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Siwaak: Sunnah and Oral Health Device Print
History

Excavations throughout the world confirm that a variety of oral hygiene measures have been utilised since the dawn of time. Toothpicks, chew sticks, tree twigs, linen strips, birds' feathers, animal bones and porcupine quills were used.

The most widely used tree twigs since ancient times are the "Siwaak" or "Miswaak." The stick is obtained from a plant called Salvadore Persica that grows in the Middle East, particularly Makkah. Rasulullah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam not only used the Miswaak himself, but strongly encouraged Muslims to us it as well. In this respect, Rasulullah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, is the father of oral hygiene.

Abu Ayyub al-Ansaari radiyallahu 'anhu narrates that Rasulullah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "Four things are amongst the practices of the Ambiyaa -circumcision, application of fragrance, Miswaak and marriage." (Ahmad & at-Tirmizi)

Since the first man was also a Prophet this means that mankind used Miswaak from the very beginning.

Hadith

Many Ahadith emphasise the importance of using the Miswaak. Some examples:

  1. Rasulullah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
    I was commanded to use the Miswaak to such an extent that I thought the Miswaak would be made obligatory. (Ahmad & at-Tabrani)
  2. Ibn Umar radiyallahu 'anhuma narrates that Rasulullah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
    Make a regular practice of the Miswaak, for verily, it is purification for the mouth and means of gaining the pleasure of the Rabb. (al-Bukhari)
  3. Abu Umamaah radiyallahu 'anhu narrates that Rasulullah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
    Use the Miswaak, for verily, it purifies the mouth, and it is a Pleasure for the Lord. Jibraeel exhorted me so much to use the Miswaak that I feared that its use would be decreed obligatory upon me and upon my Ummah. If I did not fear imposing hardship on my Ummah I would have made its use obligatory upon my people. Verily, I use the Miswaak so much that I fear the front part of my mouth being peeled. (Ibn Maajah)
  4. Abu Hurayrah radiyallahu 'anhu narrates that Rasulullah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
    Was it not for my fear of imposing a difficulty on my Ummah I would have ordered that the Miswaak be used for every Salaah. (al-Bukhari)

    Ibn Ammir Rasul al-Imaam ash-Shaafi'i emphasised the above narration of using Miuswaak before every Salaah. Al-Imaam al-A'zam Abu Hanifah emphasised another narration of using Miswaak during Wudu.

Advantages

  1. Eliminates bad odour and improves the sense of taste
    Allaamah Ibn Daqeeq said, "The wisdom underlying the use of the Miswaak after rising from sleep is that during sleep bad vapours rise from the stomach towards the mouth. This causes bad odour in the mouth as well as a change in the sense of taste. Use of the Miswaak eliminates the bad odour and rectifies the change which occurred in the taste." (NALE WA TA'LEEQ)
  2. Sharpens the Memory
    Ali radiyallahu 'anhu said, "Miswaak sharpens the memory."
  3. Sharpens the Intelligence
  4. Eliminates Slime
    Ali radiyallahu 'anhu said, "Miswaak removes slime." (IHYA-UL-ULOOM)
  5. A Cure for Illness
    Aishah radiyallahu 'anha said, "Miswaak is a cure for all illness excepting Death." (ad-Daylami)
  6. Miswaak strengthens the gums.
  7. Miswaak prevents tooth decay.
  8. Miswaak prevents further increase of decay which has already set in the teeth.
  9. Miswaak is a cure for headaches.
  10. Miswaak assists in eliminating toothaches.
  11. Miswaak creates lustre on the face of the one who continually uses it.
  12. Miswaak causes the teeth to glow.
  13. Miswaak removes the dirt residue and effects of smoking from the teeth.
  14. Miswaak strengthens the eye-sight.
  15. Miswaak is beneficial for the health of the entire body.
  16. Miswaak assists in the process of digestion.
  17. Miswaak is a cure for canker of the mouth. This is stated in Hujjatullahi al-Baalighah.
  18. Miswaak clears the voice. This is stated in at-Tibb an-Nabawi.
  19. Miswaak facilitates the appetite (at-Tibb an-Nabawi).
  20. Miswaak increases the eloquence of one's speech. Abu Hurayrah radiyallahu 'anhu said, "Miswaak increases the eloquence of a person." (AL-JAAMI')
  21. Miswaak (i.e. its constant use) will be a factor to ease the pangs of Death. The continuous use of the Miswaak makes it easy for the soul to depart from the body when its appointed time arrives. (SHARHUS SUDOOR)
  22. Miswaak increases the reward of Salaah at least seventy times.
  23. Miswaak is a factor which will earn higher ranks in Jannah for the one who uses it
  24. The Angels sing the praises of the one who uses the Miswaak.
  25. Use of the Miswaak displeases Shaytaan.
  26. Use of the Miswaak graces one with the companionship of the Angels.
  27. The greatest benefit of using the Miswaak is the attainment of Allah's pleasure.

Masnoon Occasions for Using Miswaak

  1. Before recitation of the Quraan.
  2. Before recitation of Hadith.
  3. When the mouth emits an odour.
  4. For the learning or teaching of virtues of Islaam.
  5. Before remembrance of Allah.
  6. After entering one's home.
  7. Before entering any good gathering.
  8. When experiencing pangs of hunger and thirst.
  9. After the signs of death are evident.
  10. At the time of Suhoor.
  11. Before meals.
  12. Before undertaking a journey.
  13. On returning from a journey.
  14. Before sleeping.
  15. Upon awakening.

Science

Our aim in following the Sunnah is to gain the pleasure of Allah. At the same time the Sunnah also has benefits in our worldly life. Science often discovers these benefits centuries after Islam taught a practice. It is only in the modern era that science admits to the benefits of the Miswaak.

Salvadora Persica (from which most Miswaak is made) is a small tree or shrub with a crooked trunk, seldom more than one foot in diameter. Its bark is scabrous and cracked, whitish with pendulous extremities. The root bark is light brown and the inner surfaces are white, odour like cress and its taste is warm and pungent. The chemical composition of Salvadora Persica is as follows:

  • Trimethyl Amine
  • An alkaloid which may be salvadorine
  • Chlorides
  • High amounts of fluoride and silica
  • Sulphur
  • Vitamin C
  • Small amounts of Tannins, saponins, fiavenoids & sterols

Oral hygiene originates from the teachings of Rasulullah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam. Due to the repeated use of Siwak during the day, users show an unusually high level of oral cleanliness. Plaque forms immediately after meticulous toothbrushing. By the end of 24 hours the plaque is well on its way towards maturation and hence starts its harmful effects on the gingiva.

Proper oral hygiene entails a great expenditure of time and dexterity on part of the patient. Islam regulates and eases this by making Siwaak part of the routine of the Muslim e.g. before Salaah, during wudu etc.

Investigations prove that Siwak and other tree twigs could act as an effective tool in removing soft oral deposits. It could be even used as an effective device in preventive dental programmes in the population.

It has been reported that Salvadora Persica contains substances that possess antibacterial properties. Some other components are astringents, detergents and abrasives. Those properties encourage some toothpaste laboratories to incorporate powdered stems and/or root material of Salvadora Persica in their products.

Although the commercial powder gave a high degree of efficiency in plaque removal yet its use over the experimental period gave a high score of gingivitis percentage within the group using the powder. It is time that plaque eradication is essential but this should not be on the expense of harmful side effect on other tissues.

It could be concluded that Siwak and powdered Siwak are excellent tools for oral cleanliness. Because of its availability, being inexpensive and readily adopted by Muslims as part f their religious regimen, it is highly recommended in implementing a preventive dental health programme.

 
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