What Is The Sunnah With Regard To Siwaak (Tooth Stick) And Its Usage?
Islamic Rulings -
Living Shariah Verdicts
Islamic Questions & Answers
regulations regarding the miswak (tooth stick) and its
1. its length and type;
2. how to hold and brush with it according to the
3. when to use it: before beginning wudu, before one
rinses one's mouth, or just before beginning salat;
4. its recommended, permissable, disliked and
forbidden times and circumstances for usage;
5. whether lemon, mint flavored ones are permissable;
6. its virtues?
Praise be to Allaah.
Siwaak means cleaning the mouth and teeth with a
siwaak, which is the name given to the tool used. The
siwaak is a stick or twig used for this purpose.
Siwaak is a method of cleaning the mouth which also
earns the pleasure of Allaah, as is proven in the
hadeeth of 'Aa'ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her)
who said: "The Messenger of Allaah (Peace And
Blessings Of Allaah Be Upon Him) said, 'Siwaak
cleanses the mouth and pleases the Lord.'" (Reported
by [??] al-Bukhaari in his Saheeh, 2/274, and by [??]
Ahmad, 6/47, and al-Nisaa'i, 1/50. Its isnaad is
saheeh, see al-Irwa' 1/105).
Use of the siwaak is repeatedly encouraged, as in the
hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with
him), who reported that the Prophet (Peace And
Blessings Of Allaah Be Upon Him) said: "Were it not
for the fact that I did not want to make things too
hard for my ummah, I would have commanded them to use
the siwaak at every time of prayer." (Reported by al-Bukhaari,
2/299 and Muslim, 1/151). According to another report
narrated by al-Bukhaari, he said: "…at every time of
Imaam al-Nawawi reported that the respectable scholars
were agreed that use of the siwaak is sunnah and is
encouraged. One of the signs of its importance is the
fact that some of the salaf (early generations of
Islam), such as Ishaaq ibn Raahawayh, thought that it
Times when use of siwaak is recommended
Siwaak is recommended at all times of night and day,
because of the general sense of the hadeeth quoted
above from 'Aa'ishah, "Siwaak cleanses the mouth and
pleases the Lord." The scholars have also mentioned
situations where use of the siwaak is even more
strongly encouraged. These include:
When making wudoo' and at times of prayer. The Prophet
(Peace And Blessings Of Allaah Be Upon Him) said:
"Were it not for the fact that I did not want to make
things too hard for my ummah, I would have commanded
them to use the siwaak at every time of prayer."
According to another report he said: "…at every time
of making wudoo'" – as already stated above.
When entering one's home to be with one's family. 'Aa'ishah
was asked what the Messenger of Allaah (Peace And
Blessings Of Allaah Be Upon Him) did when he first
came home. She said, "When he entered his house, the
first thing he would do was to use the siwaak."
(Reported by Muslim, 1/220).
When getting up from sleep. Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamaan
(may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that when
the Prophet (Peace And Blessings Of Allaah Be Upon
Him) got up during the night, he would clean his mouth
thoroughly with the siwaak. (Reported by al-Bukhaari,
1/98 and Muslim, 1/220)
When the smell of one's mouth changes, whether this is
because of eating food with a strong odour, or because
of not eating or drinking for a long time, etc. Siwaak
is cleansing for the mouth, which means that it should
definitely be used when the mouth needs cleaning.
When going to the mosque. Using siwaak is part of the
adornment which we are commanded to wear for every
prayer, as Allaah says (interpretation of the
meaning): "O Children of Aadam! Take your adornment
while praying…'" [al-A'raaf 7:31]. It is also
important because the angels are present in the
mosque, and one is going to meet with other
When reading Qur'aan and joining gatherings in which
Allaah is remembered (dhikr), because the angels are
present on such occasions.
Using siwaak when fasting
The scholars (may Allaah have mercy on them) are
agreed that there is nothing wrong with using siwaak
during the day when one is fasting, but they differed
with regard to using it after noon, which some of them
disliked (regarded as makrooh). The correct view is
that it is sunnah for one who is fasting, just as it
is for anyone else, because of the general sense of
the reports which prove that it is sunnah. The Prophet
(Peace And Blessings Of Allaah Be Upon Him) did not
make any exceptions or state any specific time, and a
statement that is general in nature should continue to
be taken as general unless there is evidence to
indicate that it is specific in application. The
hadeeth used as evidence to forbid using siwaak after
noon is attributed to 'Ali ibn Abi Taalib (may Allaah
be pleased with him), who is quoted as saying that the
Prophet (Peace And Blessings Of Allaah Be Upon Him)
said, "When you fast, use siwaak in the morning but do
not use it in the afternoon." (Reported by al-Daaraqutni.
This is a da'eef (weak) hadeeth. Ibn Hajar said, in
al-Talkhees al-Habeer, 1/62: a da'eef (weak) isnaad).
There is no proof that this can be attributed to the
Prophet (Peace And Blessings Of Allaah Be Upon Him).
With regard to the use of the hadeeth "The odour that
comes from the mouth of the fasting person is better
in the sight of Allaah than the scent of musk"
(reported by al-Bukhaari, 2/29 and Muslim, 2/806) as
evidence, this mouth odour will not be dispelled by
use of siwaak because it is caused by the stomach
being empty, and it could occur early in the day if a
person has not eaten suhoor. All the scholars are
agreed that it is permissible for a fasting person to
use siwaak early in the day. This shows that use of
siwaak is encouraged even when fasting, and there is
no difference between using it early in the day or
What should be used for siwaak (cleaning the mouth)
The scholars are agreed that the best thing for
cleaning the mouth is the twigs of the araak tree,
because of its good smell, and because it has
brush-like fibres which are effective for cleaning
food particles etc. from between the teeth, and
because of the hadeeth of 'Abd-Allaah ibn Mas'ood (may
Allaah be pleased with him) who said: "I used to
gather siwaak sticks from the araak tree for the
Messenger of Allaah (Peace And Blessings Of Allaah Be
Upon Him)." (Reported by Ahmad, 3991; its isnaad is
hasan, see al-Irwa' 1/104).
If araak twigs are not available, the scholars
recommended using palm-leaf stalks, or twigs of the
olive tree. The ahaadeeth that have been narrated
concerning this, however, are not saheeh.
The correct view is that any kind of sticks that are
cleansing and not harmful may be used instead of
siwaak, if it is not available, to clean the mouth and
remove dirt from the teeth. This includes modern
toothbrushes which are known to be beneficial in this
Things that may not be used for siwaak
The scholars have stated that it is forbidden to use
poisonous sticks, things that are not taahir (pure,
clean), and anything that may cause bleeding, illness
or any other harm.
Attributes of siwaak
The fuqaha' have described the siwaak as a stick of
medium length and thickness, no thicker than one's
little finger, and free of knots. It should not be so
wet that it will twist, because then it will not
remove dirt, nor should it be so dry that it will hurt
the mouth or crack during use. No doubt this is
describing the ideal, otherwise the reports do not
specify any particular type of siwaak. It is
permissible to use any kind of siwaak that will do the
How to clean the mouth with siwaak
The scholars have differed as to whether siwaak should
be done with the right hand or the left hand. One
group – the majority – think that it is better to use
the right hand, because of the general meaning of the
hadeeth narrated by 'Aa'ishah (may Allaah be pleased
with her), who said: "The Messenger of Allaah (Peace
And Blessings Of Allaah Be Upon Him) liked to start
with the right when putting on his shoes, dismounting
(from his camel), when cleaning himself, and in all
things." (Agreed upon). (They also say that) siwaak is
an act of worship and drawing closer to Allaah, so it
should not be done with the left hand.
Other scholars say that it is better to use the left
hand for siwaak, because it comes under the heading of
removing dirt. This is the well-known opinion of Imaam
Ahmad's madhhab, and it is the view favoured by Shaykh
al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah, may Allaah have mercy on him.
Some scholars have said that when a person is using
siwaak with the intention of following the sunnah, he
should use his right hand, and if he is doing it to
remove dirt, he should use his left hand. The fact of
the matter is that this issue is open, as there is no
definitive daleel or report, and every opinion has a
The fuqaha' suggested that when using siwaak, a person
should start on the right, and use a side-to-side
motion rather than up-and-down, as the latter may harm
the gums. Among the etiquette of using siwaak, they
mentioned the following:
That a person should not use the siwaak in front of
others or in public, because this is impolite.
That the siwaak should be washed after use, to get rid
of any dirt that may be on it. 'Aa'ishah (may Allaah
be pleased with her) said: "The Prophet (Peace And
Blessings Of Allaah Be Upon Him) used to use siwaak,
then he would give it to me to wash it. I would use it
first, then wash it and give it back to him."
(Reported by Abu Dawood, 1/45).
The siwaak should be kept in a clean place.
Using one's fingers to clean one's mouth
The scholars differ as to whether it is acceptable to
use one's fingers to clean one's mouth when there is
nothing else available. The correct view is that using
the fingers cannot be considered as a substitute for
the sunnah action, because there is no basis in Islam
for doing so, and this method does not clean the mouth
as a siwaak or similar instrument does. Modern methods
of cleaning the teeth, like toothbrushes and so on,
that remove dirt and make the mouth smell good, are
There is nothing wrong with using siwaak that is
flavoured with mint, lemon and so on, so long as they
do not cause any harm. But a person who is fasting
should avoid using any flavoured siwaak, and should
only use natural siwaak when he is fasting.
And Allaah knows best.
Lisaan al-'Arab (definition of sawaka); al-Majmoo'
li'l-Nawawi, 1/269; Nihaayat al-Muhtaaj li'l-Ramli,
1/162; Haashiyat Ibn 'Aabineen, 1/78; Nayl al-Awtaar
li'l-Shawkaani, 1/24; al-Mughni li Ibn Qudaamah, 1/78;
al-Futoohaat al-Rabaaniyah 'ala adhkaar al-Nawawi li
Ibn 'Allaan, 3/256; al-Sharh al-Mumti' li'l-Shaykh Ibn
Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid