If you’ve got a leaky memory like me, then you must be somewhat familiar with situations like these. It’s not an easy thing to tackle with, having many implications for yourself personally and for those around you.
“How could you forget?” is a common reaction we get from others. Some people even think that we forget intentionally (the irony is self-evident, but still). Well, all we can say is that no one can be as angry at this as we ourselves, because ultimately we’re the ones who suffer with this chronic issue.
It brings in religious implications as well, as one of the essential characters of a believer (mu’min) is that he or she keeps a promise. How in the world are you supposed to keep a promise when you keep forgetting all about it?
It creates a lot of guilt, and the more you forget, the more that pile of guilt keeps increasing. But think: Is that guilt doing any good? In fact, it only adds to your stress level, and stress is one of the things that hampers memory. Thus the cycle goes on and on: the more we forget, the more guilty we feel, the more our stress level increases, the more we forget, the more guilty we feel, and so on.
Now that we understand our situation, what we need is a rational, objective, problem-solving approach, free of all guilty feelings and anger and suffocation. Allah is the One who understands you the most, and then you yourself. So it’s only you who can solve this problem, but here are some tips you might like to consider.
1) ACCEPT YOUR WEAKNESS.
No human being is perfect. Those who berate you about your weak memory aren’t perfect – there’s 99 percent chance that they have at least one weak point that’s your strong point. Accept that Allah has given you this test, this obstacle in your way to success, and it will clear your vision, so that you can find a way to get around it.
2) ASK ALLAH FOR HELP. Allah is able to do all things. Ask Allah to improve your memory, and have complete trust that He will respond to your dua. Allah said:
And your Lord says, ‘Call upon Me; I will respond to you.’ Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell [rendered] contemptible. [Quran, 40:60]
But we can’t leave it at that. We must try to help ourselves and not wait passively for things to change. Allah helps those who try to help themselves in the first place, and then leave the results of their efforts to Allah.
3) FIND OUT POSSIBLE REASONS FOR THE MEMORY PROBLEM.
There could be some unexpected reasons than just “having some wires lose in my brain”. Chronic stress, depression, anxiety and such mental problems can significantly reduce your memory and problem-solving capacities. Thyroid conditions can affect your memory too. Talk to a doctor and try to figure out if there are any medical or psychological causes, and if treating them will improve your memory.
4) SET-UP AN ARTIFICIAL SYSTEM OF REMINDERS.
Sometimes the problem is not that you have overall weak memory, but just your natural alarm clock has got some battery leaks. So all you need is set up an artificial system of reminders.
An obvious one is the use your mobile phone to set up alarms for important meetings, or even such household tasks as checking the laundry or boiling milk. However, too many alerts can raise our stress levels very high, so we also need to use other alternatives.
One alternative is to use memory queues – keeping things at certain places to make them visible at the right moments, or sticking notes as self-reminders. To-do lists are also great, so long as we have made the habit of remembering to check the lists regularly in the first place.
5) CREATE HABITS.
Once something becomes a second nature, you’ll find it difficult to forget it, even if you want to. But making habits is a gradual learning process, and you can form too many habits at once. So if you’re forgetful of reciting surah al-Kahf on Fridays, plan to make it a habit. Fix a specific time for it and make conscious effort to continue doing it for a few weeks. Soon your own natural alarm system will catch up on you and take over the reminder-setting task, in sha Allah.