosophical, mystical, and ethical teachings received an impetus in the first phase but they had a subdued existence in the later phase. During this phase the republican character of the State was changed into monarchy and supremacy no more belonged to the saints and philosophers. A subject like reincarnation demands a subtle mental attitude. It entails understanding of the higher planes of consciousness, the laws of cause and effect, and the workings of the laws of evolution. The monarchs had no interest in such subjects. Like so many other teachings, reincarnation was confined to the study and attention of the outer and inner students of Sufism...."
Islamic historian E. G. Browne, in his classic three-volume work, 'The Literary History of Persia', while discussing the more esoteric schools of Islam, outlines three forms of transmigration accepted by classical Muslim thinkers: (1) Huhul, the periodical incarnation of a saint or prophet (2) Rijat, the immediate return of an Imam or any other important spiritual leader after death; and (3) Tanasukh, the ordinary reincarnation of all souls. The Ismailis even claim that the Hindu God Krishna incarnated as the Buddha and then as Mohammed, while others within the same sect believe that great teachers repeatedly incarnate for the benefit of successive generations.
Among the followers of Islam, the Sufis especially believe that death is no loss, for the immortal soul continually passes through different bodies. Jalaluddin Rumi, a famous Sufi poet, writes:
I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as a plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying? (R.A.Nicholson, Rumi, Poet & Mystic. London: Allen & Unwin, 1950)
Like other Western traditions, Islam keeps reincarnation in the background, often considering belief in it to be at worst heretical and at best a subject for mystics and other eccentrics. However, a careful study of Islam's various traditions and theological writings reveals that reincarnation is an integral part of its fundamental message to the world.