In this Covid-19 pandemic era people are getting more aware and conscious about hygiene. Throughout the day we are being educated regarding the importance of sanitizing ourselves and the space around us. Islam has emphasized very much on personal hygiene, explaining its worldly and spiritual benefits. The Prophet (ﷺ) taught,

Abû Mâlik Al-Ash’ari (RA) reported:

 ‘…Cleanliness is half of faith…’ (aî Muslim 223)

and the Quran says

“Truly, Allah loves those who are most repenting and loves those who purify themselves.” (Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:222).

Islam teaches hygiene in every aspect of the human being’s life, including the hygiene of the various parts of the body, oral hygiene, gender-based hygiene, toilet hygiene, sleep hygiene, food hygiene, dress hygiene, environmental hygiene, etc. One of the aspects of hygiene which Islam has stressed upon is oral hygiene.

Islamic perspective

The Prophet (ﷺ) emphasized, as well as demonstrated, the importance of maintaining oral hygiene on various occasions.

Narrated CAmir bin Rabî’a Fah Al-Bari (RA):

‘…It [cleaning the teeth with the tooth stick, siwâk] is purification for the mouth and it is a way of seeking Allah’s pleasures…’ (aî Al-Bukhârî, [between 1933 and 1934]).

Narrated Anas (RA):

“Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: ‘I have told you repeatedly to use the siwâk’. (aî Al-Bukhârî, 888)

Narrated Abû Hurayra (RA):

‘Were I not afraid that it would be hard on my followers, I would order them to use the siwâk. (aî Al-Bukhârî, 7240)

ACishah (RA) reported:

“Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said: ‘Ten are the acts according to fitrah [the natural disposition of man; his innate nature]: clipping the moustache, letting the beard grow, using the tooth-stick, snuffing up water into the nose, cutting the nails, washing the finger joints, plucking the hair under the armpits, shaving the pubes and cleaning one’s private parts with water.’ The narrator said: ‘I have forgotten the tenth, but it may have been rinsing the mouth.’ (aî Muslim, 261a)

Interestingly one of the acts that the Prophet  (ﷺ) did during the last moments before his death was using a miswâk.

Narrated `Aishah (RA):

“Abdurrahman bin Abu Bakr (RA) entered upon the Prophet (ﷺ) while I was supporting the Prophet (ﷺ) on my chest. Abdurrahman had a fresh siwâk then and he was cleaning his teeth with it. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) looked at it, so I took the siwâk, cut it (chewed it with my teeth), shook it and made it soft (with water), and then gave it to the Prophet (ﷺ) who cleaned his teeth with it. I had never seen Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) cleaning his teeth in a better way. After finishing the brushing of his teeth, he lifted his hand or his finger and said thrice, ‘O Allah! Let me be with the highest companions,’ and then died. Aishah (RA) used to say, ‘He died while his head was resting between my chest and chin.’ ” (aî Al-Bukhârî, 4438)

The Prophet (ﷺ) encouraged the use of miswâk by explaining its rewards and spiritual benefits

Aishah (RA) has reported that:

“The prayer before which the miswâk is utilized is 70 times more superior to that before which it is not used.” (Bazzar in Majma Al-Zawa’id [of Al-Haythâmi] 263/2)

Other similar hadiths:

Reported by Abdullah ibn Abbas (RA) :

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “To offer two rak’ats after using the miswâk is more beloved to me than offering 70 rak’ats without using the miswâk.” (Shu’ayb Al-Iman, Vol. 3, Page 26, Hadith 2774)

Ali (RA) narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) said:

‘When a servant (believer) performs miswâk and then stands for Salah, an Angel stands behind him and listens to his Qir’at (recitation). The Angel then comes so close to him, that it places its mouth against the mouth of that person.’ (Musnad Al-Bazzar, Vol 2, p. 614, #603)

Narrated CAbdullah ibn CAbbas (RA):

‘Use the miswak, for it purifies the mouth, pleases Allah Ta’ala, pleases the Angels, increases good deeds; it is Sunnah, sharpens the eyesight, cures gingivitis [a disease affecting the gums], strengthens the gums, removes phlegm and fragrances the mouth’ (Al-Kamil Fi Al-Tarikh by Ibn Al-Athir Al-Jazari: Vol. 4,  p. 367; and Shu’ayb Al-Iman by Imam Al-Bayhaqi:  Hadith: 2521)

CAbdullah Ibn CAbbas (RA) narrates:

Abu Ayyub (RA) narrated that:

The Prophet (ﷺ) said: These four are from sunnahs of the prophets:  haya [modesty], using Catar [scent], miswâk, and marriage. (JamiC Al-Tirmidhi, 1080)

Sayyidah CAishah (RA) says,

‘Rasulullah (ﷺ) never left aside five things, whether he was on travel or at home: a mirror, antimony [kuhl], a comb, a stick/metal comb [used for scratching] and a miswak. (Al Mu’jam Al-Awsat 5238; Fatḥ Al-Bari 5924)

Samurah ibn Jundub (RA) reported:

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Freshen your mouths with the tooth stick. Verily, they are the pathways of the Quran.” (Shu’ayb Al-Imān 1948)

Narrated Abu Umamah (RA):

“The Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘Never did Jibrîl (السلام عليه) come to me without commanding me to use the miswâk, with the result that I was afraid of chafing the front of my mouth.'” (Musnad Ahmed 263)

The Prophet (ﷺ) kept the miswâk on him at all times so that it was always at hand when needed.

Time of cleaning the teeth

A few narrations of the Prophet (ﷺ) regarding when he did the cleaning of his teeth can be noticed in the ahadith.

Narrated Hudhaifa (RA):

“Whenever the Prophet (ﷺ) got up for Tahajjud (Night Prayer), he used to clean his mouth (and teeth) with Siwâk (aî Al-Bukhârî, 1136)

Narrated CAishah (RA):

Whenever the Exalted Prophet (ﷺ) would wake up from his sleep, he would use the miswâk(Sunan Abu Dawud, 57)

Narrated Abû Hurayra (RA):

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “If I had not found it hard for my followers or the people, I would have ordered them to clean their teeth with the siwâk for every prayer” (aî  Al-Bukhârî, 887)

Miqdam b. Shuraih narrated from his father who said:

I asked CAisha (RA) what the Prophet (ﷺ) did first when he entered his house, and she replied: ‘He used the siwâk first of all.’ (aî Muslim 253a, 253b)

In general, scholars are of the opinion that it is sunnah to do miswâk before the act of prayer like salah, recitation of Quran and Hadith, doing ikr, talîm, before and after sleep, meals, journey, going to the masjid, before entering the home, etc. Ultimately, it is recommended at all times of night and day, because of the general sense of the hadîth quoted above: “Siwâk cleanses the mouth and pleases the Lord.”

Types of Miswâks

It is permissible to take for a miswâk all types of tree twigs provided these are not harmful or poisonous. The siwâk stick most commonly used by the Prophet  (ﷺ) was from arak trees (Salvadora persica). The siwâk sticks were also cut from the olive tree, bitam tree, palm tree and walnut tree.

Abdullah ibn MasCûd (RA) said:

“I used to gather siwâk sticks from the arak tree for the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).” (Musnad Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 3991).

On another occasion the Prophet (ﷺ) said

Narrated by MuCâdh ibn Jabal (RA):

“I was among the delegation that came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and he provided us with the roots of Arak to use as siwâk, so we said to him: ‘O Rasulullah!  We have the branches of the date tree for miswâk, but we accept your generosity and gift.’ “ ( Majma Al-Zawa’id by Tabarâni 268/2)

Method of Use

The Ahadith mention that the Prophet (ﷺ) mostly used sticks of the arak tree to clean his teeth —and tongue— and then washed it properly.

Narrated by Abû Burda (RA):

My father said, “I came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and I saw him carrying a siwâk in his hand and cleaning his teeth, saying, u’ u’, as if he was retching while the siwâk was in his mouth.” (aî Al-Bukhârî, 244)

 Abû Mûsâ Al-AshCari (RA) reported:

“I came to the Prophet (ﷺ) once and noticed the tip of a miswâk (tooth-stick) on his tongue.” (Riyâ Al-âliîn, 1201 — from Al-Bukhârî and Muslim)

CAishah (RA) said:

The Prophet (ﷺ) used to use the siwâk, then he would give it to me to wash it. I would use it first, then wash it and give it back to him. (Sunan Abû Dâwûd, 52)

Rinsing the mouth is an important aspect of oral hygiene.

Along with brushing the teeth and tongue, rinsing of the mouth was also encouraged by the Prophet (ﷺ). He taught rinsing the mouth during ablution as a sunnah act.

The method of performing ablution by the Prophet is as narrated by Humran, the freed slave of CUthman (RA):

“…Then he cupped his hands (in the container of water) and lifted out water and rinsed his mouth; and he sucked up water into his nostrils from the same handful of water, and he did this three times.” (aî Muslim 226a)

He also encouraged the act by mentioning its spiritual reward.

Amr bin Abasa Sulami (RA) reported:

” …The Apostle of Allah (ﷺ), told me about ablution also. He said: ‘There is none of you who uses water for ablution and rinses his mouth, snuffs up water and blows it out, but that the sins of his face, and his mouth and his nostrils drop away/drain off. When he washes his face, as Allah has commanded him, the sins of his face drop away/drain off from the end of his beard with [the wash] water…’” (aî Muslim 832)

Since ablution is compulsory in salah and in Quran recitation, as well as encouraged in acts like sleeping, bathing, etc., the rinsing of the mouth is done repeatedly many times a day.

It is also sunnah to rinse the mouth after drinking or eating food.

Narrated Ibn CAbbas (RA):

“Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) drank milk, rinsed his mouth, explaining, ‘It has fat.’ “ ( aî Al-Bukhârî  211)

Suwayd ibn Nu’man (RA) reports:

‘We were with the Prophet (ﷺ) at a place called Sahba, when he asked for the meals to be served. He ate the sawiq (roasted wheat) and we did so too. Thereafter the Prophet (ﷺ) stood up for salah and gargled his mouth. We did the same. (aî Al-Bukhârî 5454)

The Prophet (ﷺ) was concerned about bad breath and did his best to avoid it.

Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah (RA):

“The Prophet said, ‘Whoever has eaten garlic or onion, should keep away from us, or should keep away from our mosque and should stay at home…’  (aî Muslim 564a)

Narrated Jabir bin CAbdullah (RA):

Ibn Wahb (RA) said, “Once a plate full of cooked vegetables was brought to the Prophet at Badr. Detecting a bad smell from it, he asked about the dish and was informed of the kinds of vegetables it contained. He then said, ‘Bring it near,’ and so it was brought near to one of his companions who was with him. When the Prophet saw it, he disliked eating it and said (to his companion), ‘Eat, for I talk in secret to ones whom you do not talk to.’ “ (aî Al-Bukhârî, 7359)

If a person has bad breath, then he not only will harm his fellow humans, but also offend the angels as well. The Prophet (ﷺ) also taught the etiquette to be followed after yawning since it may cause discomfort to people around us when bad breath is present.

The son of Abu SaCid al-Khudri (RA) reported that Allah’s Prophet (ﷺ) said:

 “When one of you yawns, he should keep his mouth shut with the help of his hand, for it is the devil that enters therein.” (aî Muslim 2995a)

Thus, an overall divine approach in maintaining oral hygiene —in turn boosting physical and spiritual health— can be noticed in the practice of the prophets (ﷺ). It is noticeable that even in the Islamic rites of washing the deceased the washer should use a piece of wet cotton wool in a small roll to clean the front teeth.

…To be continued in Part 2

Shafees Koya

Dr. Shafees Koya is an Orthodontist with 14 years of expertise in dentistry. He has authored many articles in national and international publications in his field. He is a former associate professor in Yenepoya University, Mangalore (Karnataka state, India). He is actively involved in daCwah efforts and keeps travelling and organizing Islamic gatherings. He believes an encouragement to follow the sunnah of the Prophet (ﷺ), along with firm faith in the attributes of Allah, is important for the ummah to be successful in both this world and the next. He is currently residing in Kerala state, India with his wife and three daughters (Masha Allah). He can be contacted at [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.