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A Treatise on the Natural Toothbrush

A Treatise on the Natural Toothbrush

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A treatise in ten sections which narrates various Islamic traditions to do with the Prophetic practice of using the siwak or miswak toothbrush.
A treatise in ten sections which narrates various Islamic traditions to do with the Prophetic practice of using the siwak or miswak toothbrush.

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Published by: alkashkul on Dec 05, 2010
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02/09/2015

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7

A Treatise on the Exposition of the the Natural Toothbrush.

In the name of God the Beneficent, the Merciful, and may God bless our
master Muḥammad, and his family, and companions.

Praise be to God as He deserves to be praised, and blessings and peace be
upon the best of His creation Muḥammad, and his family, and companions.

My teacher, the devout and learnéd paragon, the glory of the religion, the
honour of Islām, Shaykh Abū Ḥāmid, ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd ibn Muḥammad ibn
ʿAbdullāh, may God make his bounty everlasting, informed me when I
studied with him in the holy city of Mashhad in Dhū al-Ḥijjah of the year
five-hundred and ninety-six, saying: ‘The blesséd paragon, Shaykh Abū al-
Khayr, Aḥmad ibn Ismāʿīl ibn Yūsuf al-Qazwīnī al-Ṭālaqānī
3
informed me:

To proceed, since using the natural toothbrush is of the practice of the
Messenger of God, may God bless him and his family and grant them peace,
and adopting his practice is recommended, I saw fit to write a brief
composition so that it might be a memento from me to those who adopt this
practice. So I say, and God grants success: Discussion of the toothbrush
pertains to twelve parts: its merits, its recommended times, its mandatory
time, its discouraged time, its description, its length, how to use it, how to
hold it, its ettiquettes, how it should be placed on the ground after use, the
reason it is recommended, and the reason it is named the ‘siwāk’. In each

3
Aḥmad ibn Ismāʿīl ibn Yūsuf ibn Muḥammad ibn al-ʿAbbās, Raḍī al-Dīn, Abū al-Khayr al-Qazwīnī al-
Ṭālaqānī. He was born in 511 or 512 A.H. He studied with Muḥammad ibn Yaḥyá and frequented his
lessons, and with Malikdād al-Qazwīnī. He studied narrations with Ibrāhīm ibn ʿAbd al-Malik al-Qazwīnī,
and compiled the book ‘al-Tibyān fī Masāʾil al-Qurʾān’ as a refutation of the Incarnationists (ḥulūlīyah)
and the Jahmīyah, and he became the foremost of his contemporaries. He went to Baghdād and preached
there and achieved wide acclaim. He and Ibn al-Jawzī would speak on alternate days, and he would visit
the Caliph in secret, and visit all people and nations. He took up teaching in the Niẓāmīyah in Baghdād in
the year 569 until 580, then returned to his homeland.
8

part I will briefly mention what is appropriate to it, confining myself to
mentioning the body of the tradition only in the most part, all of which so
that mankind’s veneration of the ettiquettes of the Sacred Law may be
increased; for indeed all blessings are in following the Sacred Law; God,
glory be to Him, has said: =S-v· It vou lovc Cod tlcn tollow mc, Cod will
lovc vou.-.
1


Part One. The Exposition of its Merits.

Shaykh Abū al-Khayr al-Ṭālaqānī, may God show him mercy, said: Abū al-
Qāsim, Zāhir ibn Ẓāhir al-Shaḥḥāmī informed us; Aḥmad ibn al-Ḥusayn al-
Bayhaqī informed us; Aḥmad ibn al-Ḥasan al-Qāḍī al-Ḥīrī informed us; Abū
ʿAlī al-Maydānī informed us; Aḥmad ibn Yaḥyá al-Dhuhlī informed us;
Bishr ibn ʿUmar informed us; Mālik ibn Anas informed us, from Ibn Shihāb,
from ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, from Abū Hurayrah, may God be best pleased with
him, who said that the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him
peace, said: ‘Were it not that I might make it difficult for my nation, I would
have commanded them to use the toothbrush at the time of every ablution.’
Shaykh Aḥmad ibn al-Ḥusayn al-Bayhaqī, may God show him mercy, said
that this tradition was related by Mālik outwith the Muwaṭṭaʾ as a marfūʿ
tradition, and within the Muwaṭṭaʾ as a marfūʿ tradition, and this tradition is,
in origin, a marfūʿ tradition, but in another manner.

Shaykh Abū al-Khayr al-Ṭālaqānī, may God show him mercy, said: Abū al-
Qāsim al-Shaḥḥāmī informed us; Aḥmad ibn al-Ḥusayn informed us; Abū
Saʿīd al-Mālīnī informed us; Abū Aḥmad ibn ʿAdī al-Ḥāfiẓ informed us;
Isḥāq ibn Ibrāhīm al-Muqrī informed us; Muḥammad ibn Abī al-Sarrī
informed us; Baqīyah informed us, from al-Khalīl ibn Murrah, from ʿAṭāʾ

4
The Holy Qurʾān: The Clan of Amram (ʿImrān) (3): 31.
9

ibn Abī Rabāḥ, from Ibn ʿAbbās, may God be best pleased with them both,
who said: ‘The Messenger of God, may God bless him and his family and
grant them peace, said: ‘I enjoin upon you the use of the toothbrush, for it is
a purification of the mouth, is pleasing to the Lord, is a joy for the Angels, it
increases good deeds, and it is part of prophetic practice. It clarifies the
vision, and takes away cankers, and strengthens the gums, and dispels
phlegm, and perfumes the mouth.’ Others have narrated this tradition from
al-Khalīl and have added ‘and it gives health to the stomach’ to it, but this is
something unique to al-Khalīl ibn Murrah who is not so strong in the
traditions.

These then are the benefits of the toothbrush so learn them and take
advantage of them for they are a bounty for a people of understanding.

And it has been narrated that Kaʿb al-Aḥbār said: ‘Whoever wishes to
worship God, exalted is He, then let him make frequent use of the toothbrush
and the toothpick, and prayer after use of them is one-hundred times better
than without them.’ And it is related that Ḥassān ibn ʿAṭīyah said: ‘Use of
the toothbrush is part of ablution, and ablution is part of faith.’

Part Two. Its Recommended Times.

Use of the toothbrush is a prophetic practice at all times – at the beginning,
middle, and end of the day – if you wish to ablute at that time. It has been
related that ʿĀʾishah, may God be best pleased with her, said: ‘The
Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, said: ‘Whoever
uses the toothbrush at the beginning and end of the day will be among those
who are brought near to God in Paradise.’ It is said that one should not use
the toothbrush between these times for the Prophet disliked this, unless it is
due to an illness or other requirement. It is also said that whoever does this
10

will lose the moisture and illumination of his face, and this was narrated by
Ja!far ibn Muḥammad, from his father, from his grandfather, but this goes
against the authentic reports that the toothbrush is a prophetic practice at all
times. Granted that at three particular times it is more recommended, namely
when the teeth become yellow, as the Prophet, may God bless him and grant
him peace, said: ‘Do not visit me with yellow teeth!’, and when the mouth
changes because of sleep or eating which is due to silence or otherwise, and
when one is performing the ablutions or rising for prayer.

Shaykh Abū al-Khayr al-Ṭālaqānī, may God be best pleased with him, said:
Abū al-Qāsim al-Shaḥḥāmī informed us; Abū Bakr ibn al-Ḥusayn informed
us; Aḥmad ibn al-Ḥusayn al-Ḥīrī informed us; Abū ʿAlī al-Maydānī
informed us; Muḥammad ibn Yaḥyá al-Dhuhlī informed us; Yaʿqūb ibn
Ibrāhīm ibn Saʿīd informed us; my father informed us, from Ibn Isḥāq, who
said: ‘Muḥammad ibn Salam ibn ʿAbdullāh ibn Shihāb al-Zuhrī mentioned,
of ʿUrwah, from ʿĀʾishah, may God be best pleased with her, from the
Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, who said: ‘The merit of a
prayer after using the toothbrush over a prayer without use of the toothbrush
is seventy fold.’


Part Three. Its Mandatory Time.

Use of the toothbrush is mandatory for one who eats carrion out of dire
necessity, and so the toothbrush is necessary for him to remove the unclean
substances.




11

Part Four. Its Discouraged Time.

Use of the toothbrush is discouraged for the fasting person after midday; the
Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, said: ‘The odour of the
breath of a fasting person is more pleasant to God than musk.’ So, because it
is the effect of worship whose pleasantness has been testified to, the Prophet
disliked to remove it as with the blood of the martyrs.

Some have disliked to use another’s toothbrush, whether or not it has been
washed, because of what ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Yazīd ibn Aslam has related,
from his father, who said: ‘ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, may God be best pleased
with him, said: ‘Whoever uses the toothbrush of another will lose his
memory and will almost never be satiated.’ However what is correct is that it
is permissible without being disliked since it has been authenticated that
during his fatal illness, the Prophet, may God bless him and his family and
grant them peace, used the toothbrush of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Abī Bakr,
may God be best pleased with him, without washing it.


Part Five. The Form of the Toothbrush.

There is no problem with brushing the teeth with any kind of wood, the most
favourable being the Arāk, whether it be moist or dry. But it should not be so
excessively dry that it wounds the gums, nor should it be so thin or supple
that it does not remove yellowness, rather it should be something between
the two, dry, and moistened with water.

Shaykh Abū al-Khayr al-Ṭālaqānī, may God show him mercy, said: I was
asked what is my opinion of using the finger? I say that there are three
possibilites: permissible, prohibited, and the most correct is that if it is rough
12

then it is permissible and if not then it is not permissible. It is related that
Anas, may God be best pleased with him, said: ‘The Messenger of God, may
God bless him and his family and grant them peace, said: ‘A finger may
suffice as a toothbrush.’ And it has been related that the Prophet, may God
bless him and grant him peace, when he could not find a toothbrush, would
run his index finger with the edge of his robe over his teeth.


Part Six. Its Length.

The length of the toothbrush should not exceed a handspan or a little less,
even to the extent of a fingerspan, for Satan sits upon that which exceeds a
handspan and interferes with it. So one should take care and limit it to a
handspan, for that is more beautiful and complete and fulfils the prophetic
practice, and whoever acts according to prophetic practice will be rewarded
for it.

It is related that al-Rabīʿ ibn Khaytham passed by a man who was brushing
his teeth with a toothbrush the length of his forearm. Al-Rabīʿ said to him:
‘Do you not know that Satan interferes with what is any more than a
handspan and it is his mount?’ So the man cut it down to a handspan or less.
It is related that Ibrāhīm al-Nakhaʿī said: ‘The toothbrush should measure a
handspan or less for whoever wishes to brush his teeth.’

This then it its limit, so limit yourself to this for to exceed this is uncouth
and vain and there is no benefit in it.




13

Part Seven. The Method of Brushing the Teeth.

It is recommended that one brushes horizontally: ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, may
God ennoble him, said: ‘Sup water in draughts, and drink milk in sips, and
brush your teeth horizontally.’

It is recommended to begin with brushing the back teeth, for that is more
effective in breaking up phlegm, and makes one’s colour purer, and this is
related from Qatādah. Then, after the back teeth, one should brush the front
teeth until the teeth are clean and pass the toothbrush over the tops of the
molars twice or thrice, for in this there is a great benefit.

Mujāhid, may God show him mercy, said: ‘Satan brushes his teeth with his
left hand and does all his actions with his left hand so avoid doing actions in
this manner unless it is due to an illness.


Part Eight. How to Hold the Toothbrush.

When you take hold of the toothbrush then place the little finger of your
right hand low down on the toothbrush and underneath it, and place your
ring finger and your middle finger higher up the toothbrush and on the top
side, and place your thumb just below and underneath the head of the
toothbrush and brush in this manner, for this is prophetic practice. Similarly,
it has been related from ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd, may God be best pleased
with him: ‘Do not simply grab hold of the toothbrush for this predisposes
one to haemorrhoids.’



14

Part Nine. The Ettiquettes of the Toothbrush.

It is recommended that one swallows one’s saliva at the beginning of
brushing, for this is beneficial against leprosy and every affliction other than
death, but after this one should not swallow any of it, for it makes one
predisposed to Satanic interferences, and this has been related by Ziyād ibn
ʿIlāqah. One should squeeze out the saliva from the brush after brushing or
cleanse the brush with water, for this is an action of the righteous. Al-Zuhrī
relates, that ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbdullāh said: ‘It is an action of the righteous
that they squeeze out their saliva from their toothbrush so that Satan does not
interfere with it.’ And do not suck the toothbrush with the mouth for this
predisposes one to blindness and is the action of Satan. This was related by
Thābit, from Anas.


Part Ten. How to replace the toothbrush after use.

It is recommended that one does not put one’s toothbrush down horizontally
but rather stand it upright, for it is related from Saʿīd ibn Jubayr, who said:
‘Whoever places his toothbrush down horizontally and subsequently
becomes insane then let him blame no-one but himself.’ And do not replace
your toothbrush until you have cleansed it, for it is related that al-Ḥasan
said: ‘Whoever puts down his toothbrush without cleansing it, Satan will use
it until the person returns to it.’


Part Eleven. The Reason it is Named ‘siwāk’.

It is related that when the Angel Gabriel, peace be upon him, commanded
the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, he said to him: ‘O
15

Muḥammad, sawwi fāka!, (that is, cleanse your mouth!). But the Prophet,
may God bless him and his family and grant them peace, did not understand
what Gabriel meant by these words so he explained the toothbrush to him.
Then the letter ‘f’ was dropped to lighten it and they called it ‘siwāk’. It is
known that the Arabs elide letters to lighten speech, and this has been related
from al-Ḥasan. In another tradition, when Gabriel showed the Prophet, may
God bless him and his family and grant them peace, how to use it and he
used it, Gabriel said to him: ‘This is a practice of your father Abraham,
blessings and peace be upon him.’ Then the Prophet, may God bless and
grant him peace, ordered its use.


Part Twelve. The Reason the Toothbrush is Recommended.

We have been ordered to use the toothbrush so that we have pleasant and
sweet-smelling mouths for the Qurʾān and so that the Qurʾān passes over
pleasant passages because of the pleasantness of the Qurʾān. And for the
Angels who are with you protecting you, and for the Angel who greets you
and places his mouth on your mouth. It is related that ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib,
may God ennoble him, said: ‘When one of God’s servants rises for prayer,
the Angel stands behind him, and when he recites the Qurʿān, the Angel
continues to respond to the Qurʿān until he stands in front of him and places
his mouth on the person’s mouth, and not a single verse emerges from him
but it goes inside the Angel.’

It is related that the Prophet, may God bless and grant him peace, said:
‘Whoever eats these two plants (meaning garlic and leeks) then let him not
come to our prayer place.’ Someone said to him: ‘O Messenger of God, what
if he is alone?’ He said: ‘The Angels are offended by that which offends the
children of Adam.’
16


Shaykh Abū al-Khayr al-Ṭālaqānī, may God be best pleased with him, said:
These then, in brief, are traditions relating to the discussion of the natural
toothbrush so that people may know the worthiness of the Prophet, may God
bless and grant him peace, from the benefits to be found in just a single one
of his practices. So make use of the natural toothbrush for it has sublime
qualities as well as the divine reward for using it; it purifies one’s colour and
increases one’s eloquence and one’s memory and clarifies one’s vision and
causes one’s hair to grow and has many other properties.

And God is the helper and the manifest truth and He is sufficient for us and
the best of trustees.

This is the completion of the treatise, and all praise is due to God alone and
may God bless he after whom there is to be no further prophet.

ggg

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