Virtues of using the Toothstick Siwaak

Old men armed with shears with bundles of twigs fresh off the trees would cut off miswaks to sell outside the Prophet's masjid in Medinah for a riyal or two apiece. It was also possible to buy a box of ten individually wrapped.

Imam al-Tirmidhi placed the subject of siwaak after the chapters of self-cleaning.

18 – باب مَا جَاءَ فِي السواك

Chapter: What has come regarding the toothstick

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو كُرَيْبٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدَةُ بْنُ سُلَيْمَانَ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو، عَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ،
Abu Hurairah said: the Prophet ﷺ said:

 

If it were not for putting difficult upon my Ummah, I would have commanded them to use the siwaak with every prayer. [Sahih]

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ﷺ‏ “‏ لَوْلاَ أَنْ أَشُقَّ عَلَى أُمَّتِي لأَمَرْتُهُمْ بِالسِّوَاكِ عِنْدَ كُلِّ صَلاَةٍ‏.‏”

قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى وَقَدْ رَوَى هَذَا الْحَدِيثَ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ إِسْحَاقَ عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ خَالِدٍ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ‏.‏ وَحَدِيثُ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ وَزَيْدِ بْنِ خَالِدٍ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ كِلاَهُمَا عِنْدِي صَحِيحٌ لأَنَّهُ قَدْ رُوِيَ مِنْ غَيْرِ وَجْهٍ عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ هَذَا الْحَدِيثُ.‏ وَحَدِيثُ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ إِنَّمَا صَحَّ لأَنَّهُ قَدْ رُوِيَ مِنْ غَيْرِ وَجْهٍ ‏.‏ وَأَمَّا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ إِسْمَاعِيلَ فَزَعَمَ أَنَّ حَدِيثَ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ خَالِدٍ أَصَحُّ ‏.‏

قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى وَفِي الْبَابِ عَنْ أَبِي بَكْرٍ الصِّدِّيقِ وَعَلِيٍّ وَعَائِشَةَ وَابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ وَحُذَيْفَةَ وَزَيْدِ بْنِ خَالِدٍ وَأَنَسٍ وَعَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو وَابْنِ عُمَرَ وَأُمِّ حَبِيبَةَ وَأَبِي أُمَامَةَ وَأَبِي أَيُّوبَ وَتَمَّامِ بْنِ عَبَّاسٍ وَعَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ حَنْظَلَةَ وَأُمِّ سَلَمَةَ وَوَاثِلَةَ بْنِ الأَسْقَعِ وَأَبِي مُوسَى ‏.‏

حَدَّثَنَا هَنَّادٌ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدَةُ بْنُ سُلَيْمَانَ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ إِسْحَاقَ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، عَنْ أَبِي سَلَمَةَ،
Zaid ibn Khalid al-Juhani said: I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ say:

 

If it were not for putting difficult upon my Ummah, I would have commanded them to use the siwaak with every prayer, and I would have delayed isha prayer until [past] the first third of the night.

 

Zaid ibn Khalid used to attend the prayers in the masjid and his siwaak was on his ear like a pen held on the ear of a scribe. He would not stand for prayer except that he would brush his teeth and then return it to its spot. [Sahih]

عَنْ زَيْدِ بْنِ خَالِدٍ الْجُهَنِيِّ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ﷺ يَقُولُ ‏”‏ لَوْلاَ أَنْ أَشُقَّ عَلَى أُمَّتِي لأَمَرْتُهُمْ بِالسِّوَاكِ عِنْدَ كُلِّ صَلاَةٍ وَلأَخَّرْتُ صَلاَةَ الْعِشَاءِ إِلَى ثُلُثِ اللَّيْلِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏ قَالَ فَكَانَ زَيْدُ بْنُ خَالِدٍ يَشْهَدُ الصَّلَوَاتِ فِي الْمَسْجِدِ وَسِوَاكُهُ عَلَى أُذُنِهِ مَوْضِعَ الْقَلَمِ مِنْ أُذُنِ الْكَاتِبِ لاَ يَقُومُ إِلَى الصَّلاَةِ إِلاَّ اسْتَنَّ ثُمَّ رَدَّهُ إِلَى مَوْضِعِهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏
قَالَ أَبُو عِيسَى هَذَا حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ.‏

 

Variations, Supports and virtues of the Siwaak

 

There are several textual variations of the hadeeth of this chapter. Instead of “my Ummah”, other narrations say, “the believers” or “the people”. Some narrations say ablution instead of salaah. One narration says ablution and salaah together.

Imam al-Nasai recorded from Aishah [sahih]:

أَخْبَرَنَا حُمَيْدُ بْنُ مَسْعَدَةَ، وَمُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَبْدِ الأَعْلَى، عَنْ يَزِيدَ، – وَهُوَ ابْنُ زُرَيْعٍ – قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ أَبِي عَتِيقٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي أَبِي قَالَ، سَمِعْتُ عَائِشَةَ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ قَالَ ‏ “‏ السِّوَاكُ مَطْهَرَةٌ لِلْفَمِ مَرْضَاةٌ لِلرَّبِّ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Siwak is a means of purification for the mouth and is pleasing to the Lord.

This purification is the purification of cleanliness, not from najaasah or as part of ablution. So the Prophet here used a conjugation of tahaarah in its linguistic meaning.

Like a lot of subjects of virtues, there are very weak narrations that may have some authentic words within them that could fool us into accepting other words that probably did not come from the Prophet ﷺ, for example, this narration from ibn Maajah by way of Abu Umaamah:

حَدَّثَنَا هِشَامُ بْنُ عَمَّارٍ، حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ شُعَيْبٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عُثْمَانُ بْنُ أَبِي الْعَاتِكَةِ، عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ يَزِيدَ، عَنِ الْقَاسِمِ، عَنْ أَبِي أُمَامَةَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ قَالَ ‏ “‏ تَسَوَّكُوا فَإِنَّ السِّوَاكَ مَطْهَرَةٌ لِلْفَمِ مَرْضَاةٌ لِلرَّبِّ وَمَا جَاءَنِي جِبْرِيلُ إِلاَّ أَوْصَانِي بِالسِّوَاكِ حَتَّى لَقَدْ خَشِيتُ أَنْ يُفْرَضَ عَلَىَّ وَعَلَى أُمَّتِي وَلَوْلاَ أَنِّي أَخَافُ أَنْ أَشُقَّ عَلَى أُمَّتِي لَفَرَضْتُهُ لَهُمْ وَإِنِّي لأَسْتَاكُ حَتَّى لَقَدْ خَشِيتُ أَنْ أُحْفِيَ مَقَادِمَ فَمِي ‏”‏ ‏.‏

The Messenger of Allah said: “Use the tooth stick, for the tooth stick purifies the mouth and is pleasing to the Lord. Jibril never came to me but he advised me to use the tooth stick, until I feared that it would be made obligatory for me and my Ummah. Were it not that I fear that it would be too difficult for my Ummah, I would have enjoined it upon them. And I use the tooth stick until I fear that I may make the front of my mouth sore.’ (i.e. my gums) (or cause my teeth to fall out due to brushing them so often).”

Another weak narration, but with a good meaning, recorded by ibn Maajah from Ali alone (and not raised to the Prophet):

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْعَزِيزِ، حَدَّثَنَا مُسْلِمُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، حَدَّثَنَا بَحْرُ بْنُ كَنِيزٍ، عَنْ عُثْمَانَ بْنِ سَاجٍ، عَنْ سَعِيدِ بْنِ جُبَيْرٍ، عَنْ عَلِيِّ بْنِ أَبِي طَالِبٍ، قَالَ إِنَّ أَفْوَاهَكُمْ طُرُقٌ لِلْقُرْآنِ فَطَيِّبُوهَا بِالسِّوَاكِ ‏.

“Your mouths are the paths of the Qur’an, so perfume them with the tooth stick.”

 

Compounded Virtues

The siwaak is also from the ten attributes of the Fitrah, as Imam Muslim recorded.

The very last thing that the Prophet ﷺ had in his mouth was a siwaak that his wife Aishah had softened for him, as al-Bukhari collected.

The siwaak is also from the four Sunan of the Messengers, as al-Tirmidhi recorded from Abu Ayoub [weak].

It is the first thing the Prophet ﷺ would do upon entering the home. Imam Muslim collected from Miqdam:

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو كُرَيْبٍ، مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْعَلاَءِ حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ بِشْرٍ، عَنْ مِسْعَرٍ، عَنِ الْمِقْدَامِ بْنِ شُرَيْحٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، قَالَ سَأَلْتُ عَائِشَةَ قُلْتُ بِأَىِّ شَىْءٍ كَانَ يَبْدَأُ النَّبِيُّ ﷺ إِذَا دَخَلَ بَيْتَهُ قَالَتْ بِالسِّوَاكِ ‏.‏

Al-Miqdaam ibn Shuraih narrated from his father: I asked Aaishah, “With what would the Prophet ﷺ begin with after he entered his home?” She said, “the toothstick.”

 

Specific Times the Siwaak is Sunnah

 

  1. Between the ablution and takbeer for every prayer. Considering the variations of narrations between siwaak with every ablution and with every salaah, it may be that it is recommended for each separately, and Allah knows best. It may also be that using the siwaak at one moment suffices the other, and that seems to be what Imam al-Tirmidhi implied here when he placed this hadeeth after the chapters of istinja’ and immediately before the chapters of ablution. It is as if he is saying that using the siwaak for prayer can be fulfilled by using it right before the ablution for prayer.
  2. When fasting, due to the hadeeth of Abdullah ibn Amr, recorded by al-Tirmdhi [weak], “I saw the Prophet use the siwaak so much that I could not count, while he was fasting.” And ibn Maajah recorded [weak] the Prophet’s saying, “From the best attributes of one fasting is the siwaak.” The Hanabilah held it disliked to use the siwaak after the sun’s decline if one was fasting. This was due to a narration of Mu’adh where he said there was no problem with it, but the context suggested that it was “well known” among the people of Levant that it was disliked. As for the narration recorded by al-Tabarani, then it is weak due to weakness of Kaisan:

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْعَبَّاسِ الأَخْرَمُ الأَصْبَهَانِيُّ، ثنا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ الْخَلِيلِ الْمُخَرِّمِيُّ، ثنا عَبْدُ الصَّمَدِ بْنُ النُّعْمَانِ، ثنا كَيْسَانُ أَبُو عُمَرَ الْعَطَّارُ، عَنْ يَزِيدَ يَعْنِي ابْنَ بِلالٍ، عَنْ عَلِيٍّ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ تَعَالَى عَنْهُ، قَالَ: وَثَنَا كَيْسَانُ، عَنْ عَمْرِو بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، عَنْ خَبَّابٍ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ ﷺ قَالَ: ” إِذَا صُمْتُمْ فَاسْتَاكُوا بِالْغَدَاةِ وَلا تَسْتَاكُوا بِالْعَشِيِّ، فَإِنَّهُ لَيْسَ مِنْ صَائِمٍ تَيْبَسُ شَفَتَاهُ بِالْعَشِيِّ إِلا كَانَ نُورًا بَيْنَ عَيْنَيْهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ “، لَمْ يَرْفَعْهُ عَلِيٌّ

If you are fasting then brush your teeth in the morning but do not use the siwaak later in the day, for there is no fasting person whose lips dry in the afternoon except that it will be a light between their eyes on the Day of Resurrection.

Another narration al-Tabarani recorded in Musnad al-Shamiyin graded well by ibn Hajar (al-Talkhees) is:

عن عبد الرحمن بن غنم قال :سألت معاذ بن جبل أأتسوك و أنا صائم ؟ قال : نعم ، قلت : أي النهار أتسوك ؟ قال: أي النهار شئت غدوة أو عشية ، قلت : إن الناس يكرهونه عشية و يقولون إن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : ” لخلوف الصائم أطيب عند الله من ريح المسك ؟ “فقال : سبحان الله لقد أمرهم بالسواك و هو يعلم أنه لا بد أن يكون بفي الصائم خلوف و إن استاك ، و ما كان بالذي يأمرهم أن ينتنوا أفواههم عمدا ، ما في ذلك من الخير شيء ، بل فيه شر ، إلا من ابتلي ببلاء لا يجد منه بدا .قلت : و الغبار في سبيل الله أيضا كذلك إنما يؤجر من اضطر إليه و لا يجد عنه محيصا ؟ قال : عم ، فأما من ألقى نفسه في البلاء عمدا فما له في ذلك من أجر .

Abdul-Rahman ibn Ghanam said: I asked Mu’aadh ibn Jabal: should I use the miswak when I’m fasting? He said: Yes. I asked: which part of the day should I use it? He said: whichever part of the day you wish, morning or afternoon. I said: People dislike it in the evening and they say the Prophet ﷺ said the breath of a fasting person is more beautiful to Allah than the scent of misk. He said: SubhanAllah, he commanded them with the siwaak and he knows that there will be breath on a fasting person even if they use the toothstick. He was not one to command people to make their breath odorous intentionally. There is no good in that, rather it is bad, except for the one who is tested and tried and can’t find any escape. So I said: and the dust kicked up in the path of Allah is like that, only rewarded for what a person is forced into and cannot escape from? He said: yes, but the one who puts themselves into a test, then there is no reward for that.

Al-Zaila`ee added after that: and likewise the steps to the masjid and what people do to intentionally make their hair gray.

  1. When waking for night prayer, due to the hadeeth of Hudhaifah recorded by Muslim:

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو بَكْرِ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ، حَدَّثَنَا هُشَيْمٌ، عَنْ حُصَيْنٍ، عَنْ أَبِي وَائِلٍ، عَنْ حُذَيْفَةَ، قَالَ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ﷺ إِذَا قَامَ لِيَتَهَجَّدَ يَشُوصُ فَاهُ بِالسِّوَاكِ ‏.

Hudhaifah said: if the Prophet ﷺ rose for night devotion, he would brush his mouth with the siwaak.

Also al-Nasai recorded from Shaqeeq and identical from Hudhaifah:

أَخْبَرَنَا أَحْمَدُ بْنُ سُلَيْمَانَ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا عُبَيْدُ اللَّهِ، قَالَ أَنْبَأَنَا إِسْرَائِيلُ، عَنْ أَبِي حَصِينٍ، عَنْ شَقِيقٍ، قَالَ كُنَّا نُؤْمَرُ إِذَا قُمْنَا مِنَ اللَّيْلِ أَنْ نَشُوصَ أَفْوَاهَنَا بِالسِّوَاكِ

Shaqeeq said: we are commanded that if we awoke from the night to brush our mouths with the siwaak.

  1. Also prior to coming for Jumu’ah prayer. Al-Bukhari put under the heading of “al-Siwaak on Fridays” the hadeeth of Anas:

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو مَعْمَرٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الْوَارِثِ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا شُعَيْبُ بْنُ الْحَبْحَابِ، حَدَّثَنَا أَنَسٌ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ﷺ  ‏ “‏ أَكْثَرْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي السِّوَاكِ ‏”‏‏.‏

“I have spoken to you all a lot about the siwaak.”

Al-Nasai also collected regarding Fridays from Abu Sa`eed:

أَخْبَرَنِي هَارُونُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا الْحَسَنُ بْنُ سَوَّارٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا اللَّيْثُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا خَالِدٌ، عَنْ سَعِيدٍ، عَنْ أَبِي بَكْرِ بْنِ الْمُنْكَدِرِ، أَنَّ عَمْرَو بْنَ سُلَيْمٍ، أَخْبَرَهُ عَنْ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنِ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ إِنَّ الْغُسْلَ يَوْمَ الْجُمُعَةِ عَلَى كُلِّ مُحْتَلِمٍ وَالسِّوَاكَ وَأَنْ يَمَسَّ مِنَ الطِّيبِ مَا يَقْدِرُ عَلَيْهِ ‏“‏ ‏.‏

Ghusl on Friday is upon everyone who has reached puberty, and using the siwak, and he should put on whatever he is able of perfume.

And from ibn Maajah on the authority of ibn Abbaas [hasan]:

حَدَّثَنَا عَمَّارُ بْنُ خَالِدٍ الْوَاسِطِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا عَلِيُّ بْنُ غُرَابٍ، عَنْ صَالِحِ بْنِ أَبِي الأَخْضَرِ، عَنِ الزُّهْرِيِّ، عَنْ عُبَيْدِ بْنِ السَّبَّاقِ، عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ ‏ “‏ إِنَّ هَذَا يَوْمُ عِيدٍ جَعَلَهُ اللَّهُ لِلْمُسْلِمِينَ فَمَنْ جَاءَ إِلَى الْجُمُعَةِ فَلْيَغْتَسِلْ وَإِنْ كَانَ طِيبٌ فَلْيَمَسَّ مِنْهُ وَعَلَيْكُمْ بِالسِّوَاكِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

This day is an ‘Eid (festival) which Allah has ordained for the Muslims. Whoever comes to Friday (prayer), let him take a bath and if he has perfume then let him put some on. And upon you (I urge to use) is the tooth stick.

 

How the Prophet ﷺ would use the siwak

 

The Prophet’s use of the toothstick was exaggerated, scraping even the back of the tongue. Imam al-Bukhari recorded from Abu Burda:

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو النُّعْمَانِ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا حَمَّادُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ، عَنْ غَيْلاَنَ بْنِ جَرِيرٍ، عَنْ أَبِي بُرْدَةَ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، قَالَ أَتَيْتُ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَوَجَدْتُهُ يَسْتَنُّ بِسِوَاكٍ بِيَدِهِ يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ أُعْ أُعْ ‏”‏، وَالسِّوَاكُ فِي فِيهِ، كَأَنَّهُ يَتَهَوَّعُ‏.‏

My father said, “I came to the Prophet (ﷺ) and saw him carrying a Siwak in his hand and cleansing his teeth, saying, ‘U’ U’,” as if he was retching while the Siwak was in his mouth.”

His usage was also not something personal behind closed doors, but helping one another out especially with his wives, as Abu Dawud collected:

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ بَشَّارٍ، حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ الأَنْصَارِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا عَنْبَسَةُ بْنُ سَعِيدٍ الْكُوفِيُّ الْحَاسِبُ، حَدَّثَنِي كَثِيرٌ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، أَنَّهَا قَالَتْ كَانَ نَبِيُّ اللَّهِ ﷺ يَسْتَاكُ فَيُعْطِينِي السِّوَاكَ لأَغْسِلَهُ فَأَبْدَأُ بِهِ فَأَسْتَاكُ ثُمَّ أَغْسِلُهُ وَأَدْفَعُهُ إِلَيْهِ‏.‏

Aishah said: the Prophet of Allah ﷺ would use the toothstick, then give it to me to rinse, and I would use it myself and then rinse it and return it to him.

Abu Dawud recorded from Aishah regarding the Prophet’s right-handed preferences,

حَدَّثَنَا حَفْصُ بْنُ عُمَرَ، وَمُسْلِمُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ، قَالاَ حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، عَنِ الأَشْعَثِ بْنِ سُلَيْمٍ، عَنْ أَبِيهِ، عَنْ مَسْرُوقٍ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ، قَالَتْ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُحِبُّ التَّيَمُّنَ مَا اسْتَطَاعَ فِي شَأْنِهِ كُلِّهِ فِي طُهُورِهِ وَتَرَجُّلِهِ وَنَعْلِهِ ‏.‏ قَالَ مُسْلِمٌ وَسِوَاكِهِ وَلَمْ يَذْكُرْ فِي شَأْنِهِ كُلِّهِ ‏.‏ قَالَ أَبُو دَاوُدَ رَوَاهُ عَنْ شُعْبَةَ مُعَاذٌ وَلَمْ يَذْكُرْ سِوَاكَهُ ‏.‏

The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) liked to begin with the right side as far as possible in all conditions: in his purification, and combing. The narrator Muslim ibn Ibrahim added: “in using tooth-stick,” and he did not mention “in all his conditions”.

Abu Dawud said: Shu’bah transmitted it from Mu’adh, but did not mention “his tooth-stick.”

 

As for which hand to use the siwaak with, scholars differed. The Hanafis and Malikis both preferred the right hand, along with some of the Shafis and Hanbalis, because they considered the siwaak a means of purification and scenting (التطيّب) and seeking Allah’s pleasure, whether or not there is any hygienic need for it every time, but to mentally and physically prepare for salaah. After all, the Prophet ﷺ did not shy away from using the siwaak in front of others. These scholars also equated using the siwaak with the maḍmaḍa of ablution—which is preferred with the right hand. Others, like most of the Hanabilah, preferred holding it from the left, considering it an instrument and process for removing unpleasantries (إزالة القاذورات) similar to istinja’.

The Prophet ﷺ also used the toothstick for other purposes. Abu Dawud recorded [sahih] from al-Mugheerah:

حَدَّثَنَا عُثْمَانُ بْنُ أَبِي شَيْبَةَ، وَمُحَمَّدُ بْنُ سُلَيْمَانَ الأَنْبَارِيُّ، – الْمَعْنَى – قَالاَ حَدَّثَنَا وَكِيعٌ، عَنْ مِسْعَرٍ، عَنْ أَبِي صَخْرَةَ، جَامِعِ بْنِ شَدَّادٍ عَنِ الْمُغِيرَةِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، عَنِ الْمُغِيرَةِ بْنِ شُعْبَةَ، قَالَ ضِفْتُ النَّبِيَّ ﷺ ذَاتَ لَيْلَةٍ فَأَمَرَ بِجَنْبٍ فَشُوِيَ وَأَخَذَ الشَّفْرَةَ فَجَعَلَ يَحُزُّ لِي بِهَا مِنْهُ – قَالَ – فَجَاءَ بِلاَلٌ فَآذَنَهُ بِالصَّلاَةِ – قَالَ – فَأَلْقَى الشَّفْرَةَ وَقَالَ ‏ “‏ مَا لَهُ تَرِبَتْ يَدَاهُ ‏“‏ ‏.‏ وَقَامَ يُصَلِّي ‏.‏ زَادَ الأَنْبَارِيُّ وَكَانَ شَارِبِي وَفَى فَقَصَّهُ لِي عَلَى سِوَاكٍ ‏.‏ أَوْ قَالَ أَقُصُّهُ لَكَ عَلَى سِوَاكٍ.‏

One night I became the guest of the Prophet (ﷺ). He ordered that a piece of mutton be roasted, and it was roasted. He then took a knife and began to cut the meat with it for me. In the meantime Bilal came and called him for prayer. He tossed the knife and said: What is with him, may his hands be smeared with earth! He then stood and praysed.

Al-Anbari (Abu Dawud’s shaykh) added in his version of this hadeeth from al-Mugheerah: My moustache became lengthy. He trimmed it by placing a took-stick; or he said: I shall trim your moustache by placing the tooth-stick there. [NOTE: this hadeeth also proves that the Sunnah for the mustache is to keep it short, not shaved or plucked.]

Since the siwaak is an object, one could see it in a dream like the Prophet ﷺ did as al-Bukhari recorded [ta`leeq] and Muslim from ibn Umar:

حَدَّثَنَا نَصْرُ بْنُ عَلِيٍّ الْجَهْضَمِيُّ، حَدَّثَنِي أَبِي، حَدَّثَنَا صَخْرٌ، – يَعْنِي ابْنَ جُوَيْرِيَةَ – عَنْ نَافِعٍ، أَنَّ عَبْدَ اللَّهِ بْنَ عُمَرَ، حَدَّثَهُ أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ﷺ قَالَ ‏”‏ أَرَانِي فِي الْمَنَامِ أَتَسَوَّكُ بِسِوَاكٍ فَجَذَبَنِي رَجُلاَنِ أَحَدُهُمَا أَكْبَرُ مِنَ الآخَرِ فَنَاوَلْتُ السِّوَاكَ الأَصْغَرَ مِنْهُمَا فَقِيلَ لِي كَبِّرْ ‏.‏ فَدَفَعْتُهُ إِلَى الأَكْبَرِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

It was shown to me in a vision that I was rinsing my mouth with miswak and two persons began to contend with one another for getting that miswak. One was older than the other. I gave the miswak to the younger one among them, but it was said to me: to the older. So I gave it to the older one.

Most scholars interpreted that hadeeth at face value, regarding the preference of elders, rather than extracting any other metaphoric or symbolic meanings from the Prophet’s dream.

Other lessons learned:

 

  1. The Prophet’s concern for his ummah. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ displayed great concern for his ummah and had to balance between directing them towards good, while not pushing them towards anything that would put them in Allah’s anger if they were unable to fulfill it.

{لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُم بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ} ﴿١٢٨﴾ سورة التوبة

“There has surely come to you a messenger from among yourselves, he is grieved by what harms you, and he is anxious over you, and he is kind and merciful to the believers.” [9:128]

  1. The Prophet ﷺ prepped himself for prayer and prepped himself for meeting his wives. Most people prep themselves for meeting the people while praying or meeting their spouses or families in a sad state.
  2. The siwaak is recommended whenever a person’s breath or mouth appearance changes—to dislodge food and stimulate saliva.
  3. It it is highly stressed, nearly obligatory, on Fridays for men before attending jumu’ah.
  4. A halal toothbrush could take its place just like a finger could if there is no available alternative. But the closest to the Sunnah is a twig from the Arak tree. Its scent and material is also natural and perfectly halal, without doubtful chemicals.
  5. Muslims should always be presentable, without beauty being top priority. The purpose here is not to have a repulsive odor or appearance but always pleasant.
  6. The sunnah-ness of the siwaak is mutawaatir

There is a story told about one of the Muslims’ battles, of unknown authenticity, that the Muslims were delayed in victory so they wondered which of their obligations or Sunan they were falling behind with, and they decided it was the siwak. So they took twigs off of the nearby trees and started using them for tooth cleaning. Scouts from the opposing army saw this and said, “The Muslims are eating the trees and they’re getting ready to eat us!” and hurried to surrender. Allah knows best if that ever happened!!!

About Chris
Chris, aka AbdulHaqq, is from central Illinois and accepted Islam in 2001 at age 17. He studied Arabic and Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia from 2007-13 and most recently earned a master's in Islamic Law from Malaysia. He is married with children.

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