M. Ghazanfar Ali Khan
A group of dentists at the King Saud University (KSU) have studied the medicinal properties of the miswak (teeth cleaning sticks) commonly used in Arab and Asian countries, and have concluded that â€œthe beneficial effects of miswak for oral hygiene and dental health of a person using miswak are equal to, if not greater than, those who use toothbrush and paste.
The research identified 19 natural substances found in miswak that benefit dental health. According to the research, the miswak contains a number of natural antiseptics that kill harmful microorganisms in the mouth; tannic acids that protect the gums from disease; and aromatic oils that increase salivation.
The study said that â€œthe miswakâ€™s bristles are parallel to the handle rather than perpendicular, and it can reach more easily between the teeth, where a conventional toothbrush often fails to reach.â€ The study has termed miswak as â€œan oral hygiene toolâ€ for one and all. According to the study, â€œthe miswak has many medicinal properties and can fight plaque, gum line recession, tooth wear, gingivitis, and periodontal pocket depths.â€
The study also concluded that the miswak releases fresh sap and silica that acts as an abrasive material for the removal of stains and buildup.
The KSUâ€™s research has been supported and substantiated by another research work done by Abdul Al-Shareif of the Ministry of Agriculture. According to Al-Shareif, miswaks contain anti-mouth ulcer substances and antiseptics. â€œIn addition to the substances that prevent teeth carries, gum bleeding, mouth cancer and putrefaction, miswak has another ingredient that strengthens the gum and prevents teeth from coloring.â€
Al-Shareif said that a number of Saudi farmers have been planting miswaks for business.
The two studies have proved that the miswaks also release a substance that soothes toothaches.
He said that the use of miswaks might also improve appetite and regulate peristaltic movements of the gastrointestinal tract. â€œIn fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the use of miswak way back in 1986, but stated that further research was needed to document the effects,â€ said Aziza Al-Mubarik, a KSU dentist, while referring to the widespread use of miswak, which is more common during Ramadan in Saudi Arabia and many other Arab and Muslim countries.
Asked why one should prefer miswak, Dr. Rahi Al-Badr, a local physician, said miswaks have many medicinal properties including scents, painkiller substances and sodium bicarbonate, which are widely used in the production of different kinds of toothpastes.
On the growing sales of miswak especially during Ramadan, Mubarak Al-Arifi, a miswak seller in Riyadh, said: â€œMiswak sales has gone up in Ramadan, especially in Makkah and Madinah, where the sales have increased up by nearly 300 to 500 percent.â€
â€œMiswaks have a big market in Saudi Arabia and users can find these sticks nowadays in every nook and corner of the city, on roadsides, on pavements, or even in stores that sell Islamic books and cassettes,â€ said Al-Arifi, 65, who has always used miswak and has never visited dentists all his life.
On miswak sales, Karim Bandhu, a Bangladeshi salesman, who sits in front of a mosque in Rawdah district of Riyadh, said: â€œThis is our season and we do brisk business in Ramadan. For me, it is fun, praying and talking to people, while selling miswaks.â€
The best source of miswak is the root of arak tree, which is called Salvadora persica in botanical terms. The arak trees are grown in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Southern Egypt, Chad and eastern parts of India.
In other parts of the Muslim world, where the arak tree is not found, other trees are used for the same purpose. Strips of bark are used in Morocco and branches of the neem tree are often used in India.
Two kinds of miswak are sold in Yemen, spicy and bland ones, said miswak seller, Mohammed Al-Hassan, a Yemeni national. Many Muslims use the miswak to follow the recommendations of Prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon him), who said, â€œSiwak cleanses the mouth and pleases Allahâ€.
Asked about the use of miswak among women in Saudi Arabia, Zurwa Jameel, a young Pakistani girl, said, â€œI use miswak during Ramadan because the use of toothpaste during Ramadan nullifies fasting.â€ â€œI have seen Saudi and non-Saudi Muslim women using miswaks more commonly than Asians or European Muslims,â€ she said.
Advantages of miswak
â€¢ The reward of Salaah (prayers) is multiplied 70 times, when miswak is used before prayers.
â€¢ Miswak strengthens gums and prevents tooth decay.
â€¢ Miswak assists in eliminating toothaches and prevents further increase of decay which has already set in.
â€¢ Miswak creates a fragrance in the mouth, keeping it fresh.
â€¢ Miswak is a cure for illness.
â€¢ Miswak eliminates bad odors and improves sense of taste.
â€¢ Miswak sharpens memory.
â€¢ Miswak is a cure for headaches.
â€¢ Miswak creates luster (noor) on the face of the one who continuously uses it.
â€¢ Miswak causes teeth to glow.
â€¢ Miswak strengthens eyesight.
â€¢ Miswak assists in digestion.
â€¢ Miswak clears the voice.
Times when usage of miswak is Sunnah:
1. For the recitation of the Qurâ€™an.
2. For the recitation of Hadith.
3. When the mouth emits an odor.
4. For the learning or teaching of virtues of Islam.
5. For making Dhikrullah (Remembrance of Allah, meditation).
6. After entering ones home.
7. Before entering any good gathering.
8. When experiencing pangs of hunger and thirst.
9. After the signs of death are evident.
10. At the time of Sahur
11. Before meals.
12. Before undertaking a journey.
13. On returning from a journey.
14. Before sleeping.
15. After leaving the bed in morning.
Courtesy Arab News