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Islam Q&A – Brush Teeth During Ramadan?

The latest educational installment in our ongoing series in preparation for the future.

From those keepers of knowledge at Islam Question and Answer:

Fasting person using the siwaak and swallowing his saliva afterwards

Question:

What is the ruling on using the siwaak during the day in Ramadaan? Is it permissible to swallow the saliva after using the siwaak?

Answer:

Praise be to Allaah.

It is mustahabb to use the siwaak at all times, when fasting and when not fasting, at the beginning of the day and at the end. The evidence for that is as follows:

1 – al-Bukhaari (887) narrated from Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “ Were it not that it would cause hardship to my ummah, I would have commanded them to use the siwaak for every prayer.”

2 – al-Nasaa’i narrated from ‘Aa’ishah (may Allaah be pleased with her) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The siwaak purifies the mouth and is pleasing to the Lord.” Narrated by al-Nasaa’i, 5; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Nasaa’i, 5.

These ahaadeeth indicate that it is mustahabb to use the siwaak at all times, and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) did not make an exception in the case of one who is fasting, rather the general meaning of the hadeeth includes both those who are fasting and those who are not fasting.

It is permissible to swallow the saliva after using the siwaak, but if anything comes out of the siwaak in the mouth, you should spit it out and then swallow the saliva, just as the fasting person is allowed to do wudoo’, then he should spit out the water from his mouth and then swallow his saliva. He does not have to dry his mouth completely from the water used for rinsing.

Al-Nawawi said in al-Majmoo’ (6/327):

Al-Mutawalli and others said: When the fasting person rinses his mouth, he has to spit out the water; he does not have to dry out his mouth using a cloth or the like. There is no difference of scholarly opinion on this point.

Al-Bukhaari (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

Chapter: Using fresh or dry siwaak for one who is fasting … Abu Hurayrah said, narrating from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Were it not that it would cause hardship for my ummah, I would have commanded them to use the siwaak for every wudoo’.” Al-Bukhaari said: There is no difference between one who is fasting and one who is not. ‘Aa’ishah said, narrating from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “The siwaak purifies the mouth and is pleasing to the Lord.” ‘Ata’ and Qutaadah said: he may swallow his saliva.

Al-Haafiz said in al-Fath:

By using this title, he refuted those who say that it is makrooh for a fasting person to use a fresh siwaak. This was preceded by Ibn Sireen’s likening the fresh siwaak to the water used for rinsing the mouth (in wudoo’).

“There is no difference between one who is fasting and one who is not” means also that there is no difference between fresh and dry. By stating this it becomes clear that everything narrated in this chapter fits the title. This is all summed up in the hadeeth of Abu Hurayrah, “Were it not that it would cause hardship for my ummah, I would have commanded them to use the siwaak for every wudoo’.” This implies that it is permissible at all times and in all situations.

“‘Ata’ and Qutaadah said: he may swallow his saliva.” This comment suits the title in the sense that the worst thing that may be feared from using a wet siwaak is that something may come out of it in the mouth. This is like the water used for rinsing the mouth; if the person spits it out from his mouth, it does not matter after that if he swallows his saliva.

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said:

The correct view is that use of the siwaak by one who is fasting is Sunnah at the beginning and at the end of the day. Fataawa Arkaan al-Islam, p. 468

The siwaak is Sunnah for one who is fasting throughout the day, even if it is fresh. If a person uses the siwaak whilst fasting and finds that he can taste it, and he swallows it or spits it out from his mouth and there is saliva on it, then he swallows it, that does not affect him. Al-Fataawa al-Sa’diyyah, 245.

He should avoid that which contains something that could come out of it, such as the fresh siwaak and those which have added flavours that come out, such as lemon and mint. He should spit out anything that breaks off in the mouth, and it is not permissible to swallow it deliberately, but if he swallows it accidentally it does not matter.

From Sab’oona Mas’alah fi’l-Siyaam (Seventy Issues Related to Fasting).

And Allaah knows best.

Thankfully, further guidance on toothpick use and mouth hygiene in general is also provided by Islam Q&A:

A miswak.

What is the sunnah with regard to siwaak?

Question:

What the regulations regarding the miswak (tooth stick) and its usage:

1. its length and type;
2. how to hold and brush with it according to the Sunnah;
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?

Answer:

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 making wudoo’.”

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 was obligatory.

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:

1. 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.

2. 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).

3. 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)

4. 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.

5. 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 worshippers there.

6. 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 later on.

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 regard.

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 job.

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 valid point.

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:

1. That a person should not use the siwaak in front of others or in public, because this is impolite.

2. 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).

3. 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 acceptable.

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 ‘Uthaymeen, 1/137)

Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid

Thank Allah that has all been straightened out.

— I think.

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, September 30th, 2006. Comments are currently closed.

3 Responses to “Islam Q&A – Brush Teeth During Ramadan?”

  1. Liberals Demise says:

    You have got to be kidding me.
    Q: What is the proper way to wipe ones’ touchy during ramalamadingdong?
    Right or left handed?
    Is it okay to look?

  2. Rusty Shackleford says:

    Didn’t read it. Don’t care. Not my thing.

  3. Liberals Make Great Speedbumps says:

    These people are friggin’ nuts!


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