Undoubtedly, forgetfulness is something that is natural in man, and man is only called Insan because of his forgetfulness. Usually, this varies from one person to another, according to the differences in the strength of the memory that Allah has created in His servants.
Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author, states:
It is human nature to be forgetful, as the Arab poet said: He is only called man (insan) because of his forgetfulness (nisiyan), And it is only called the heart (al-qalb) because it changes so rapidly (yataqallab).
In the past they said that the first one to forget was the first man, meaning Adam (peace and blessings be upon him). Forgetfulness is something that varies from person to person according to each individual’s nature; some may be more forgetful than others. Some of the things that may help to combat forgetfulness are the following:
- Keeping away from sin, because the bad effects of sin result in a bad memory and the inability to retain knowledge. The darkness of sin cannot co-exist with the light of knowledge. The following words were attributed to Ash-Shafi`i, may Allah have mercy on him: I complained to [my sheikh] Wakee` about my bad memory, and he taught me that I should keep away from sin. He said that knowledge of Allah is light, and the light of Allah is not given to the sinner. Al-Khateeb reported in Al-Jami` that Yahya ibn Yahya said, “A man asked Malik ibn Anas, ‘O Abu `Abdullah, is there anything that will improve my memory?’ He said, ‘If anything will improve it, it is giving up sin.’”. When a person commits a sin, it overwhelms him and this leads to anxiety and sorrow, which keep him busy thinking about what he has done. This dulls his senses and distracts him from many beneficial things, including seeking knowledge.
- Frequently remembering Allah by reciting dhikr and saying “subhan Allah, al-hamdu lillah, la ilaha illa Allah,” and “Allahu akbar,” and so forth. Allah says: “And remember your Lord when you forget” (Al-Kahf: 24).
- Not eating too much, because eating too much makes one sleep too much and become lazy, and it dulls the senses, besides exposing one to the risk of physical diseases. Most of the diseases that we see result from food and drink.
- Some of the scholars have mentioned certain foods that increase the memory, such as honey and raisins, and certain kinds of gum resin to be chewed. Imam Az-Zuhri said, “You should eat honey because it is good for the memory. … Whoever wants to memorize hadith should eat raisins.” It is also said that you should chew resin gum because it gives energy to the heart and gets rid of forgetfulness. As they mentioned, too much acidic food is one of the causes of laziness and weak memory.
- Another thing that can help the memory and reduce forgetfulness is cupping (hijamah) of the head, as is well known from experience.