See-Think-Believe

  • Issue 56 / October - December 2006



    Who Has No Fingerprints?

    Irfan Yilmaz

    How is it that the fingerprints of children disappear in 24 hours while those of adults remain for longer periods?
    * How do we leave traces of ourselves everywhere we touch with hardly visible fingerprints?
    * Methods used for fingerprint identification…
    * The signature we always carry with us: Our fingerprints…


    A little girl in the US was kidnapped in 1993. Finding an opportune moment to escape, the child fled to a nearby neighborhood. Based on the girl’s statement, the police arrested a suspect, who told them about the other perpetrators and the car used for the abduction.

    Realizing that there was missing evidence, the defendants asked for evidence of the child’s fingerprints from the car, as she had testified that she was in the automobile for hours. Strangely enough, despite scanning the entire vehicle, the detectives only found the fingerprints of the defendants. The joy of the latter made the child and her parents afraid that they would be unable to prove her presence in the car.

    Leaving the rest of the story to the end, we will now focus on the fingerprint screening process, which sheds light on the frustration of the criminal detectives who were unable to find the child’s fingerprints in the car.

    Innately found in the DNA structure of each and every individual, fingerprints are actually formed in the early embryonic stage with the infinite knowledge and might of the Creator. No two fingerprints have ever been found to be identical in every detail, despite billions of comparisons. This miracle alludes to the omnipotence and omniscience of God. Fingerprints are never exactly alike, but unique for each individual, except identical twins. To achieve this requires the infinite knowledge of the One Who distinguishes the fingerprints of all the living and dead, as well as those who are to be born. The fingerprints of identical twins are identical because the same egg has been inseminated by the same sperm and has then split into two, and thus the two babies have exactly the same DNA structure.

    As is well-known, fingerprint identification stands head and shoulders above all other human identification procedures as the most reliable means of identifying individuals worldwide. The Qur’an speaks of the revival of every human being in all their particularities down to their fingertips, thus drawing our attention to the uniqueness and distinctive features of the fingertips of each and every individual. Only if one perceives the Qur’an as being the Word of God can they avoid the great difficulty inherent in attempting to explain how the Qur’an is able to refer to this issue; at the time of the revelation, 14 centuries ago, this matter was not known, rather, it only became known in modern times:

    Does the human think that We will never assemble his bones (to resurrect him)? Yes indeed, We are able to make complete his very fingertips. (Qiyamah 75:3-4)

    Fingerprints are friction whirl formations on the skin of the fingertips that are perpendicular, circular, oval, or made up of patterns parallel to each other. To make impressions of the fingerprints, the fingertips are pressed first on an ink pad, and then on a card; the ink impressions on the card retain the shape of the whirls. The fingerprints collected from items of evidence from a crime are matched (or not) with the suspect’s fingerprints. The fingerprint database archived in this way is the most reliable way to conduct criminal record checks when needed.

    But how are the impressions of the fingerprints retained on the objects that have been touched? Fingerprints are deposited by the natural secretions of the eccrine glands which are present in the skin of the fingertips. When we touch an object, natural sweat secretions are discharged from the glands at the fingertips and these secretions remain on the surface in the shape of the whirls.

    Fingerprints of children
    How is it, then, that the fingerprint impressions of the child in the story could not be found at the crime scene? 99% of the secretion produced from the glands is water. The remaining 1% is of fatty acids, ethers, amino acids, and salts. It has been found, in contrast to the fingerprints of adults, which include long carbon chains linked by ethers, that the fingerprints of children have mostly non-etherized, short chains of fatty acids. These short chains of fatty acids on the fingertips of children are volatile. Thus, the fingerprints of children evaporate in 24 hours, while those of adults remain for longer periods. For this reason, fingerprint detection should be done as soon as possible in crime scenes in which children are involved.

    We normally cannot see the impression left by the whirls. Criminal detectives, however, use electronic, chemical, and physical processing techniques that permit the visualization of invisible or hidden latent print residue from natural secretions of the eccrine glands on the fingertips. They then take the photographs of the impression to compare with fingerprint impressions of suspects and those on the database.

    Amazingly enough, something as simple as sweat-which we mistakenly think is composed of pure water-can be used to solve serious issues as needed, because our fingerprints, which are hardly visible, leave clear signs of our presence everywhere we touch. It is not difficult to understand, then, that nothing has been created to vanish for ever; just as we leave our fingerprints everywhere, at every moment we also leave our own images in different forms of action in the minds of others and they are recorded on the heavenly plates. By the way, if you think that the suspects in the child abduction case were able to get away with it, you are wrong! Though her fingerprints could not be found in the car, the relief of the suspects did not last long. A small fiber from her clothing was found in the car, thus proving them to be guilty.

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