Many of us know the benefits of using a miswak instead of a toothbrush or for ablution (wadhu — a prerequisite for prayers), but we hardly use it. In Ramadan we get an opportunity to earn more rewards so pick up your miswak and start using it. The teeth cleaning twig is a traditional alternative to the modern day toothbrush and is an equally effective method.
Miswak, or siwak, considered the natural toothbrush, is a tan-coloured stick derived from the root of mainly arak tree (salvadora persica), which grows in Saudi Arabia, Chad, Sudan and India. The miswak twig can be extracted from several trees except for those that are poisonous or harmful, such as pomegranate tree and the myrtle tree.
But it's preferred to get miswak from bitter tree branches as palm trees, olive trees or the roots and branches of desert trees — preferably from Arak trees. Arak is an evergreen small tree that has several therapeutic functions and this is the best way to benefit from it. One should clean the leaves, boil them and use the water when cooled as mouthwash. In Arab countries, the use of miswak is not just confined to morning wash or for ablution but people have made it a habit to chew it throughout the day. Its use is so widespread in the Arab countries that even top CEOs and senior executives make it a point to use miswak in their daily lives. It has found acceptance in the Indian subcontinent too. Little wonder then that a popular toothpaste product uses the powder of miswak and is doing a fairly good business.
The use of miswak was recommended by none other than Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). Hazrath Abu Ayub Radiallahu Anhu and Hazrath Abu Darda RA narrated that Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) mentioned the use of miswak as one of the key habits of Ambiya Alaihissalam. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) recommended its use. He is quoted in various Ahadith extolling the virtues of miswak. Abu Hurairah narrates Prophet (PBUH) as saying, "Were it not (for the fear) of overburdening my Ummah, I would have ordered them to (brush their teeth with) Siwak at every Salat. (Sahih Muslim) A'ishah narrates Prophet (PBUH) as saying, "The siwak is a means of purifying the mouth and pleasing the Rabb."
Abu Hurairah narrates that the Prophet (PBUH) said once on a Friday, "O Community of Muslims! Allah has made this day an 'Eid for you, so take a bath and needfully brush your teeth with siwak (toothstick)."(Tabarani, Majma'uz-Zawaid).
Four things are from among the practices of the Prophets: Circumcision, use of scent, miswak, and marriage.
A hadith says, "Make a regular practice of miswak for verily it is the purification for the mouth and a means of the pleasure of the Lord."
Therefore, the greatest benefit of using miswak is gaining the pleasure of Allah as according to Hadith the reward of Prayers is multiplied 70 times if miswak is used before it.
Hazrath Wasla RA relates that Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) had mentioned: "I was repeatedly instructed to use miswak so much so that I feared it would be made compulsory." A Hadith mentions the use of miswak after awakening up from one's sleep. When a sahabi came to Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) he said: "You come to me in such a condition that your teeth are yellow, you should use miswak." That miswak has many virtues leaves no doubt. It has been narrated by Hazrath Ayesha RA that miswak is a cure for all illness except death. Hazrath Ibn Abbas reported that there are eight virtues of using the miswak. They are: It removes the yellowness of the teeth; it strengthens the eyesight; it strengthens the gums; it cleanses the mouth; it removes phlegm; the angels become pleased; the pleasure of Allah is earned; it is the sunnat of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH); it removes the yellowness of the teeth.
According to the medical research done on miswak, the chemical analysis revealed that it contains a total of 19 natural substances which are effective to dental health. Endowed with natural antiseptics, miswak's tannic acid contains astringent qualities that protect the gum from disease.
Because of its inbuilt anti-septics, the miswak needs no cleaning and since its bristles are parallel to the handle rather than perpendicular, it can reach more easily between the teeth, where a conventional toothbrush often misses.
To buy a miswak one needs to scan the souqs. Also, you can find old men selling miswaks in front of the mosques.
After purchase, the miswak should be soaked in water for a few hours. This softens the natural fibres which help them to separate when the top quarter-inch of bark is pared away with a sharp knife. Chewing the bristles for another minute will help to separate them further.
It has been reported by Hazrath Abdulla bin Masood RA that the miswak should be held in such a manner that the small finger be placed towards the bottom of the miswak and the thumb just below the portion which placed in the mouth and remaining fingers at the top of the miswak.
A miswak 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.
So, to bring in a dazzling white smile and rewards from the God, use miswak.