I want to start with a little story that happened long ago when Muslim army was fighting against Persian Empire. The Muslims were defeated in the 1st few rounds of the battle, so their commander, Sa'd ibn Abi Waqas (radiyallahu anha) gathered his men to re-evaluate their resources and position. All seemed under control: the Muslim army had a great number of fighters and good resources; so what was the problem then? Sa'd concluded that this defeat must be a punishment from Allah for their sins, so he ordered each of them to repent and ask Allah forgiveness and check for any misdeed that he had committed or any acts of worship that he had forgotten to perform. All of the men were good Muslims, with sincere intentions and the true will and power to fight the enemies. Still, he insisted, they went through obligatory and the non-obligatory acts of worship, and then through the entire Sunnah of the Prophet to find their weak point. Finally, Sa'd realised that they had been neglecting the Sunnah of siwak, They were not using siwak as our Prophet used to do before prayer. How strange it seems: mean at the battlefront who thought that their weak point was that thye were not brushing their teeth five times a day!
Sa'd ordered for the siwak sticks to be distributed to each Muslim in the army and asked them all to follow our Prophet's Sunnah. No one argued, no one questioned his commander's reasoning; no one asked what siwak had to do with winning or loosing the battle against the strongest army of the face of the earth.
Meanwhile, the Persian army had sent spies to check on he Muslim's camp. The Persians at that time looked upon the Arabs as a primitive, uncivilised nation, so when the spies reached the Arabs' camp and saw them rubbing their teeth with sticks, they failed to understand what was going on, until one of them shouted: "They are sharpening their teeth to eat us alive, they are cannibals!"
The Persian army spies ran back to their camp and the news spread like wildfire. The whole army panicked, and most of the Persian fortresses were abandoned and fell easily into the Muslims' hands.
Do you see the moral of the story? Do not underestimate even seemingly insignificant orders from Allah and His Messenger (sallalahu aleihi wa sallam) (the Quran and the Sunnah), even if you do not understand the wisdom behind it. Do not get me wrong, though: we should still try to search for the wisdom and the meanings behind everything we do. We are required to learn, explore and experience, we should seek scientific knowledge in all fields and apply this knowledge in our everyday life. Even if we don't find an answer, we should still believe that our Islamic teachings are the best source of health and happiness for our body and soul.
Let us start the 1st blog in the series of Prophetic Medicine and Sunnah Beautification with SIWAQ (or Miswaq).
Sunnah of using Siwak
Teeth whitening kits which promise you Hollywood smile in just 15 minutes are so popular these days. Veneers are sold in huge numbers every day by dentists. We love our smile to look the best! But we should love oral hygiene not only because it is beautiful but also because Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us that month is the pathway of the Quran and therefore we should keep it clean. He always commenced his ablution with the use of a tooth-cleansing-stick (sewak). He said: " Had it not been difficult for my followers, I would have ordered them to use the swim before each prayer" (Bukhara, Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i, Ibn Majah and Ahmed). He also said: " The use of the siwak purifies the mouth and pleases Allah" (Bukhara, Nasa'i, Ibn Majah and Ahmed).
How does it look like?
Siwak comes from Arak tree which mainly grows around Makkah and Madinah Al-Munawwarah, as well as in some areas in Africa. Thus you will find that most of miswak sticks are made in KSA. The siwak - is a part inside the roots of the tree; it is prepared by being dried and kept in a dry place.
So what are the chemicals that siwak contains?
- Trimethyl amine - which lowers pH of the mouth (which is one of the important factors in growth of germs) thus the opportunity for these germs to grow is lowered.
- Chloride and silica - these will be your favourites I bet because they help to increase the whiteness of the teeth.
- Sulfur - it has been proved that it is effective in stopping the growth of bacteria in the mouth.
- Vitamin C and sitosterol - which are very important in strengthening the capillaries that nourish the gums, thus enabling sufficient amounts of blood to reach them, in addition to the importance of vitamin C in protecting the gums from infection.
- Fluoride which we all know is essential in hardening tooth enamel and preventing decay.
In addition to these advantages, siwak has an agreeable scent that gives the breath a naturally fresh smell.
When to use it?
1. Before each salah or after wudhu as in the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him), who reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Were it not for the fact that I did not want to make things too hard for my ummah, I would have commanded them to use the siwaak at every time of prayer.” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 2/299 and Muslim, 1/151). According to another report narrated by al-Bukhaari, he said: “…at every time of making wudoo’.”
2. When entering the home to be with one’s family. ‘Aa’ishah was asked what the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did when he first came home. She said, “When he entered his house, the first thing he would do was to use the siwaak.” (Reported by Muslim, 1/220).
3. When getting up from sleep. Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamaan (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) got up during the night, he would clean his mouth thoroughly with the siwaak. (Reported by al-Bukhaari, 1/98 and Muslim, 1/220)
How to use it?
1. Wash it after use. The siwaak should be washed after use, to get rid of any dirt that may be on it. ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) said: “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) used to use siwaak, then he would give it to me to wash it. I would use it first, then wash it and give it back to him.” (Reported by Abu Dawood, 1/45).
2. Renew it regularly. Simply cut off the used tip of the twig to expose new fibres as it loses the effective antibacterial action over time. You can feel its effectiveness as long as it still has a slightly sharp, mustard-like flavour and mild aromatic fragrance.
3. Use it regularly as well. The use of siwak is most effective when the deposits on the teeth are still soft. If the plaque hardens, the efficiency of siwak will be reduced (as will be the efficiency of any toothpaste), and that is why it is crucial to use it regularly as we were taught by our beloved Prophet (sallalahu aleihi wassaliam).
4. Store it in a toothbrush or alike container as miswak dries out quickly. You can also cut the stick into little pieces suitable for using. Keep the cut pieces in water (you can use glass or container) and take out 1 at a time when necessary to use. Wash after use and return to the glass / container. Renew regularly as mentioned in point 1 in this paragraph.
If you want miswak to be included in your next purchase, simply add such a note in the comment box when placing order online.