Morning breath, masaalah breath, just plain ol' bad breath – problems that have plagued mankind since the dawn of time, and for which solutions are touted aplenty. Electric toothbrushes, mouthwash, breath mints… the companies producing them make pretty brisk business!

For Muslims the issue is more serious than for others, since the importance of overall hygiene – and specifically oral hygiene – is strongly emphasized in the Sunnah of our beloved Rasool (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam). And as with everything else, the best of solutions lies not in the latest bacteria-fighting invention, but in the Qur'an and Sunnah.

So what, you ask, is the solution presented to us 1400 years ago? It is called… the siwaak. Basically, it's a twig taken from certain kinds of trees and usually available at your local masjid, Islamic centre, halaal-imports/ exports/ meat/ corner store, and generous uncles who always have a spare in their shalwar kamees pocket  :D

Better than a toothbrush any day – because it's 100% natural and environmentally friendly, and doesn't need a cumbersome routine involving toothpaste and water to rinse (not to mention mentally humming “Twinkle twinkle little star” so that you remember how long you're supposed to brush) – the practice and benefits of the tooth stick are well-documented.

Far more importantly, however, is simply the fact that using the siwaak was something the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) loved to do, and urged his Ummah to do, whether at home, at the masjid, or alone.

Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) 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.” (Reported by al-Bukhari, 2/299 and Muslim, 1/151). According to another report narrated by al-Bukhari, he said: “…at every time of making wudu'.”

'Aa'ishah was asked what the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did when he first came home. She said, “When he entered his house, the first thing he would do was to use the siwaak.” (Reported by Muslim, 1/220).

When getting up from sleep. Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamaan (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that when the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) got up during the night, he would clean his mouth thoroughly with the siwaak. (Reported by al-Bukhari, 1/98 and Muslim, 1/220)

Here's a lesser-known hadeeth regarding the siwaak and its spiritual as well as physical effects.

As soon as the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) got up for Qiyam al-Layl, he would brush his teeth with a siwaak and perform wudhu, he (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said:When one of you gets up to pray at night, let him use a siwaak (to clean his teeth), because when he recites during the prayer, the angel puts his mouth over his, so that nothing leaves his mouth but will enter into the angel's mouth.” [(saheeh) by Shaikh al-Albanee (al-Bayhaqee and others)]

So what are you waiting for? Go and brush your teeth!

39 Responses

  1. iMuslim

    Alhamdulillah… I have a mint-flavoured one somewhere. I’m afraid this little princess doesn’t like the ‘taste’ of a normal siwaak. I’ve tried a few times, but can never get it bristly enough cos I don’t like to chew the stick! So maybe the flavoured one is for me, insha’Allah.

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    • Abd- Allah

      The ‘taste’ of a normal siwaak usually goes away after the first few times that a person uses it!

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  2. mcpagal

    As a dental student, I’m 100% behind you encouraging good oral hygiene – especially with an Islamic slant!

    I’ve always understood, though, that it’s the principle that’s important, not necessarily the tools. Miswaaks were great in the old days when people had a better diet – no crazily acidic carbonated drinks, for one thing. Some Muslims act like toothbrushes and toothpaste are some kind of bid’ah and to be a real Muslim you need to use a miswaak – and then have a mouth riddled with caries, which I’m pretty sure is NOT a Sunnah. If you want to brush like the Prophet (saw) then you should also eat like the Prophet (saw) did! Muslims have some of the highest decay rates in Britain, so something is going wrong.

    Miswaaks have antibacterial properties and so on – but toothbrushes & toothpaste are far more effective at preventing decay, especially if you live in an area with no fluoridated water – most of Britain falls under that. I’m sure if you brush normally with the intention of following the Sunnah, you’ll still get the reward for it. And you’re still able to use a miswaak every time you do your wudhu if you want!

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  3. B

    What exactly is the sunnah? The Siwaak or the act of brushing? Can any of the Shoyookh give us their input? I personally don’t like using the Siwaak. It doesn’t really clean and freshen the breath, and I concur with mcpagal, our diets are very different nowadays.

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  4. Aminah Muhammad

    I personally don’t like to brush with tooth brush.. I’ve lived in this country for 13 yrs and been using ever since I can remember. Growing up in Somalia not everyone had tooth brush. Pretty much everyone used the miswak just because it was a sunna and our beloved prophet (salalahu alayhi wa salam) used it. People in Somalia like to do everything the way he did it because as muslims that is what we have to do When I was young I hated the miswak because it was hard to chew and my teath hurt a lot when I did it on my own so I would tell my mother to chew it for me.

    Alhumdulilah for all the Muslims that lived in Ohio when I came here I was able to get miswak. When I first came to this country I would see people that hate in the morning without brushing their teath and I use to be shocked and and I am til this day.

    I remember taking one almaghrib class and the sheikh telling us how our prophet (saw) didn’t pray without cleaning his teath, he didn’ teven eat garlic because he was afaid to harm the angels with his bad breath. I wish we Muslim would take that example and act on it.

    My mother always use to tell us to clean ouside out house before we clean the inside because the first thing people noticed when they walked near our house was the outside. No matter how much shower you take or how much your clothes are clean, if your mouth is not clean people will assume your not clean person.

    So my fellow Muslims lets brush our teath as much as we can and lets also make sure we teach our kids to clean their teath at a young age.

    Amina M.

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  5. MR

    Brush your teeth when you make wudhu and after you eat.
    That’s all you gotta do!

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  6. AbdulHasib

    @ iMuslim

    I didn’t like the taste either.
    But then I found out it’s because we have the “industrialized ones”

    Anyone can vouch, for the ones in front of the haramayn “FRESH” or.. ‘organic’ if you may, are the best tasting, most soft, most refreshing I’ve ever had.

    Almost reminds me of an M&M commercial.

    SubhanAllah it really is an enjoyable experience.
    And you get your pick of HUNDREDS all for only 1 riyal a piece!

    (if you bargain you can get a whole pack for very cheap).

    But I guess we don’t have the benefit of growing ‘Arak’ Trees in the west…

    Although hmm, would be a good business venture!

    May Allah enable us to travel to the Bilaad al Haramayn again, and taste from the sweetness of Iman, and the sweetness of the Miswak found therein, and revive the sunnah of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alaihee wa sallam in our hearts and actions. Ameen.

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  7. IbnAbbas

    anyone, young or old, who starts using siwaak doesn’t like its taste in the beginning but once you chew a few sticks then its all normal.

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  8. MiracleBrush.com

    Alhamdulilah, JazakAllahu Khayrun for such a beautiful post (..and all the great posts here…)

    For those who want more info, as well as to try one of these ‘sticks’, you can order if via our website http://www.miraclebrush.com – We have given over 4000 miswaks free worldwide, alhamdulilah.

    You can donate and be part of this revival too. Our aim and objective is to revive this sunnah…

    Request of your duas
    MiracleBrush.com Team

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  9. AnonyMouse

    I wonder if you use a tooth brush and tooth paste with the intention of following the sunnah of the Prophet [AS], does that also merit the same reward as teh miswaak?

    What exactly is the sunnah? The Siwaak or the act of brushing?

    Please see here at Islam-QA – has some really good points about what the ideal siwaak is, too!

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  10. iMuslim

    I don’t see why we can’t use both a toothbrush and a miswaak in a 24-hour cycle… it would just mean our breath would be super-duper sweet smelling, insha’Allah! Perhaps you could use a toothbrush with paste in the morning, and miswaak during day and before bed… or whatever.

    Btw, everyone MUST invest in a proper tongue-scraper… it will change your life! I can’t live without mine; at least, if I tried, I wouldn’t have many friends left, haha.

    Seriously… tongue scrapers are awesome, masha’Allah.

    @Abdul Hasib – jazakallah for the info. I may ask my uncle to grab me one when he next goes, insha’Allah. Ameen to your aadiya.

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  11. zfnd

    Cool Tip

    “Before going sleep store the miswak in a glass filled with rose water and put the part of the miswak that was used and leave it overnight to be soaked.”

    In the morning cut the bristles and start from step one again, this ensures u have clean bristles every day so that it is more hygienic and effective.
    [Source: Collected & Edited by MiracleBrush.com Team] <—- Awesome Resource

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  12. Islamify.com

    Revive A Sunnah: Brush Your Teeth!…

    Make sure you scrub your teeth. With the right intention you will be earning good deeds!…

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  13. mcpagal

    Well it looks like I have some support! Personally I use an electric toothbrush in the morning and a normal one at night, I’d consider using a miswaak but I’m pretty sure my braces would just mash up the bristles :/

    iMuslim – I’ve never used a tongue scraper! I think they’d make me gag. I brush my tongue though.

    Other points:
    -No matter what you’re using to brush, you need to use it effectively! Brush your teeth systematically – spend about 30secs per quadrant, and make sure you get every surface of every tooth. Holding the toothbrush/miswak so the bristles are at about 45 degrees to your teeth ensures that you also clear out plaque from under the gumline. If you’re using toothpaste, don’t rinse out after brushing – you lose the effect of the fluoride.

    -Remember to floss regularly – toothbrushes/miswaks don’t clear out plaque from between teeth or under the gums there!

    -Mouthwash is great for helping prevent bad breath. A lot of them contain alcohol though, so try looking for one without – eg Dentyl pH (the colour-changing one)

    -Don’t forget to visit your dentist every 6 months so you keep them in busine– *cough*- I mean… to get a check up. They can spot early signs of decay, and remove calculus (aka tartar) – mineralised plaque that can’t be removed with a brush.

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  14. AbdulHasib

    jazakaAllahukhaira bro mcpagal for the useful info!

    oh and i wanted to share the good news my du’a was answered today alhamdulillah.

    A brother is bringing me a whole bunch of FRESH siwak from Sau’dia in 2 weeks -). Alhamdulillah!
    MAKE DU’A PEOPLE!

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  15. Yus from the Nati

    The growing trend at my masjid is when we’re in Salaah….and brother next to me decides to BURP all his hot indian food…and of course my nose picks it up and makes me want to hurl all over myself…

    No exaggeration…i’ve thought of breaking my prayer a couple times and moving to another part of the line…

    PEOPLE ARE RIDICULOUS.

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  16. talib

    bro yus from cincinati…the burbing issue happened to me many times too, i just try to ignore it and focus on the prayer. I just wonder if those brothers would burb like that infront of their boss or work mates.

    And for the miswak..subhanalah mcpagalt hats some good points, never looked at it that way with the carbonated drinks we have…

    i remember my aunt putting toothpaste on her miswaak and then brushing her teeth…does that fullfill the sunnah and the modern teeth problems?

    anyone is open to answer my question…jazakum allah khair

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  17. iMuslim

    McP… I see you’re making the most of your education, hehe. Masha’Allah. But dude, you have to scrape the tongue, not brush. I used to brush… but scraping kicks brushing’s weedy bottom in comparison! Yes, you do gag initially, but eventually you get used to it… and then you’re hooked! You do not know the feeling of a clean mouth, until you have scraped. Trust the doc on this one. {wink}

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  18. Abdul Raheem

    Salam, JazakAllah for such informative article.

    I personally use flavored Miswak of Al Khair
    you can also order them online at

    http://www.alkhaircqw.com

    Good Quality Miswak / Siwaak

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  19. mcpagal

    jazakaAllahukhaira bro mcpagal for the useful info!
    Wayyakum bro AbdulHasib – I’m a sister though! :)

    iMuslim – what can I say, I just have to share the dental love :D
    I think I’m going to invest in a scraper and see if I’m converted – I’ve seen them in Boots and stuff, and you can get them on the back of toothbrush heads too! (Technology for ya…)

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  20. iMuslim

    No no no… the toothbrush-head ones are rubbish. I used to use one of them before being gifted the metal scraper (the upside-down-U-shaped doodaa I linked to above).

    I can’t believe I am this excited over tongue scraping… sigh.

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  21. Yus from the Nati

    Tongue scraping? Why don’t you just use the actual tooth brush to brush the tongue and roof of mouth?

    I’ve been doing that for years…I think it hurt in the beginning…but now I have a mouth of steal….

    or scabs. Whatever you like better.

    Yusuf

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  22. iMuslim

    People don’t get it! Okay, calm down iMuslim…

    First I used to do the normal brush the tongue thing… then I used the toothbrush with the special attachment… but there is still a lot of “residue” left, even after rinsing.

    So now I brush my tongue with paste, like normal, and then scrape with the scraper. It’s like shaving the tongue (but not as painful as that sounds) – it gives you a completely fresh feel, no residue remains, which means there are much fewer bacteria left behind, so your mouth stays fresher for longer.

    Don’t take my word for it – try it! They don’t cost very much.

    {this comment was sponsored by the Tongue Scraper Appreciation Society}

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  23. khawla

    Hmmmm……

    How do inform a person his or her breadth stinks? or just stay 6 feet away?

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  24. Amad

    You could offer him/her a gum, and/or mention the benefits of miswak on bad breath :)

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  25. khawla

    Assalamu’alaykum
    Thank you brother Amad, but I’ve tried that, even giving gifts of miswak. It is embarrasing to see sisters going about in the Masjid not realizing they have bad breadth. Nice hijabs and jilbabs, beautiful made up face with painted nails, but wreaks….
    I was also surprised to learn the fact that some mothers with many little kids actually have no time to even have shower, never mind brushing their teeth.
    May Allah bless my mother who used to NOT let us sit next to her until we brushed our teeth completely.

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  26. khawla

    Sister AnonyMouse, when I see this post title “Revive A Sunnah…” I would like to suggest that you continue this with another post on Revive A Sunnah: Greeting with Salam (people have started kissing cheeks like the Europeans and claimed it as the Sunnah); or Revive A Sunnah: Eat A third of A Belly (people have become so obese even in the month of Ramadhan, in fact, Muslim countries spend more on foods in this month)
    MashaAllah, you are very good with topics like this.

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  27. AnonyMouse

    Jazaakillaahi khairan sis Khawlah… indeed, we do hope to begin a weekly series of reviving the sunnah of everyday etiquettes. Suggestions for these posts are welcomed! :)

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  28. aamir

    when at the end a small piece is left of siwak do not throw the siwak in the dustbin or on road,burry it in mud.this is what our beloved prophet (saw) used to do.

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  29. Muhammad Tufail

    Miswak twigs are proved to be the ideal 100 % pure whitening teeth treatments specifically in Islamic world. Advantages are wide ranging of Miswak. It could be easily applied as teeth cleaner on daily basis in place of regular toothbrush and paste. Observation ensures that the oral hygiene of people using Miswak is phenomenal.

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