Short Answer: There is no concept of reincarnation in Islam. We are given one chance on this earth to live a life worthy of Paradise. Our souls do live on after we die, though, and are granted Paradise or Hellfire, based on the life we lived. People who think they remember past lives are suffering from a common problem: false memories.
Salaam alaikum, and thank you for your question!
What is Reincarnation?
Reincarnation is the belief that after one dies, their soul will be transferred into another body to live out a new life.
When that body dies, the soul will then enter another body, and so on in a constant cycle.
This is a core belief in numerous religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism.
One Body, One Life on Earth
Islam does not teach reincarnation in this manner.
Humans are given only one body and one life in this dunya (earthly realm), and after this body dies we will not be given any more time on earth.
This is mentioned in the Qur’an several times:
Turn in repentance to your Lord and submit to God before punishment comes upon you, for then you cannot be helped. And follow the best of what was revealed to you from your Lord before the punishment comes upon you suddenly while you are unaware. (Quran 39:54-55)
Allah also says:
When death approaches any of them (those who disbelieve), they cry, ‘My Lord, let me go back so I may do good in what I left behind.’ Never! It is only a useless appeal they make. And there is a barrier behind them until the Day they are resurrected. (Quran 23:99-100)
Likewise, Allah warns us:
There is no repentance for people who persist in doing evil until death comes to them and who then say, ‘Now I repent’, nor for people who die rejecting faith. We have prepared for them a painful punishment. (Quran 4:18)
It is clear that once death comes, we will not have any more chances to rectify anything we did wrong in our lives, nor can we add any more good deeds to our balance.
If we were given other lifetimes to become a better person, Allah would not have said that after death comes we “cannot be helped”.
This is why it is essential for us to strive for goodness in our lives, because we cannot expect or hope for a “do-over” in another life.
Forgiveness is Always Offered In This Life
However, just because we only have one earthly life doesn’t mean that we aren’t given time to better ourselves.
Allah knows that humans are imperfect and forgetful, so when we do make mistakes Allah is very quick to accept repentance and forgive us.
As long as we are still alive, we can ask Allah to forgive us and work to make things right, and we can be assured that Allah will forgive us. Allah tells us:
Say: ‘O my servants who have transgressed against their souls! Do not despair of the Mercy of God: for God forgives all sins. God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’ (Quran 39:53)
Our Souls Will Live On
Although we only have one life on earth, our souls will continue living after our bodily death.
On the Day of Judgment, our bodies will be resurrected in preparation for our eternal life in either Paradise or Hell.
The Qur’an says, in reference to a person who is doubtful about how Allah can give life to a dead body,
“Say, ‘God who made them in the first place will bring them back to life. God has total knowledge of each created thing.” (Quran 36:79)
This life in Paradise or Hell may be considered a kind of “second life” in that it is distinct from our life on earth, but it is not the same as reincarnation.
Life in Paradise or Hell is totally different from life in the dunya (and reincarnation refers to new lives on earth).
What About Stories of Remembering Past Lives?
Sometimes there will be reports or articles of people, often young children, who claim to be able to recall details of a previous life.
While these accounts may seem convincing, it is not conclusive proof that reincarnation is real.
These stories are anecdotal and, in the scientific method, cannot be used as empirical evidence for proving something to be true.
Humans often have false memories, despite them feeling very real, and for children it can be even more difficult to distinguish truth from fiction.
This does not mean that the feelings that these people have relating to their memories aren’t valid, or that all their memories are false.
Since there is no Islamic concept of reincarnation, these memories are coming from something else, likely misremembering something that actually did happen or mistakenly believing something fictional was real.
Insha’Allah this answers your question, and may Allah help us to live our best lives on earth so that we may have blissful eternal life in Paradise, Ameen!