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Siwaak – a Neglected Sunnah

The siwaak is the Arabic word for the twigs of the Salvadora Persica also known as Arak tree or Peelu tree, and is commonly referred to as miswaak in the west.

Arak treeThe siwaak is a natural toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss. It comes from the Arak which is a small tree that grows up to 3 meters high. Its leaves are small, thick and oval in shape and its smell resembles that of mustard. It grows in hot climates such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt and the other Equatorial countries. Its twigs are usually cut to a hand span in length and of medium thickness. When siwaak twigs are not available, twigs from the olive tree or palm leaf stalks are used.

Evidence from the Sunnah
There are many ahadeeth mentioning the importance and virtues of using the siwaak such as the hadeeth of Ibn Abbass (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) that the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said : “I was ordered with the siwaak until I thought that something would be revealed in the Qur-aan in regards to it”. [Musnad Ahmad no.2125, Ahmad Shaakir graded the isnaad Saheeh]. The medical benefits however are derived from the hadeeth where Aa’ishah (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) reported that the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said “the siwaak is purifying for the mouth and pleasing to the Rabb”. [Sunan An-Nasaa’ee no.5, Shaykh Al-Albaani graded it saheeh].

Medical uses
In 1988 a comprehensive survey carried out on several thousand Saudi school children reported that the low incidence of periodontal disease recorded, was inked to the practice of using siwaak for oral hygiene. Among the factors being that Siwaak contains tannin which helps to strengthen the gums.

The Wrigley Company carried out a study which was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. In the study mints laced with miswak extract were found to be 20 times more effective in killing bacteria in comparison to ordinary mints. After half an hour the mints laced with miswaak extract killed 60% of the bacteria and the ordinary mints killed only 3.6%. This benefit of the siwaak has been confirmed in the journal Oral medicine and Dentistry where Dr. James Turner, of the Faculty of Medicine in the American University of Tennessee said: “The miswaak of the araak tree contains substances which purify and kill microbes, the most important of which are sulphur and sitosterol B (or β-sitosterol), as well as sodium.”

Many studies have been carried out on the siwaak attesting to the truth that the Messenger of Allah (upon him be salah and salam) spoke when he said that the siwaak is purifying for the mouth. The Mouth disease department of Cairo University, the King Saud University, the US National Library of Medical Service and others have documented their findings. However for the sake of brevity we will only mention some of the established benefits of the siwaak:
Due to its known antibacterial qualities siwaak is very good for killing bacteria build up in the mouth. It’s soft fibres are gentle on the teeth and gums unlike the bristles on brushes and yet they remove the food and stains from the teeth very well.
The fact that its bristles are parallel to the handle instead of perpendicular, enables better cleaning between the teeth.

Siwaak close up
Stops bleeding and purifies the gums.
Fights gum disease.
Creates a pleasant smell in the mouth
Removes bad breath and odour from the mouth.
And fights plaque effectively.
Sharpens the memory.
Strengthens the eyesight.
Assists in digestion.
The reward of Salaah is multiplied 70 times if siwaak stick was used before it.

Siwaak contains many natural chemical compounds considered essential to oral and dental hygiene, including; fluoride, silica, tannic acid, resins, alkaloids (salvadorine), volatile oils (sinigrin), sulfur vitamin C, sodium bicarbonate, chlorides, calcium, benzylisothiocyanate (BIT), and others including salicylic acids, sterols, trimethylamine, saponins and flavenoids.

The scholars of Islam advise that the siwaak should be used starting from the right side of the mouth in a side to side motion instead of up and down as the latter may harm the gums. It should be used frequently due to the generality of the hadeeth mentioned above.

Some of the recommended times are as follows;
Before every salaah – based on the narration of Aa’ishah (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa) who reported that the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) 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, 2/299 and Muslim, 1/151].
When entering the house – as reported from Aa’ishah (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhaa); “When he (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) entered his house, the first thing he would do was to use the siwaak.” [Muslim, 1/220].
When getting up from sleep – as reported by Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamaan (RadiyAllaahu ‘anhu) that when the Prophet (Sallallaahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) got up during the night, he would clean his mouth thoroughly with the siwaak. [Bukhaari, 1/98 and Muslim, 1/220].
When the taste or smell of the mouth changes – since the siwaak is purifying for the mouth then it should be utilised as and when needed.

Scientific Research
1. Recent laboratory researches indicate that Siwaak prepared from and contains a large portion of (gall), an anti-mildew substance and an antiseptic astringent that stops bleeding of gum and strengthens it. It is of severe odor and acrid taste that kills bacteria.

2. Researches emphasize that there is a mustard substance called sinnigrin.

3. Dr. Tariq Al Khoury affirmed the existence of chloride and silica which increase the degree of whiteness of teeth, and there is a gum substance covering enamel and protects teeth from caries.

4. There is also “methylamine” that helps the recovery of gum and helps it grow properly. It is an antiseptic that can adapt “PH” of the oral cavity in a way that affects “indirectly” in the growth of microbes, researchers found also other quantities of anti-tumor.

5. After scrutinizing the Siwaak stick and investigating its components and its medical value, it was found that it contains a good amount of Flourine that makes teeth strong and resistent to acid effect of caries, the main role of Flourine is clear in the stage of growth and formation of teeth as the element goes strongly into it to replace other atoms that are less reactive such as potassium and sodium in the inner parts of enamel and makes atomic bonds formed by the new substance that are more strong than the bonds of less reactive elements. Moreover, the exposure of enamel to florin at this stage transforms it from “hydroxyapatite” to another strong form that is “fluroapatite”. Calcium phosphate in the form hydroxyapatite is the material from which teeth are made, and fluoridation of water is presumed to turn some of that calcium phosphate into fluorapatite. Fluorapatite is considerably harder than hydroxyapatite and is thought to provide a measure of protection against tooth decay.

6. Other than florin, there is an amount of chlorine that removes tincture , and silica that has a known role in protecting teeth.

7. There is a substance called “silica” of about 4% of Siwaak stick that has a characteristic to scrape and remove plaque.

8. Also it is worthy mentioning sodium bicarbonates which teeth healing assembly at American Dental Association recommended adding when healing teeth.

9. There is a substance called “silva urea” in Siwaak which is known for its ability to prevent caries and necrosis and therefore protects the formation of aforementioned areas of abscess.

10. When analyzing Siwaak stick, We found there is an amount of ansinic acid that helps in throwing out phlegm from the chest as well as an amount of ascorbic acid and citocitrol, both can strengthen arterial capillaries of the gum.

Sources- www.prophetic-medicine.com (Article © F Khanom)

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