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Islamic Jurisprudence

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The miswak (miswaak, siwak, sewak) is a teeth cleaning twig made from a twig of the Salvadora persica tree, also known as the arak tree or the peelu tree and features in Islamic hygienical jurisprudence.

Contents

History

The miswak is predominant in Muslim areas but its use predates the inception of Islam. Its use has spread from the Middle East to South and Southeast Asia, where it is known as Kayu Sugi (Malay for 'chewing stick'). It is often mentioned that the Islamic prophet Muhammad recommended its use.

Scientific studies

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 miswaak, provided they had been given proper instruction in how to brush using it.[1] The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the use of the miswaak in 1986 and in 2000 an international consensus report on oral hygiene concluded that further research was needed to document the effect of the miswak.[2]

Recent research by Dr Otaybi from Saudi Arabia[3] opened a new area for research on the systemic effects of miswak after discovering its great positive effect on the immune system.

Dr. Rami Mohammed Diabi,[4] who spent more than 17 years researching the effects of miswak on health, and especially its anti-addiction effects on smokers (curative and preventive sides), has opened a field of science and research with his last publication: "Miswak Medicine Theory" or Sewak Puncture medicine[5] which led him to what is called Beyond Sewak: World of Science and Research.[6] Miswak also is contributing in the fight against desertification,[7] thereby affecting our environment and global climate.

"Miswak extract" compared to other oral disinfectants

Studies indicate that Salvadora persica extract is somewhat comparable to other oral disinfectants and anti-plaque agents like Triclosan and Chlorhexidine Gluconate if used at a very high concentration.[8][9]

Religious prescriptions

Although not mentioned in the Qur'an, use of the miswak is frequently advocated in the hadith (the traditions relating to the life of Muhammad). Situations where the miswak is recommended to be used include, before religious practice, before entering one's house, before and after going on a journey, on Fridays[10], before sleeping and after waking up, when experiencing hunger or thirst and before entering any good gathering.

In addition to strengthening the gums, preventing tooth decay and eliminating toothaches, the miswak is also said to halt further increase in decay that has already set in. Furthermore, it is claimed to create a fragrance in the mouth, eliminate bad breath, improve the sense of taste and cause the teeth to glow and shine.

Supposed benefits not related to the teeth and gums include sharpening memory, curing headaches, creating a glow on the face of the one who continually uses it, strengthening the eyesight, assisting in digestion and clearing the voice. None of these claims, however, have been researched scientifically.

Examples of hadith concerning the miswak

From Sahih al-Bukhari:

Narrated Abu Hurairah:
The Prophet 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." Narrated 'Amir bin Rabi'a, "I saw the Prophet cleaning his teeth with Siwak while he was fasting so many times as I can't count." And narrated Abu Huraira, "The Prophet said, 'But for my fear that it would be hard for my followers, I would have ordered them to clean their teeth with Siwak on every performance of ablution." The same is narrated by Jabir and Zaid bin Khalid from the Prophet who did not differentiate between a fasting and a nonfasting person in this respect (using Siwak).
Aisha said, "The Prophet said, "It (i.e. Siwak) is a purification for the mouth and it is a way of seeking God's pleasures." Ata' and Qatada said, "There is no harm in swallowing the resultant saliva."
Narrated Abu Burda: My father said, "I came to the Prophet and saw him carrying a Siwak in his hand and cleansing his teeth, saying, 'U' U'," as if he was retching while the Siwak was in his mouth."

From Sahih Muslim

'Abd al-Rahman son of Abu Sa`id al-Khudri reported on the authority of his father that the Messenger of God said: Bathing on Friday for every adult, using of Miswak and applying some perfume, that is available-these are essential. So far as the perfume is concerned, it may be that used by a lady.

Maintenance

A miswak should be one hand span in length when selected. If it becomes dry, it should be soaked in rose water to ensure the end is soft. The end should be cut afresh to ensure hygiene, and should never be stored near a toilet or sink. It can be used by cutting the branches instead of roots (like people of Sudan) keeping in mind that the roots can keep the humidity of miswak more than the branches (longer time usage). There is also toothpaste made from miswak extract which can be found in the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Europe.

References

Further reading

External links

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