Miswak: Cleansing for the Mouth and Pleasing to the Lord

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By Zeenat Farooq

Miswak

Allah, the most exalted and merciful; has bestowed his servants with a number of benefits with innumerable apparent and hidden benefits. Among these benefits, the use of Miswak is regarded as one of the most loved Sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). This is clear from the following Hadith in which the Prophet (PBUH) says “if it were not too hard for my Ummah, I would have commanded them to use siwak before every prayer”.

In order to understand this Hadith of our Beloved Prophet (PBUH), we should have some knowledge about our oral micro flora i.e., the various microorganisms which survive in our mouth and how Miswak rids our mouth of harmful oral inhabitant microbes and their toxins.

Microbes And Oral Problems

The mouth serves as the main entrance to our body. Hence any microbe which gains access or thrives in the mouth can affect our body. Moreover, the nerves in the mouth and facial area are connected directly to the central nervous system. Hence any pain which stems from here is often unbearable. Our teeth are continually bathed in saliva which forms a very thin layer around them.

Even after a few hours of brushing, this layer starts forming again and the micro flora of our mouth start to adhere to it. If not removed in less than 12 hours, this layer thickens and acts as a base binding material for various harmful microbes as well which gain access into our mouth.

With the passage of time, this layer thickens and hardens and becomes very difficult to remove completely and hence acts as a shelter house for oral microbes. These microbes release their harmful toxins into our mouth, change the oral pH and grow and multiply tremendously.

This is the main reason for oral problems like bad breath, tough plaque formation, yellowness, tooth cavities and gum infections. Also, these microbes feed on food substances that we consume like sugary foods which act as a food source for these microbes. The build-up of food substances between teeth also acts as a site for germ build up.

After inhabiting our mouth, some of the harmful microbes release a number of harmful toxins which dissent down into our stomach and cause a number of other health problems.

Importance Of Using Miswak

In the light of the above mentioned facts, it becomes very important to clean our mouth properly from time to time in order to improve our oral health.

Performing wuddhu five times a day, with thorough rinsing of mouth being performed thrice in every wuddhu can be considered as the first act of defence for oral problems. When this act is combined with using siwak, our mouth is cleaned of almost all the harmful microbes.

Our Beloved Prophet (PBUH) was the first person to pay attention to oral health and hygiene at a time when the west was centuries away from understanding the benefits of his acts for maintaining good oral health.

According to a sahih Hadith, it is said that the Prophet (PBUH) would use Miswak before every wuddhu. As is already being mentioned that germs begin to form after every meal and after every few hours, the use of Miswak before every prayer is extremely cleansing.

In a sahih Hadith, it has been narrated by Anas (RA) that our Beloved Prophet (PBUH) said “I enjoined using siwak to such an extent that I feared to lose my teeth”. In another Hadith from Sahih Muslim, Suraiya (RA) said “I asked Aisha (RA) what would the Prophet start with when he entered his house? Aisha (RA) replied He started with the siwak”.

Origin Of Miswak

Miswak or Siwak comes from a tree called Arak. Its scientific name is Salvadora persica. It grows in many areas around Makkah, Madina, Yemen and many parts of Africa. It is a short tree of light brown colour with spindly branches, shiny leaves; scabrous bark.

The part that is used in making Miswak is the inside of the root. It is dried and kept in a dry place and before use; it is hammered with a sharp tool or soaked in water if it is too dry. It is then used to clean teeth until its fibre begins to disintegrate.

Composition And Effectiveness Of Miswak

After performing various chemical and biochemical analysis, Miswak has been shown to contain an alkaloid which may be salvadorine, trim ethylamine, sulphur, vitamin C, traces of sabonin, tannin and flavonoids, large amounts of sit sterol, chlorine, fluorine and silica.

If we have a brief look at the various components of Miswak, it becomes clear that it is effective in

Stopping the growth of bacteria in mouth can be attributed to a large extent to the presence of sulphur.

Maintaining a healthy pH in the mouth, particularly because of trim ethylamine which serves as a limiting factor for microbial growth.

Strengthening gums and nourishing capillaries primarily because of vitamin C and Sit sterol. It also contains ruinous substances like tannin for strengthening gums.

Whitening teeth due to the presence of chloride and silica.

The Islamic teaching of using Miswak rightfully justifies its use for cleaning teeth since it not cleans the teeth physically, the way toothbrushes do but it also leads to holistic oral protection owing to the presence of various useful substances. Also, apart from the medical benefits, there is always a spiritual satisfaction which comes by following the Sunnah of our Beloved Prophet (PBUH).

(Author is a Research Scholar at Department of Biotechnology, University of Kashmir.)

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