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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!

41 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.

    Reply
    • Abd- Allah

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

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  5. MR

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

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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

    Reply
  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!

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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

    Reply
  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!…

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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!

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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

    Reply
  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}

    Reply
  18. 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…)

    Reply
  19. 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.

    Reply
  20. 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

    Reply
  21. 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}

    Reply
  22. khawla

    Hmmmm……

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

    Reply
  23. 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.

    Reply
    • MALF

      Am sure you don’t know but there are people who suffer from chronic Halitosis. Offering gum is not a solution either. We that suffer from this disease need a cure. People say go to a dentist but this disease is broader than just going to a dentist. Siwaak, toothpaste, mouthwash, are all not fighting the odor emitting bacteria for everyone.

      Please read ……
      The reason bad breath products widely advertised on the net don’t work is because:

      1/ They don’t take into consideration the adaptive capacities of bad breath causing bacteria.

      2/ They mostly address a single type of halitosis (usually type 1)

      To cure bad breath for good, the sufferer must first identify under which category he/she falls under. For example, it is useless to take a treatment for a type 1 halitosis for someone with SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth).

      Bad breath can originate from a wide variety of different places in your body. That’s why most of these companies out there that promote their products with ‘instant’ cures are full of it. Here’s why:

      Dr Murat Aydin is a halitosis expert and has come up with a great classification system that define all types of bad breath. Here’s a quick overview of this system:

      Type 1 halitosis: Bad breath that originates from the mouth such as cavities, gum disease, bacterial imbalance on the tongue, impacted wisdom teeh etc.

      Type 2 halitosis: Bad breath that originates from AROUND the oral cavity. Post nasal drip, tonsil stones, bacterial imbalance in the back of throat, retro-nasal mucosa etc.

      Type3 halitosis: Bad breath that originates from the digestive tract. GERD, chronic gastritis, hiatal hernia, stomach and duodenal ulcers, lazy colon syndrome, etc.

      Type 4 halitosis: Blood borne halitosis. Liver and kidney diseases, pulmonary infections, blood disorders, TMAU, etc

      Type 5 halitosis: Delusional bad breath. A psychological state also known as halitophobia which greatly exagerates perceptions of breath odors.

      Dealing with bad breath is not as easy as going to the dentist because the root cause for a few is not easily detectable.
      Box 1: Common causes of the symptom of oral malodour (halitosis)

      Oral disease

      Food impaction
      Acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis
      Acute gingivitis
      Adult and aggressive periodontitis
      Pericoronitis
      Dry socket
      Xerostomia
      Oral ulceration
      Oral malignancy
      Respiratory disease

      Foreign body
      Sinusitis
      Tonsillitis
      Malignancy
      Bronchiectasis
      Volatile foodstuffs

      Garlic
      Onions
      Spiced foods

      Box 2: Possible systemic causes of oral malodour

      Acute febrile illness
      Respiratory tract infection (usually upper)
      Helicobacter pylori infection (?)
      Pharyngo-oesophageal diverticulum
      Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease
      Pyloric stenosis or duodenal obstruction
      Hepatic failure (fetor hepaticus)
      Renal failure (end stage)
      Diabetic ketoacidosis
      Leukaemias
      Trimethylaminuria
      Hypermethioninaemia
      Menstruation (menstrual breath)
      Read more at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1570844/

      Reply
  24. 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.

    Reply
  25. 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! :)

    Reply
  26. 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.

    Reply
  27. 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.

    Reply
  28. MALF

    Its very sad that people like me who suffer the disease of chronic halitosis never ask for this. We were created like this By Allah. The society make it feels like all bad breath is because we have bad hygiene but really, how do you differentiate bad hygiene from disease.

    Not a lot of research has been done to fight and diagnose this disease. There are different causes of bad breath bacteria so there is no one stand solution to fight. The fact that gum, mouth wash, flossing, tongue scrapping, etc worked for some doesn’t mean it works for all sufferers.

    The persons suffering from halitosis knows, they are just accepting you gum, mint to make you happy, but gum does nothing.
    We know before we leave our homes and that it self is a jihad
    All that we want is a cure to this embarrassing disease.

    To add to it, there is a lot of depression associated with this. And we are not accepted at masjid because people are so fast to point to the Hadiths that we are annoying the Jins and people. We want to come in to feel accepted, and have comfort. If we cant come to the house of Allah for comfort, then do we stay at home with depression.

    Ibn `Umar relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever eats from this plant (meaning garlic) should not approach our mosque.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (853) and Sahîh Muslim (561)]

    Anas relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever eats from this plant should neither come close to us nor pray with us.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (856) and Sahîh Muslim (562)]

    Jâbir relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever eats garlic or onions should stay away from us” – or he said: “from our mosque” – “and he should remain at his home.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (855) and Sahîh Muslim (564)]

    This disease is no joke. It is real. And its affecting our day to day. Please read below what we go through(blog).. please pray for us.. for strength and a cure

    ********************************************************************

    Apr 16, 2015
    Us Against The World NEW
    by: The Best Is Yet To Come

    Good morning friends hope all is well. Stopping by to let you guys know I have a new #(850)542-1693. Be my guest to text or call. Email me @Ms.Onynx229@gmail.com…words of wisdom…God grant me the serenity to ACCEPT the things I cannot CHANGE but the COURAGE to CHANGE the things I can and the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE.
    Apr 15, 2015
    My bad breath NEW
    by: David

    My name is David. I’m a highschool student, 17, and I’ve suffered from bb for as long as I can remember. I know the cause of it too, it’s due to my post nasal drip. It has destroyed me, mentally, psychologically, and socially, to the point where I can no longer make any new friends or carry a conversation with confidence. There’s so many things I’d like to do in life. I like politics, journalism, and traveling. But I feel like living with this, nothing I do will ever work out. None of my dreams will ever come to fruition simply because nobody wants to be around me. I’m a decent looking guy, but I have no chance with any girls simply because of it. I want to die.

    if anyone wishes to talk, email me @ drmisterdave@gmail.com . I would love a friend in this.
    Apr 15, 2015
    its so unfair NEW
    by: Cursed

    People…fellow sufferer’s.. I don’t know why we have been chosen to suffer from this terrible affliction but we have been chosen and we have to live with it all we can do is support each other look to the future try to find love try to be a parent and grow old and die is reincarnation is real maybe a new life you have fresh breath god bless people
    Apr 15, 2015
    why NEW
    by: Anonymous

    i have the same problem, i brush my teeth twice a day, i use mouth wash every day but i couldn’t get rid of the problem. i have no friend and my family in my country because i moved to use and i have been alone for 6 months because people think im a bad person because my breath. i did everything, even i wen to a dentist and he made fun of me and he thought my English wasn’t good but i understood him. yesterday i was planing to suicide but i got that moment when u see ur life in a moment, i remembered my family who are far away from me and they think i have good time and happy life but not. my university send me a warning because my attendees just because i stay home and don’t go there so i don’t need to listen to everyone making fun of me. i just wanna die so people can be happy. Sorry for my English.
    Apr 06, 2015
    had bb since i was young NEW
    by: Anonymous

    Hi Everyone
    I have had bb since I was young, my mom says that sgeusea ri buy me 3CP a very strong giggling mouthwash for all oral problems and it never helped.
    I am now 28 and still see suffering, I have not given up though.
    All my friends are married or in relationships,I’m just lonely and sad.
    I know God loves me so much and I will be cured one day.
    Apr 02, 2015
    I’m there.. NEW
    by: Anonymous

    My breath has been horrible for almost 20 years. The world will tell me that my breath is bad but my love ones won’t! I have cried and thought about suicide! I have tried everything from oil pulling to cleanses to Therabreath to Orabrush. Nothing works!

    I am the laughing stock where ever I am employed or go. No one understands how it feels to talk and
    people in the front and sides of you cover their nose… lol I got to laugh because if I don’t it’s going to kill me.

    I don’t have any friends and I am never invited to go anywhere by co-workers. I have to hear about the good time Monday morning. I do have a associate who likes to hang with me and quotes nobody’s perfect. Bull…

    I have to tell myself God put me here for some reason…I am blessed though…but believe me, it’s a lonely blessing…so people still live your life…
    Apr 02, 2015
    I’m there.. NEW
    by: Anonymous

    My breath has been horrible for almost 20 years. The world will tell me that my breath is bad but my love ones won’t! I have cried and thought about suicide! I have tried everything from oil pulling to cleanses to Therabreath to Orabrush. Nothing works!

    I am the laughing stock where ever I am employed or go. No one understands how it feels to talk and
    people in the front and sides of you cover their nose… lol I got to laugh because if I don’t it’s going to kill me.

    I don’t have any friends and I am never invited to go anywhere by co-workers. I have to hear about the good time Monday morning. I do have a associate who likes to hang with me and quotes nobody’s perfect. Bull…

    I have to tell myself God put me here for some reason…I am blessed though…but believe me, it’s a lonely blessing…so people still live your life…

    Reply

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