Rulings and Manners of Using the Toothstick (Siwak) (Shafi’i School)

Answered according to Shafi'i Fiqh by

Answered by Shaykh Omar Qureshi

Question: Assalamu alaikum,

I want to begin using the miswak, but when I searched on the Internet, I found some difficult rules. For example: we should not use it in the bathroom, it should be placed vertically when not in use, and it shoud not be thrown to ground otherwise the person will get insane. Are those rules true according to sunnah? How should we place it when not in use? And is it okay if I put miswak on my jeans pocket? Are there any other rules regarding miswak? Please explain according to the Shafi’i school.  Jazaka Allah khair.

Answer: In the name of Allah, Most Merciful and Compassionate.

Assalamu ‘alaikum.

Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “If it was not for the fact that I would be overburdening my community, I would have ordered them to use the toothstick (siwak) for every prayer.” [Bukhari and Muslim]

A’isha reported that the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “The toothstick (siwak) is a means to purify the mouth and [using it is an act that is] pleasing to the Lord.” [Imam Nawawi stated that the chains of transmission of this hadith are rigorously authenticated (sahih)]

In a hadith with a weak chain of transmission, the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “A prayer performed using the toothstick is seventy times superior to a prayer performed without using the toothstick.” Ibn al-Qayyim states that even though the hadith has a weak chain of transmitters, the meaning of the hadith is sound.

This is because when one performs an act in as perfect a manner as possible, the act is more beloved to Allah the Exalted. Therefore, the more recommended measures a person performs when praying the more beloved the prayer is to Allah the Exalted. (al-Manar al-Munif)

The following are rulings and points of adab regarding the toothstick (siwak) that should be observed according to scholars of the Shafi’i school:

– According to Ibn Hajar al-Haytami, one of the recommended occasions for using the siwak is when performing ablution (wudu’). One uses the toothstick after one washes ones hands and before rinsing the mouth when performing ablution (wudu’). (Minhaj al-Qawim)

– One may use any coarse material for the siwak. It is best to use a twig from the ‘arak tree which is usually available in most mosques for purchase. Using one’s fingers is not a valid substitute. (I’anah al-Talibin)

– It is recommended for one to brush one’s teeth and tongue. One should brush the teeth laterally using the right hand. One starts with the teeth on the upper right side from the back teeth moving towards the front teeth, then the lower right side in the same manner. After which one brushes the upper left side then the lower left side in the same manner. (I’anah al-Talibin)

– Using a toothstick is recommended any time, except after noon for someone who is fasting, in which case it is offensive (makruh). (‘Umdat Salik)

– It is acceptable to place the toothstick in your pocket or in a container for safe keeping.

– It is recommended to use the toothstick for every prayer, obligatory or supererogatory, when reciting the Qur’an, reading Hadith, studying a Shari’ah science, when one’s breath changes, waking up from sleep, eating something that creates bad breath such as garlic and onions, upon entering the mosque and upon entering one’s residence. (I’anah al-Talibin)

– It is recommended to moisten the toothstick before use. (I’anah al-Talibin)

Imam Bukhari reported that ‘Aisha said, “The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) passed away when he was in my house during my round [for him to be with]. While he was leaning on my upper chest and throat, Allah made my saliva mix with his saliva.” ‘Aisha added, “Abd al-Rahman entered with a toothstick (siwak). The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was too weak to take the tootstick [by himself], whereupon I took it from ‘Abd al-Rahman, chewed it and then cleaned the Prophet’s teeth with it.”

Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah (Allah have mercy on him) noted that the fact that this was during the last hours of the Prophet’s time on earth shows how keen the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was to use the toothstick. Additionally, from this hadith, scholars have also concluded that one may use another person’s toothstick. (Tuhfa al-Nussak)

Allah the Exalted knows best.
Omar Qureshi