Miswak

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"Swak" redirects here. For the acronym SWAK, see Sealed with a kiss (disambiguation).
Traditional miswak sticks. Softened bristles on either end can be used to clean the teeth.

The miswak (miswaak, siwak, sewak, السواك) is a teeth cleaning twig made from the Salvadora persica tree (known as arak in Arabic). A traditional alternative to the modern toothbrush, it has a long, well-documented history and is reputed for its medicinal benefits.[1] It also features prominently in Islamic hygienical jurisprudence.

The miswak is predominant in Muslim-inhabited areas. It is commonly used in the Arabian peninsula, the Horn of Africa, North Africa, parts of the Sahel, the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia and Southeast Asia. In Malaysia, miswak is known as Kayu Sugi (Malay for 'chewing stick').

Hadith[edit]

It is often mentioned that the Islamic Prophet Muhammad recommended the miswak's use. He is quoted in various hadith extolling its virtues:[2][3]

Science[edit]

Studies[edit]

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.[4] However, the study's sample size was only fifteen people, calling into question its statistical significance. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the use of the miswak 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.[5]

Dr. Rami Mohammed Diabi,[6] 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[7] which led him to what is called Beyond Sewak: World of Science and Research.[8] Miswak also is contributing in the fight against desertification,[9] thereby affecting our environment and global climate.

Miswak extract vs. oral disinfectants[edit]

Studies indicate that Salvadora persica extract exhibits low antimicrobial activity compared to other oral disinfectants and anti-plaque agents like Triclosan and Chlorhexidine Gluconate.[10][11]

[11]

Religious prescriptions[edit]

A pack of miswak sticks.

The 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,[12] 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 said to halt further decay that has already set in. Furthermore, it is reputed to create a fragrance in the mouth, eliminate bad breath, improve sensitivity of taste-buds and promote cleaner teeth.

Examples of hadith concerning the miswak[edit]

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 the acceptance of God." 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.

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 or cologne, that is available-these are essential.

Maintenance[edit]

A miswak stick.

A miswak should be one hand span in length when selected. If it becomes dry, it should be soaked in rose water to soften the end bristles. The end should be cut afresh to ensure hygiene and should never be stored near a toilet or sink. The brush may be created by cutting Salvadora persica's branches instead of its roots; keeping in mind that the tree's roots can retain humidity more so than its branches. This favors more long-term usage.

There is also a toothpaste made from miswak extract that can be purchased in the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. Use of toothpastes featuring benefits of miswak is, however, not a true alternate practice of using miswak in its original shape and in the masnoon way.[citation needed] Some companies, such as Al Khair and AL Falah, have also taken the initiative to process and preserve miswak. This has the effect of increasing the twig's shelf life to a period of over six months.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d IslamKotob, Muslims and Science, (Islamic Books), p.30.
  2. ^ "Miswak" at sunnah.com.
  3. ^ "Siwak" at searchtruth.com.
  4. ^ Al-Otaibi M, Al-Harthy M, Soder B, Gustafsson A, Angmar-Mansson B. (2003). "Comparative effect of chewing sticks and toothbrushing on plaque removal and gingival health.". Oral Health Prev Dent 1 (4): 301–7. PMID 15643758. 
  5. ^ Undersøkelse av en aktuell eldgammel munnrengjøringsmetode in Norwegian
  6. ^ Untitled requires log in
  7. ^ Miswak Medicine Theory
  8. ^ Beyond Sewak Worlds Researches Page
  9. ^ See effects of Salvadora Persica "Miswak tree" on stopping deserts and fixing the soil - Thrust Areas of Research
  10. ^ Almas, K. (August 2002). "The effect of Salvadora persica extract (miswak) and chlorhexidine gluconate on human dentin: a SEM study.". J Contemp Dent Pract. 3 (3): 27–35. PMID 12239575. 
  11. ^ a b Almas, K; Skaug, N; Ahmad, I. (February 2005). "An in vitro antimicrobial comparison of miswak extract with commercially available non-alcohol mouthrinses.". Int J Dent Hyg. 3 (1): 18–24. doi:10.1111/j.1601-5037.2004.00111.x. PMID 16451373. 
  12. ^ http://hadith.al-islam.com/Display/hier.asp?Doc=0&n=1417

Further reading[edit]

  • Islamic Research on Miswak (Dr. Al Sahli)
  • Khan, Tehmeena, Toothbrush (Miswak), in Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God (2 vols.), Edited by C. Fitzpatrick and A. Walker, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2014.

External links[edit]