Lecture for 2nd year medical students on 9th March 2001 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr.
A. NATURE OF HUMAN MEMORY
Most humans do not develop their memory to the maximum. Most of the memory capacity is unused. Humans are capable
of great memory. Memorization of the whole Qur’an is encouraged (Muslim #1743, 1744). Abu Huraira’s memory was
prodigious (MB# 100 p 103). Prophet prayed for Abu Huraira’s memory. He memorized a lot of hadith (KS p. 59). He has
reported the highest number of hadith (KS p. 59). He had a methodology for memorization (KS p. 59). The great scholars like
Shafe’e, Ibn Hanbal, and ‘Asqalani had prodigious memory. It seems that the ability to memorize was higher in
the past pre-industrial societies. This could be attributed to both high motivation to learn and the simple society in which
the sources of competing information and sensory stimulation were limited.
TYPES OF MEMORY
Short-term memory is memory of recent events. It is retained for a short time and is then forgotten. It may be
filtered and structured to become part of long-term memory. Long-term is persistent recollection of events a long time after
their occurrence. Implicit memory is a type of memory involved in learning a skill. The human is not consciously aware of
this memory. Examples of implicit memory are skills like driving or activities of daily living like eating, drinking, and
BASIS OF MEMORY
Neurological basis of memory: Neural science is slowly unravelling the architecture of the brain and the
storage of information. The research is still in its infancy. More startling findings are expected in the future.
Cognitive basis of memory: Some items of information are not stored in the human memory but can be worked
out by manipulation of known facts. This is accomplished through knowledge and understanding of inter-relationships. For example
a human can use a mathematical formula to generate many facts that otherwise would have had to be memorized.
Divine basis of memory: Allah can give humans the capacity to remember information without active human
effort. Allah reassured the prophet not to worry about forgetting the Qur’an because Allah would ensure its perfect
PROCESS OF MEMORY
Encoding is the process of data input into the brain. Structuring which involves changes in the new information
in the light of information already stored follows this. Additions to the memory bank lead to considerable organizational
changes in the memory architecture. Some of the organization is active whereas the other is latent. Facts are retrieved from
memory and interpreted before they are usable in solving novel situations.
C. DEVELOPMENT OF MEMORY
EARLY BRAIN GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT: Effect of age
EARLY CHALLENGES: Effect of repetition
D. ENHANCING MEMORY
Much can be done to improve memory. Supplication, dua, to Allah is the most important. Having clear learning intentions
and being focused help improve memory for desired information. For example purposive effort to memorize the Qur’an pay
off handsomely, istihfaadh kitaab al llaah (). Selection of what material to memorize helps improve memory. Attempting
to memorize too much or too diverse facts is not easy. Memorization is also helped by multiple sensory stimulations. Reading
and listening can reinforce one another. Repetitive sensory stimulation helps retention. For example the prophet used to repeat
whatever he said three times to make sure it was retained (MB # 82 p 95). The Qur’an is memorized by constant recitation.
Decreasing competing environmental stimulation also helps memorization.
E. MEMORY DISORDERS
memory, dhabt, is very important. Memory can suffer from decay, distortion, confabulation, moral forgetting and physical forgetting.
Distortion may take the form of exaggeration or understatement. Sometimes it is mixing up of facts or giving erroneous facts.
Confabulations happen in the elderly who lose some memory because of the dementia and they try to make up lost bits of information
to make the conversation smooth. Confabulation could also occur as a community phenomenon in folk tales, asaatwiir.
The true revelation was rejected by claiming that it was folk tales of the ancients, asaatwiir al awwaliin (p 105 , , , 23:83, 25:5, 27:68,
46:17, 68:15, 83:13). Forgetting is loss of access and not loss of the information. The Qur'an in many verses discussed the
various types of forgetting (p. 1218 2:44, 2:106, 2:237, 2:282, 5:13, 5:14, 6:41, 6:44, 7:51, 7:53, 7:165, 9:67, 16:70, 18:61,
18:63, 18:73, 19:23, 20:88, 20:115, 20:126, 22:5, 23:110, 2:18, 28:77, 32:14, 36:78, 38:26, 39:8, 4:34, 59:19, 87:6). Allah
does not forget: 19:64, , 58:6. Humans forget. Adam forgot (p 40 20:115). The worst form of
forgetting is that of the signs of Allah, nisyan ayat al llah (p 51 20:126). Shaitan is the cause of forgetting, moral
and physical (p. 1219 6:68, 12:42, 58:19, 18:63). Forgetting as a type of negligence: p 869 6:131 … 51:11. Remembrance
of Allah, dhikr Allah, cures forgetfulness (p. 1218-19 18:24). It seems that long-term memory is not lost. It is access
to it that becomes difficult. Humans forget and are not punished for it: 2:286. Forgetting in acts of ibadat: Forgetting in
salat (MB# 366 p 212, Muslim #1159, 1161, 1162, 1163, 1164, 1165, 1166, 1168, 1175, 1176, 1177, 1179, 1180, 1181, 1182, 1184,
1187, 1188). Sujuud al sahaw MB# 631 p 317. Eating, drinking, or sex in Ramadan by mistake (MB# 940 p 445, Muslim #2575).
Humans must be reminded of facts in order to retain them: 2:282, 51:55, 80:3, 87:9). Reminding in a moral sense (p 447 6:68-69,
6:90, 7:2, 11:114, 11:120, 19:67, 21:83, 26:209, 29:51, 38:43, 38:46, 39:21, 40:54, 44:13, 47:18, 50:8, 50:37, 51:55, 74:31,
79:35, 79:43, 80:4, 87:9, 89:23) and the physical sense (p. 447 2:283).