What is Miswak?
Miswak is the general term given to any teeth cleaning twig. The term is also interchangeable with siwak or sewak in the Arabic language and Kayu Sugi in the Malay language. The twig can come from different tree types which are recommended but the most common miswak is from the Arak or Peelu tree. Other trees used for producing this teeth cleaning twig include olive, bitam or walnut tree.
The miswak is a natural alternative to the toothbrush in maintaining oral hygiene. It has a long history spanning well over 7,000 years and also has medicinal benefits, which will be cited later.
The miswak is predominant traditionally in Arabian peninsula, North Africa, Central Asia, the Indian Sub-continent and Malaysia. The miswak has been mentioned in Islamic jurispudence so it will come as no surprise that it is most popular in Muslim-inhabited lands.
Miswak vs. Toothbrush
Miswak benefits have been studied and proven extensively. So much so that in 1986, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the use of miswak.
Miswak use has been associated with lower need for periodontal treatment, in a study in Saudi Arabia(1). Another study has shown that miswak use was superior to ordinary toothbrush use for oral hygiene, with appropriate instructions(2). Miswak has been proven to reduce plaque and gum disease in users compared with ordinary toothbrush(4).
Apart from the obvious oral hygiene benefits, Miswak has other benefits for the body:
- It has anti-cancer properties(3),
- It has been used as an effective treatment for headaches,
- It can lead to teeth whitening by effective killing of bacteria in the mouth and preventing plaque build up,
- Miswak use can help digestion by inducing effective digestive enzymes in the mouth and stomach.
What is in Miswak?
Miswak 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.
Miswak in Islam
The Prophet Muhammad recommended the use of miswak. He extolled its virtues in many narrations:
“Four things are from among the practices of the Prophets: Circumcision, Perfume, Miswak, and Marriage.” [Ahmad and At-Tirmidhi]
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Had I not thought it difficult for my Ummah, I would have commanded them to use the Miswak (tooth-stick) before every Salat (Prayer).” [Al-Bukhari and Muslim].
The Prophet (SallAllahu Alayhi wa Sallam) states, “Miswak is a thing that pleases the Merciful Lord.” [Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, Page 637, Hadith 1933]
Maintaining your Miswak
Store in individual case is recommended. If the miswak becomes dry, it can be soaked in rose water to rejuvinate the end bristles. The end should be cut afresh to ensure hygiene maintenance. The miswak should never be stored near a sink or toilet.
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1. al-Khateeb TL, O’Mullane DM, Whelton H, Sulaiman MI (2003). “Periodontal treatment needs among Saudi Arabian adults and their relationship to the use of the Miswak.”. Community dental health. 8 (4): 323–328.
2. Al-Otaibi M, Al-Harthy M, Soder B, Gustafsson A, Angmar-Mansson B (2003). “Comparative effect of chewing sticks and toothbrushing on plaque removal and gingival health.”. Oral Health Prev Dent. 1 (4): 301–7.
3. Almas K, Al-Zeid Z (2004). “The immediate antimicrobial effect of a toothbrush and miswak on cariogenic bacteria: a clinical study.”. The journal of contemporary dental practice. 5 (1):
4. al-Otaibi M. (2004). “The miswak (chewing stick) and oral health. Studies on oral hygiene practices of urban Saudi Arabians.”. Swedish dental journal. Supplement (167): 2–75. ISSN 0348-6672