Radio Islam International | 20 Rajab 1438/18 April 2017
At the recent Ijtima, some stalls had them retailing for barely R5 a piece, yet aCzech brand and lifestyle blog which has recently discovered the Miswak, is marketing the traditional toothstick online at £3.90, or the equivalent of approximately R65!
Yoni Life, which promotes the Miswak under the trade name RAWTOOTHBRUSH, recently posted a video on Facebook wherein it catalogued the “revolutionary” nature of the product, listing some of its health benefits.
Yoni boasts of it being a “toothbrush and toothpaste” combo that “re-mineralises tooth enamel, prevents tooth decay, and whitens teeth”.
Its video garnered at least 2 million views, and was shared thousands of times.
Yet much of this publicity it garnered was in fact borne out of disdain.
Social media users all too familiar with the Miswak roasted Yoni Life for passing off the product as new and failing to acknowledge its ancient roots.
“How did they just gentrify the miswak?” a twitter user called Jenna wrote.
“Done in such poor taste,” Jaron Soh chimed in on Facebook. “Your mistake lies in branding a uniquely cultural product with centuries of history as something new & innovative. In such a long video, you couldn’t even spend 2-3 seconds alluding to its history. This can only be cultural appropriation”.
Several commenters drew attention to the central role played by the Miswak in Islam, and the high merits placed on its usage by the Prophet Muhammad SAW.
Yoni Life was further dragged over the coals for the hefty price tag it attached to the product, contrasted with the very basic price the Miswak called in Muslim societies worldwide.
The company does not seem to have responded to the wave of criticism. However, its website does acknowledge the ancient history of the toothstick, and posts on the product are tagged with the words miswak and siwak amongst others.
“Ever since ancient times, people have been using tree twigs, sticks, Arak tree roots (in Arabic countries) and lemon tree or orange tree roots (in Africa) to clean their teeth and oral cavities,” a product description reads.
“There are various toothbrush plants used in different parts of the world as a source of raw toothbrushes, Salvadora persica being the most common one nowadays. This tree provides a balanced combination of the right structure, hardness and organic fluid. Being aware of the magical effects of this plant on teeth, the dental industry adds its extracts to conventional toothpastes.”
A repeatedly encouraged practice of the Prophet SAW, the Messenger of Allah SAW himself attested, “Siwaak cleanses the mouth and pleases the Lord.”(Sahih al Bukhari)
A hadeeth narrated by Sayyidina Abu Hurayrah RA emphasizes the weight attached to the Miswaak by the Prophet SAW: “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.” (Sahih al Bukhari)
Further narrations point to a host of recommended times for using the Miswaak such as: when making wudhu and prior to Salah, when entering home, when awakening, when one perceives a change in the odour of the mouth, when going to the mosque and when reciting Qur’aan.
The Ulama mention the best thing for cleaning the mouth to be the twigs of the arak 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, drawn from the hadeeth of ‘Abd-Allaah ibn RA who said: “I used to gather siwaak sticks from the arak tree for the Messenger of Allaah SAW (Ahmad).
If arak twigs are not available, the scholars recommended using palm-leaf stalks, twigs of the olive tree, or any kind of sticks that are cleansing and not harmful.
Simultaneously, the Ulama 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.