Siwaak – The Forgotten Sunnah
By Asma bint Shameem
Alhamdulillaah, we all understand the importance of oral hygiene. Science in the twentieth century has shown us the link between poor oral hygiene and certain diseases such as stroke, heart disease, pre-term babies, as well as general ill-health of a person.
However, while shuffling between electric/sonic toothbrushes, water piks and expensive dental treatments, we forgot that while the rest of mankind just recently discovered the ‘toothbrush’ about a 100 years ago, one ‘unlettered’ Prophet (pbuh) living in the middle of a desert 1400 years ago, already showed us the significance of brushing the teeth and keeping the mouth clean
The Prophet (pbuh)’s teeth were beautiful, perfect and pearly white at a time when the concept of oral healthcare was totally obscure and nobody beyond the age of 30 had any teeth left!
He (pbuh) used the ‘Siwaak’ or tooth stick to clean his teeth, a twig taken from the ‘araak’ tree found in and around Makkah. He (pbuh) loved to use it and highly encouraged us to do the same.
Ibn Mas’ood said: “I used to gather siwaak sticks from the araak tree for the Messenger of Allaah (pbuh).” (Ahmad–hasan).
Now, I am not telling you to throw out your toothbrushes in the garbage. The Siwaak is an act of worship and a Sunnah for which you will be rewarded, so use it in addition to you toothbrushes, and gain the pleasure of Allaah, Most High.
BENEFITS OF SIWAAK:
1) Siwaak is an act of worship and pleases Allaah
“The Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘Siwaak cleanses the mouth and pleases the Lord.’” (Bukhaari)
2) The Prophet (pbuh) highly encouraged it:
Use of the Siwaak is a Sunnah that you will be rewarded for and is greatly encouraged. The Prophet (pbuh) 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.” (Bukhaari)
3) Medical benefits
While some ‘educated’ Muslims consider the Siwaak ‘barbaric’ and ‘uncivilized’ and look down upon those who use it, scientific studies have proven beyond doubt, that the Siwaak not only brushes the teeth and keeps them white, but also has antibacterial properties, fights gingivitis, eliminates bad breath, strengthens the gums, prevents plaque, helps in digestion, and contributes to the general health of the individual. (Islamic medicine by Dr. Mohammad Nezar al Dagr)
This is yet another proof of the truthfulness of the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh).
TIMES WHEN SIWAAK IS RECOMMENDED
Siwaak is recommended at all times of night and day, but there are certain specific situations where use of the siwaak is even more strongly encouraged.
1)When making wudoo’ and at times of prayer.
The Prophet (pbuh) 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.” According to another report he said: “…at every time of making wudoo’”
2)When entering one’s home :
‘Aa’ishah said, “When he (pbuh) entered his house, the first thing he would do was to use the Siwaak.” (Muslim).
3) When getting up from sleep.
Hudhayfah (RA) said that when the Prophet (pbuh) got up during the night, he would clean his mouth thoroughly with the siwaak.(Bukhaari,Muslim)
4) When the mouth emits odor:
Such as after eating food with a strong odor, like onions or garlic or because of not eating or drinking for a long time, etc.
5) When going to the masjid:
Using siwaak is part of the adornment which we (men only) are commanded to wear for every prayer. It is also important because the angels are present in the mosque, and one is going to meet with other worshippers there.
6)When reading Qur’aan and doing dhikr of Allaah:
7)When joining good gatherings
(8) After the signs of death are evident:
It is reported in Bukhaari that Aaisha (RA) said that the Prophet (pbuh) wanted to and used the Siwaak just before he (pbuh) passed away.
Important points about the Siwaak
1)The twigs of the ‘araak’ tree are preferable but any kind of sticks that are cleansing may be used, if it is not available. (That includes toothbrushes and toothpastes)
2)It is forbidden to use harmful or poisonous sticks or things that are not taahir (pure).
3)There is nothing wrong with using siwaak flavored with mint, lemon, etc. unless the person is fasting.
3) The Siwaak should nether be too dry(it may hurt the gums)nor too wet (won’t clean)
4)A person should start from the right side, and use a side-to-side motion rather than up-and-down, as the latter may harm the gums.
5)One should not use the siwaak in front of others or in public, because this is impolite.
6) The siwaak should be washed after use.
Aa’ishah RA said:
“The Prophet (pbuh) used the 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.” (Abu Dawood)
7)The siwaak should be kept in a clean place.
Using siwaak when fasting
The scholars agree that there is nothing wrong with using siwaak during the day when one is fasting. However, one should avoid using any of the flavored Siwaak that are available and only use the natural kind during this time.
Some people use the hadeeth “The odor that comes from the mouth of the fasting person is better in the sight of Allaah than the scent of musk” (Bukhaari) as evidence to not use the Siwaak. But, this is not applicable since this mouth odor is caused by the stomach being empty, not from the mouth itself and will not be dispelled by using the Siwaak.
REVIVE THE SUNNAH
This beautiful Sunnah has been lost in the plethora of toothbrushes and modern technologies, and we have put our Siwaaks aside. We need to revive this great Sunnah. Not only will it earn us a beautiful smile, and a healthy mouth and body, but it will also earn us rewards and the pleasure of Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala.