Siwak : a Tool for Purification
By: Dr. / Zaghloul El-Naggar
Abu Hurayrah (A.S.) narrated that Allah's Messenger (PBUH) said:
“If I had not found it hard for my followers or the people, I would have ordered them to use the Siwak before every prayer”.
'A’ishah (A.S.) narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said:
“(Using) the Siwak cleanses the mouth and brings Allah’s Satisfaction”.
Explanation of the Hadith
The Prophet (PBUH) urged all Muslims to use the Siwak, at the time of each prayer (i.e. at least 5 times per day and night). The Siwak (or the Miswak) is a root taken from a small tree or a shrub called "al-Arak" (Salvadore Persica). It may also be taken from other bushes or shrubs such as the wild olive (known as al-'Utm), or from "as-Sambur" bush. Nevertheless, the best Siwak is that taken from the subterranean roots of "al-Arak" bush. The Miswak may also be taken from green twigs, but they are of a lesser quality than the ones taken from the subterranean roots.
The "Arak" shrub grows in the Arabian Peninsula, and in other dry areas in West Asia and North Africa. It has many branches and green leaves with a faint yellow color. It also has delicate blossoms and fruit known as "Kabath". Those fruits are like small balls in shape, starting red in color but gradually turning black, and contain an appetizing spicy matter. The Prophet (PBUH) recommended using it regularly in many of his Ahadith.
Lab tests have proven that the "Arak" (Miswak) stick (the root bark) contains many chemical substances. These substances are highly effective in maintaining oral hygiene because they possess antibacterial properties thus protecting the teeth from decay as well as the gums against bacterial plaque (gingivitis).
Of these substances are: tannic acid, mustard oil and glucose, which have a pungent odor and a warm sharp taste. In addition to these chemicals, "Arak" contains other aromatic substances, resins, sugary substances (saccharides), minerals, and natural plant fibers containing sodium carbonate, which is one of the ingredients used in making toothpaste.
Such information was not available at the time of the Divine Revelation, and not even for centuries later. The fact that the Prophet (PBUH) recommended using the Siwak at the time of each prayer, gives him (PBUH) precedence in being the first to tackle such means of keeping proper oral and dental hygiene, and protecting the mouth and teeth against harmful bacterial infections. It also shows the Prophet's (PBUH) concern with oral hygiene, as the mouth is the passage through which food passes to the digestive system in the human body. When the food is chewed inside the mouth, remnants of food stick between the teeth and the gums. Such remnants of food, if not cleaned properly, will decay and fill the mouth with fungi and germs that may cause several diseases, in addition to halitosis (the condition of having stale or foul-smelling breath).
That is why the Prophet (PBUH), advised us to use the Siwak, at the time of each prayer, to cleanse the mouth and teeth from food remnants, and at the same time to have fresh breath. The use of the Miswak also protects the teeth and the rest of the body from being infected with many diseases.
Again, we must ask ourselves, who taught the seal of the Prophet (PBUH) the benefits of the Siwak, fourteen centuries ago so that he recommended its use at the time of each prayer? At that time no one ever knew of the dangerous effect remnants of food have on the mouth and teeth! Also, at that time, nobody had the slightest idea about the chemical structure of the "Arak" tree in particular. It was only discovered a few years ago at the end of the 20th century!
The only source for his knowledge (PBUH) could only be Allah, The Creator, Praise and Glory be to Him.