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 for the rest of the world.
The 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 that the Prophet (upon him be salah and salam) said : “I was ordered with the Siwaak until I thought that something would be revealed in the Qur’an in regards to it” [Musnad Ahmad 2125, Ahmad Shaakir graded the isnaad Saheeh]
However the medical benefits are derived from the hadeeth where Ummul Mu'mineen Hazrat Aa’ishah (R. A.) reported that the Prophet (upon him be salah and salam) said “the Siwaak is purifying for the mouth and pleasing to the Rabb” [Sunan An-Nasaa’ee, Shaykh Al-Albaani graded it saheeh]
In 1988 a comprehensive survey carried out on several thousand Saudi school children reported that the low incidence of periodontal disease recorded, was linked 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 Siwaak 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 Arak 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
• Its 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.
• 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
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.
Advantages of the Miswaak
1.Miswaak strengthens the gums and prevents tooth decay.
Times when usage of Miswaak is Sunnah
1.Before every salah - Based on the narration of Hazrat Aa’ishah (R. A.) who reported that the prophet (upon him be salah and salam) 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.” [Bukhaaree, 2/299 and Muslim, 1/151].
2.For the recitation of the Qur'an.
3.For the recitation of Hadeeth.
4.When the mouth emits and odor.
5.For the learning or teaching of virtues of Islam.
6.For making DHIKRULLAH (Remebrance of ALLAH, meditation).
7.After entering home. As reported from Ummul Mu'mineen Hazrat Aa’ishah (R. A.); “When he (upon him be salah and salam) entered his house, the first thing he would do was to use the Siwaak.” [Muslim, 1/220].
8.Before entering any good gathering.
9.When experiencing pangs of hunger and thirst.
10.After the signs of death are evident.
11.At the time of Sehri.
13.Before undertaking a journey.
14.On returning from a journey.
16.Upon awakening. As reported by Hazrat Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamaan that when the Prophet (upon him be salah and salam) got up during the night, he would clean his mouth thoroughly with the Siwaak . [Bukhaari, 1/98 and Muslim, 1/220]
How long should a Miswaak be?
A Miswaak should not be longer than a "span" i.e. the maximum distance between the tips of the thumb and little finger, and it should not be thicker than a finger's breadth.
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.
In Surah Ma’oon ALLAH Subhanahu wa Ta’ala deprecates those who are careless in their prayers offer them only for show.
The Messenger of ALLAH (upon him be salah and salam) told us "Prayers are certainly health promoting."
As we eat daily we need exercise to lessen the cholesterol in the body which increases in blood after meals, thickens blood and leads to the deposition of slit in the arteries.
In addition to saving us from the sins and elevating us to the heights of spirituality prayers are great help in maintaining our physical health. They keep our body active, help digestion and save us from muscle and joint diseases through regular balanced exercise. They help the circulation of blood and also mitigate the bad effect of cholesterol. Prayers play a vital role in acting as a preventive measure against heart attack, paralyses, premature senility, dementia, loss of control on sphineters, diabetes mellitus etc.
Collateral circulation plays a major role in decreasing the danger of heart attack in patients. Patients above 55 years of age in which this type of circulation is developed have less severe attacks. It is possible to speed up the development of collateral circulation by regular and balanced exercises which is present in the prayers are not only potent, preventive measure against coronary heart diseases but also help in the development of collateral circulation in those people who have already suffered from a heart attack or are prone to it.
During the month of Fast (Ramadhan) the additional twenty Raka'at (Taraweeh) are added to the late evening prayers because more than normal food is usually consumed after breaking fast.
The performance of prayers put almost all muscles of the body in action. Different groups of muscles are activated while performing prayers. During Sajdah blood supply to the brain is improved. One of the useful methods to strengthen the muscles of the knee joints to mitigate the strain on knees in osteo-arthritis is the regular exercise of these muscles during prayers.
This vital organ of the body has to be always healthy and efficient as it is responsible for the circulation of blood. Diseased heart results in deterioration of the healthy body. This knowledge we obtained after centuries of scientific research yet it was simply told to us fourteen hundred years ago by our great Prophet, The Messenger of ALLAH ( upon him be salah and salam):
It was the habit of our blessed Prophet ( upon him be salah and salam) to sleep for a while after Zuhr prayer, his companions also followed this practice. This short nap gives relief to the vital organs of the body like heart and brain.