Au natural toothbrush
While many Muslims – though not all – are becoming more and more estranged to the tradition of miswak, owing to their claim of modernity, little do they know that, in fact, the tradition was not initiated during Prophet Muhammad’s time. In reality, the use of miswak is a prophetic tradition carried forward for many generations of prophets, up to Prophet Muhammad’s. Therefore, by right, it is not only a practice recommended for the Muslims, but also for humanity in general. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended the use of this “toothbrush twig” to maintain oral hygiene since 1986. Who knew?
Originated from the branches of Salvadora persica – the “toothbrush tree” people call it – its fibrous wood has been scientifically proven to contain abrasives, antiseptic, astringent, detergents, enzyme inhibitors, and fluoride, all ingredients in a toothpaste formula. In fact, a study conducted in 2003 showed that if used properly, miswak gives a more preferred outcome of oral hygiene compared to synthetic, factory-made toothpastes.
Make a regular practice of miswak for verily it is the purification of the mouth and a means to please the Lord.
(A saying of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him)
Benefits of using miswak
With all these supporting components, miswak has been said to:
- Eliminate toothaches and bad breath;
- Strengthen the gum;
- Prevent tooth decay;
- Improve taste bud’s sensitivity; and
- Promote cleaner teeth.
My husband frequently had toothache when he was younger. But once he started using miswak regularly, every now and then, he has never had any toothaches since.
Furthermore, frequent brushing using this fragrant wood allows transfer of the good aroma into the mouth. Therefore, according to the Islamic tradition, it is highly recommended to use miswak, among others, before entering any good gathering, before religious practice, before and after meals, before entering and leaving home, before and after travelling, before sleeping and after waking up, when in hunger or thirst, and on Fridays.
Personally, I believe miswak, on top of its hygienic properties, is also a channel to release the negative energy in the mouth – e.g. of backbiting and ill-thinking – and invite the good energy, from nature and the angels, to us. I’m confident that using miswak would help us minimise the tendency of talking bad about others.
The question is, how then could we use miswak properly?
How to use miswak
Sometimes, the miswak that you buy may come as a longer stick, which can be cut into halves so that it would fit nicely in your hand – about one hand span in length. Some suppliers of miswak package these sticks in air-tight plastic wrappings so as to preserve their original, woody aroma. Once you have your stick of an appropriate length, remove the bark at one of its end to expose the fibrous material inside. You may soften this brushing tip by dipping it in clean water. Some traditions also advise the soaking of this fibrous tip into rose water before using. Now, you are ready to “brush” your teeth!
At the beginning, the tip may be a bit hard on the teeth. But once you use it regularly to rub against your teeth, it will become softer and brustly, just like modern day toothbrushes. Once the tip gets too soft, you can cut this used tip and create a new brushing tip from the excess stick. It is, however, highly recommended to constantly create a new brushing tip to maintain its hygiene. But well, it depends on where you keep your stick at.
In addition to brushing your teeth using miswak, you can also chew on the tip occasionally to help you overcome addiction to smoking (if you have one).
Chewing the tip of miswak has many times helped me relieving stress.
When the stick becomes too short, hence inconvenient to hold, it’s time to replace your miswak with a new one.
Now, I guess you are ready to try it on.
What about you? Have you used miswak before? Or are you already a regular user? How does using miswak affect you? Please kindly share your experience.