Sunday, March 1, 2009

Memory Blank, Witness and Mukallaf in Islam

Most of us have our earliest memory. Mine is of a dog chase at the age of five. I was outside our rented government bungalow during one vacation when the dog chased me, and I recall running haphazardly before managed to climb a tree and stay there for the whole afternoon. Or did I? New US research is shining a torch on childhood memory and its authenticity. According to the research human memory is incredibly fragile and inventive and we easily create false memories of our past some of which have long term effects on our behaviour. What’s more, we’re surprisingly open to suggestion. In a series of experiments researchers falsely suggested that the participants fell ill after eating egg salad sandwiches as children. Those participants were consequently turned off egg salad sandwiches even though the memory was false.
So what can we trust of our memories? And how do we know which ones are real? It’s hard to distinguish between the truth and what we’ve added to the memory. We might think we have a vivid memory of something, say you were on September 11. But the research has shown that we’re not as good as we think we are ( in fact, research on September 11 memories shows that the personal details around that event are frequently inaccurate). Could some of us susceptible to memory distortion?

Memory is the process by which we encode, store and retrieve information. What we learn becomes our memory if we remember it from tying your shoelaces to recalling where we put our keys. We basically couldn’t function without memory. Remembering the events of our life is called “autobiographical memory” and usually kicks off between the ages of three and four. These memories are generally fleeting and vague, and it’s not until after the age of seven that memories becomes a continuous narrative. Before age three, the brain’s hippocampus (which plays a crucial role in binding memory) is not developed enough. Other say it’s connected to language development; once we can talk, we can shape events into a story that can be retold and remembered.
What is certain is that memories can be incredibly powerful. In a way memories is like a web woven from sounds, smells, tastes, touches and sights. However, memories erode with age. Elderly people and people with dementia do start and to confabulate and so if these elderly people don’t remember the full details, they may fill in the gaps rather than say they don’t know. What has this ‘memory blank’ has to do with Islam? I still remember ( based on recorded materials off course) when I studied Pengetahuan Agama Islam Tinggi in the 80’s at the SMKA Al-Mashoor (L) when my Ustaz (Ustaz Subli-may Allah bless him) stressed on the issue of Mukallaf (the accountable one). Islamically, the accountable person (mukallaf) is the one who is pubescent, sane, and has received the message of Islam. In this respect, children are not mukallaf. Why? I have explained above. Children have weak memory or what scientist called memory blank. Islam does not recognise an account given by children because they are not capable of doing so. They have distorted memory.
Thousand years before the research on memories surface, Islam has place a jurisdiction on not to overwhelm children to come out with details. Isn’t Islam beautiful? Further, in shariah cases, Islam requires four witnesses to give details of any accounts. Four heads are better than one. And these four witnesses have to meet strict witness criteria before judgements were passed.

No comments: