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Hajj and Umrah

Using the Siwaak


Istiyaak (using the siwaak) is taken from the word astaaka, which means cleaning the the mouth and teeth with the help of the siwaak.

The word siwaak can be used to mean the action of using the toothstick and to mean the miswaak, the toothstick itself.

Al Hukm

It's usage is prescribed as was mentioned in previous lessons and the reason for this is given in the following hadith:

"The siwaak is a purification for the mouth and a pleasure for the lord."

(An Nasaai, ibn Maajah and Ahmad from 'Aaishah)

There are three views on the exact ruling:

Mustahabb: This is the position of the majority due to the following hadith:

"If I did not fear hardship on my ummah, I would have ordered them to use the siwaak before every salaah"

(Bukhari, At Tirmidhi, An Nasaai and ibn Maajah from Abu Hurayrah. The narration recorded by Bukhari does not include the words 'before every salaah'.)

They also said this is indicated by the narration about the reason for using siwaak mentioned above.

Waajib: Some such as Ishaab ibn Rahaway said it is waajib based on the apparent order given in the above hadith. However, this is strange as the obvious meaning of the hadith is that it was not ordered.

Using the siwaak along with various acts

During wudhu:

There is agreement of the sholars that this is something recommended. However, they differed as to whether this is part of the wudhu or not. Hanafi, Maaliki and some Shaafi' scholars said it is based on the hadith mentioned previously:

"If I did not fear hardship on my ummah, I would have ordered them to use the siwaak before every salaah"

(At Tirmidhi, An Nasaai and ibn Maajah from Abu Hurayrah)

Also, in another narration:

"If I did not fear hardship on my ummah, I would have made siwaak obligatory on them with every wudhu"

(Al Haakim fom Abu Hurayrah)

The Shaafi' and Hanbali scholars said it is a sunnah that is not part of the wudhu that precedes it. This is an acedemic discussion and what is important is that someone understands that it is recommended with the wudhu.

With Tayammum and Ghusl:

This is also something that is reommended. One can use the siwaak before hitting the hands on the earth for tayammum and can use the siwaak during ghusl just like one would do during wudhu.

Before Salaah:

The basis of this lies in the hadith mentioned previously:

"If I did not fear hardship on my ummah, I would have ordered them to use the siwaak before every salaah"

(At Tirmidhi, An Nasaai and ibn Maajah from Abu Hurayrah)

This issue is mentioned in three ways.

For every salaah, one should use it between any long gap between the prayers. For example, one would use the siwaak between maghrib and 'isha but not between mahrib and the two rak'ah of nafl prayed straight after maghrib.
For every salaah even those with a short gap between them as the words of the hadith are general.
For every wudhu. It is not a sunnah associated with the salaah but it is associated with the wudhu. This is based on a focus on the hadith recorded by Al Hakim that mentioned relating to the usage with every wudhu.

Ibn Hajar discussed this in detail and mentioned that the association between the siwaak and the salaah is due to the following hadith:

"If I did not fear hardship on my ummah, I would have ordered them to do wudhu for every salaah and using the siwaak with every wudhu"

(Ahmad from Abu Hurayrah)

Therefore, primarily, the siwaak is associated with the wudhu.

However, the follwing hadith appears to contradict this:

"The messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam used to pray two raka'h in the night, then he would move and use the siwaak"

(ibn Maajah and Ahmad from ibn Abbaas)

Ibn Hajar said that this hadith is actually an abbreviation of a long hadith recorded by Abu Dawud wherein the prophet would pray two raka'h, sleep and then use the siwaak before praying again.

While fasting:

The scholars agreed that it is recommended to use the siwaak before dhuhr time begins. However, the scholars differed on whether the siwaak should be used after dhuhr time begins while fasting.

The Shaafi' scholars and some Hanbali scholars considered it to be disliked after dhuhr time based on the following:

"The smell of the mouth of a fasting person is preferable, in Allah’s measure, to the smell of musk.”

(Bukhari and Muslim)

They said that after dhuhr, the smell has had enough time to develope and if a person cleans his teeth, he may remove that smell that is preferred by Allah.

The others disagreed and said that there is no reason why the ruling should be different for the fasting person.

Before reading Qur'an, hadith or any kind of knowledge:

The scholars recommended using the siwaak before reading from these out of respect for the knowledge.

Some also mentioned that after reciting an aayah of prostration, one should use the siwaak before prostrating. However, if the wisdom behind this is that one keeps his mouth clean for the Qur'aan, then the should not be any need to do so before the sajdah. Similarly, it was recommended to do so when reciting dhikr.

Other situations:

Brushing the teeth of the dead should be included in the ghusl given to them. This is something that is recommended to remove any physical impurity or death.

Before entering a gathering, before entering the mosque and on returning home, using the siwaak is recommended to remove the smell from the breathe and clean the teeth. The basis of these recommendations are in the following hadith:

“Whoever eats onions, garlic or leeks, let him not approach our mosque, for the angels are annoyed by the same things that annoy the sons of Adam.”

(Muslim from Jaabir)

"When the prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam used to enter his house, he would begin by using the siwaak."

(Muslim from 'Aaishah)

After sleeping, eating and when the mouth smells due to hunger or thirst, it is recommended to use the siwaak to remove the smell.

Therefore, it is recommended at all times as it purifies the mouth and pleases the lord as was reported in the hadith.

What should be used?

Any kind of stick/brush that is not harmful can be used to brush the teeth. However, there is an order of preference.

The scholars are in agreement that th most preferred is that which comes from the 'Araaq (mustard tree). This is based on the following hadith:

"I was with the delegation of Abdul Qays... so he ordered us to use the 'Araaq... And it was the last of the siwaak the messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam used"

(An Nawawi from Abi Khayrat as Sabaahi)

Maaliki, Shaafi' and Hanbali scholars considered the second preference to be that taken from the date palm.
All considered the branch from the olive tree as the next preferred due to the following hadith:

"What a good siwaak from the olive, a blessed tree. It perfumes the mouth and removes the bad smell. It is my siwaak and the siwaak of the prophets before me"

(At Tabarani from M'aadh ibn Jabal)

Next, the preference is given to anything that has a good smell and does not have any harm in it, such as a bitter taste or some toxic elements.

What kind of branch should it be?

The scholars said it should be medium in thickness, like the thickness of the little finger. It should be free of knots and should not be very wet or very dry so that it does not crumble and is moderately flexible.

Can something other than a miswaak be used to clean the mouth?

For example, can a paste be put on a finger or some kind of chewing gum to clean the mouth? If this is done, does it satisfy the recommendation.

The Hanafi and Shaafi' scholars said this is fine as it meets the purpose for which the miswaak has been prescribed.
The others said this does not fulfill the sunnah even though it fulfills the purpose.

There are three views on just using the fingers to clean the mouth without any paste/substance:

Imaam Ahmad recorded a report in which 'Ali radiyAllahu 'anh made wudhu and then cleaned the inside of his mouth with his finger. He then said that this is how the wudhu of the prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam was. Based on this, Maaliki, Shaafi' and Hanbali scholars said it was generally permissible.
The Hanafi scholars allowed it only in the absence of the availability of something else like a miswaak.
Some of the Shaafi' scholars held the view that it is not permissible at all as it neithers fulfills the sunnah, nor does it achieve the cleanliness.

The conclusion is that the siwak is preferable but if not, the fingers can be used due to the authentic narration.

How should the siwaak be used?

It should be used with the right hand and you should start from the right side of the mouth and go towards the left side, rubbing in a horizontal manner. After reaching the end, he should then clean the rest of the mouth.

"The messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam used to love using the right whenever possible, in purifying himself, putting his shoes on and combing his hair."

(An Nasaai from 'Aaishah)

In one narration, it is mentioned how the prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam held the miswaak (with the small finger underneath).

There is no difference of opinion in these issues.

Ettiquettes of the siwaak

Some said it is mustahabb for one not to use the miswaak in the presence of others as this goes against good manners. Some also said it should not be used in the masjid or in the gatherings for the same reason.

However, the scholars have differed on these issues and ibn Taymiyyah mentioned that he did not know of any scholar that disliked using the siwaak in the masjid and there are narrations about the early generations doing so. As long as one takes care of the cleanliness of the masjid, there is no problem with this.

The siwaak should be washed and this is based on the following hadith:

"The messenger of Allah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam used to use the siwaak and then give it to me to wash..."

(Abu Dawud and Al Bayhaqi from 'Aaishah)

It is also recommended to keep the siwaak away from what is dirty. Repetition of use and removal of the bad smell in the mouth is recommended as long as someone does not harm himself.
The scholars mentioned minimum numbers of times the siwaak should be used. Some said three times, some said once as long as it cleans and others said there is no minimum as what is required is the removal of the dirt and smell.