Religious background of miswak and its medical implications

Religious background of miswak and its medical implications
Updated 04 July 2013

Religious background of miswak and its medical implications

Religious background of miswak and its medical implications

SIWAK or miswak is a natural tooth brush prepared from the roots or branches of various trees and bushes. The most common and beneficial is that of the root of the Salvadora Persica, a wild desert plant known in Arabic as arak, and in Urdu as peelu.
The teeth cleaning twig is a traditional alternative to the modern day toothbrush and equally effective method. In fact, a 2003 scientific study comparing the use of miswak with ordinary toothbrushes concluded that the results clearly were in favor of the users who had been using the miswak, provided they had been given proper instruction in how to brush using it.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the use of miswak in 1986 and in 2000 for oral hygiene.
An international consensus report on oral hygiene also concluded that further research was needed to document the effect of the miswak.
The major advantages of the miswak includes it strengthens the gums and prevents tooth decay, assists in eliminating toothaches and prevents further increase of decay which has already set in.
Miswak creates a fragrance in the mouth and eliminates bad odors and improves the sense of taste, sharpens the memory, causes the teeth to glow, strengthens the eyesight, assists in digestion and clears the voice.
Siwak has a long and well-documented history and features prominently in Islamic jurisprudence on oral health and hygiene.
The miswak is predominant in Muslim-inhabited areas and its usage predates the inception of Islam. The twig has its origin in the Arab countries and spread from the Middle East to South and South-East Asia.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) recommended its use. He is quoted in various Hadith extolling the virtues of miswak. Abu Hurairah narrates that the Prophet said, "Were it not (for the fear) of overburdening my Ummah, I would have ordered them to (brush their teeth with) Siwak at every Salat. (Sahih Muslim) A'ishah narrates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "The siwak is a means of purifying the mouth and pleasing the Rabb." (Nasai)
Abu Hurairah narrates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said once on a Friday, "O Community of Muslims! Allah has made this day an 'Eid for you, so take a bath and needfully brush your teeth with siwak (toothstick)."(Tabarani, Majma'uz-Zawaid)
Four things are from among the practices of the Prophets: Circumcision, use of scent, miswak, and marriage. A Hadith says, "Make a regular practice of miswak for verily it is the purification for the mouth and a means of the pleasure of the Lord."
Therefore the greatest benefit of using miswak is gaining the pleasure of Allah as according to Hadith the reward of Prayers is multiplied 70 times if miswak was used before it.
Miswak is Sunnah and its usage and timing has been recommended for the recitation of the Holy Qur'an, the recitation of Hadith, as and when the mouth emits an odor, for the learning or teaching of virtues of Islam, for the remembrance of Allah, after entering one's home, before entering a Majlis (good gathering), when experiencing pangs of hunger and thirst, after the signs of death are evident, before taking sehri, meals, before sleeping and after awaking.
Abu Hurairah narrates: "The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "If somebody eats or drinks forgetfully then he should complete his fast, for what he has eaten or drunk, has been given to him by God. Miswak is purification for the mouth and it is a way of seeking the acceptance of Allah."
The siwak, a tree-twig, was in use for brushing and cleansing the teeth long before the advent of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as his sayings indicate that the miswak was a practice of all the Prophets of Allah.
Those who neglect the use of the miswak, thus invite upon themselves a great misfortune by being deprived of the tremendous amount of Reward which this noble practice carries.
Allamah Ibn Ismail says: "It surprises me how people could forgo such a great Sunnah, the significance of which many Ahadith of our Prophet (peace be upon him) explain. Remember that it is a great loss to neglect the miswak."
Islam has accorded an elevated status to the miswak as significance is evident from many Ahadith. The statements and examples of the Sahaba and the Ulema of Islam regarding this practice bear testimony in abundance of the significance of the miswak. Ibn Umar (R) narrates that the Messenger of Allah Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Make a regular practice of the miswak, for verily, it is healthy for the mouth and it is a Pleasure for the Creator (Allah is pleased with the Muslim who uses the miswak)." (Bukhari)
There are two types of benefits accrued from the use of the miswak. Those include UKHRAWI or Benefits which relate to the life Hereafter and DUNYAWI or Benefits which relate to this worldly life. The Ukhrawi category comprises the various sawaabs (Rewards), whereas Dunyawi category comprises the immediate benefits or advantages accruing to the physical human body by the constant use of the miswak.
In fact, the importance of the miswak is such that at one stage our Prophet PBUH was under the impression that the Almighty Allah might decree the use of the miswak as compulsory upon the Ummah (Muslims). Abu Umamah (R) narrates that the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) said: 'Use the miswak, for verily, it purifies the mouth, and it is a Pleasure for the Lord. Jib-ra-eel (A.S) exhorted me so much to use the miswak that I feared that its use would be decreed obligatory upon me and upon my Ummah. (IBN MAJAH)."
A miswak should not be longer than a "span" i.e. the maximum distance between the tips of the thumb and little finger, and it should not be thicker than a finger's breadth.
Miswak should be held in such a manner that the small finger and thumb is below the miswak and the remaining fingers on its upper side.