Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Zam Zam Well

The holy city of Mecca is the home to the famous Zam Zam water well. This well, in fact, is the reason for Mecca’s existence. The legend of the Zam Zam Well’s existence is really quite interesting. There are several versions of the story about the discovery of the Zam Zam Well. One version goes that centuries ago, around 2000 BC, the Prophet Ibrahim took his family to the area where Mecca stands today to leave them there. When his wife Hajira asked Ibrahim why he was leaving them there in this desert with no water, he told her that he had been instructed by God to do so. His wife was then fine with the decision and believed that God would provide for the family. One of her sons eventually got so thirsty, he began digging with his foot into the sandy soil. Suddenly water appeared in the hole and this source of water is called the Zam Zam Well.

Another version of the story varies a bit by telling that Hajira was seeking water for her infant who was dying of thirst and that she ran between the two hills of Marwah and Safa seven times in the sweltering heat in search of water. At this point God sent down the angel Gabriel. Gabriel dug a hole in the dry and dusty earth and suddenly there was water spewing forth from the ground. There are other little variations on the story as well. The name Zam Zam originates from the Arabic phrase “Zome Zome,” which means “stop flowing.” This is reportedly what Hajira kept repeating once the spring water began flowing and she was trying to contain it.

The discovery of this well brought people who then settled in the desolate area which was named Mecca. The Zam Zam Well is located just a few meters from the Kaaba, which is the place that all Muslims face five times daily when they pray. According to some legends, the well has never once gone dry to this day. However others believe that the well disappeared for a while because the controlling tribe of Mecca, the Jurham, had sinned grievously and that they had filled in the well with dirt out of spite when their tribe was driven out of Mecca. Muslim tradition says that Mohammed’s grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib, later dreamed where the well was located, and he consequently rediscovered it.

The site of the well has undergone several transformations over the ensuing years, from being surrounded by stones to being covered with domes of tile, teak and marble. The mosque built to house the Kaaba throughout its history has been damaged by fire, restored, and remodeled. In the early 1900s, the most comprehensive restoration occurred under the rule of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, when the Zam Zam housing was moved a bit further away to prevent possible damage when millions of pilgrims perform the ritual of circling around the Kaaba. Zam Zam water is available for free to those who visit the Holy Mosque in Mecca and is pumped in to the eastern reaches of the mosque in separate locations for both men and women pilgrims.

The story about Hajira and how the Zam Zam Well originated is remembered by all Muslims during their pilgrimmage to Mecca. Men run between the two hills of Safa and Marwah seven times just as Hajira did. Women walk the distance seven times. When they are done, they then drink from the Zam Zam Well.

The Prophet Mohammed alleged that the Zam Zam water had healing effects. It has also been reported that the Prophet used to carry the water with him, sprinkling it over the sick and having them drink it. This is why many Muslims believe that the water is miraculous and “divinely blessed.” It is said that Zam Zam water satisfies both hunger as well as thirst in addition to having medicinal value in curing illness. Indeed, some people claim to have been cured of illness after drinking Zam Zam water. I read reports that say scientists have conducted tests on Zam Zam water which have concluded that there is an overabundance of many minerals in the water such as fluoride, magnesium, calcium, iodide, sulphate and nitrate contents, which makes it more nutritive and provides healing effects such as reducing heartburn and quenching thirst. Many Muslims claim that Zam Zam water has no taste at all, but it definitely does have a taste to me. My favorite drink on earth is cool water. But personally, I don’t care for the taste of the Zam Zam water. Since it has a higher content of natural minerals in it, I think this is what gives it its flavor and has an aftertaste for me.

Millions of Muslim visitors from around the world visit Mecca each year during the Hajj. All Muslims, if they are able to, are required to make this pilgrimage at least once during their lifetime. Because of the world’s growing Muslim population and the ease of air travel, the Hajj continues to grow in size every year. Since one ritual that is followed by all pilgrims during the Hajj is to wash (ablution) before prayers and to drink later from the Zam Zam Well, plus the fact that many pilgrims like to take home water from the well to give to their relatives and friends, concern has arisen over whether the well can continue to supply enough water to meet the growing demand. There is now a Zam Zam Studies and Research Center in charge of keeping the water sanitized and abundant. Also, the Saudi government has prohibited Zam Zam from being exported and sold outside the country. Consequently, because there is such a zealous commericial demand for the water, fake Zam Zam has been distributed and sold in many countries.

The Zam Zam Well is a constant source of precious water in this arid desert holy city of Mecca. The water is also sold outside the mosque and distributed to the far reaches of the Kingdom. Most homes in the KSA are not without their supply of Zam Zam water.


  1. Hi Susie,Is this the same story of Abraham and Hagar in the old testament?
    Just hearing those stories gives me chills.I think seeing the well would make a believer out of me.
    Are there any healing powers associated with zam zam water?

  2. Susie,
    I was just thinking of the wealth of information you are giving to people that are fortunate to read your blog. I love history and I never knew this of Mecca. The other idea that popped into my head is that I hope that someday when and if you return to the USA you will take the time to write a book with all of your experiences that you have and will encounter. I truly love everything that you have written and am grateful that we have reconnected.

  3. Hi, Always in the Kitchen!
    Yes, the story of Abraham and Hagar in the Old Testament, and the one I talked about are one in the same. Ibrahim and Hajira are the Arabic names for them.
    Many people believe that Zam Zam possesses healing powers, since it has Mohammed's endorsement. I was told about the Zam Zam Legend by my husband's brother, so I did some research on my own and read various online articles. Many of them convey the same information about the miraculous powers of Zam Zam.
    The Christians, Jews and Muslims all believe that Ibrahim was an important and prominent figure and prophet of their religions.

  4. To Sandie -
    Thanks for your nice comments. I am so happy that others are interested in the history, culture, and customs here as much as I am.

  5. That was really interesting. I'd heard of it before, but not in that much detail.

    On a side note: (that has nothing to do w/ the topic other than the name) I had Zam Zam Lemon Sprint while in Zanzibar... was - different. I know it's not the same thing though lol. I still have the can... washed it & kept as a souvanier.

  6. Hi Mama Kalila -
    You are like me - I keep stuff like that too!

  7. I am glad you covered this subject. It is interesting.

    My mother in law's family is part of the "Waqf az Zam Zam". I am not sure exactly what that entails, something about original ownership or something of the land on which the well stands.

    Anyway, the entire family gets a payout by the Saudi government.

    When/if we travel to Saudi I want to investigate more about this, the well and the Waqf that the al Rayes family belongs to.

  8. Yes, Abu Sinan - I had read about the honor that was bestowed on one family charged with the care and management of the Zam Zam Well and the Hajj pilgrims. Originally Mecca's residents were comprised of Ibrahim's descendants. Then I read that the Prophet Mohammed's grandfather and his family had been placed in charge of caring for the Zam Zam Well. There are so many interesting stories (and variations!) pertaining to this part of the world. Not being an expert and finding it slightly confusing, I didn't want to state something incorrect.
    I hope that one day you will be able to travel here - Inshallah.

  9. I have some bottles of ZamZam water brought here right from Makkah. I drank one and it tasted sooo nice compared to Canadian drinking water, LoL! My husband has a bottle saved in case he gets a little under the weather. Did you read how even the scientists are stumped about the ZamZam well? Because apparently they tried some other experiments to figure out things about it.

    Susie, you should do a post about other scientific miracles from the Quran, such as how it accurately described an embryo, the seven layers of sky, the prediction in Surah Ar-Rum (Chapter of Rome--which gave the exact date of Persian defeat of the Romans, including a fact that would've been totally unknown to men a thousand years ago **it says in the Quran that the Baltic sea was the lowest part of the earth***), etc etc.

    Ahh, I could keep on listing the scientific miracles of the Quran and Sunnah. Zamzam is just one of them, masha'Allah. Meanwhile, some people like to say Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.s was a "madman" and the Quran is not even worth the status of a Holy Book, but thats for ppl who hate us and Islam. Good thing I looked past the ignorance and actually read the Quran for myself, and realized it was truly God's Word.

    Thnx Susie for the informative post:-D

    Aalia Always

  10. It's great that you're explaining these things; the rituals of annual pilgrimage to Makkah are about commemorating the actions of Ibrahim and Hajar. Just a few points about what Muslims believe...

    When Ibrahim took Hajar and left her at Makkah, she only had the one baby, Ishmael. He is considered the father of the Arabs, and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a descendant of his.

    It was Ismael who was almost sacrificed by his father Ibrahim to show his willingness to obey God (Allah). This incident is commemorated every year at the end of the Hajj, when Muslims all over the world celebrate Eid al-Adha and make a ritual sacrifice of a sheep (or other animal).

    Ibrahim and Ismael built the Kaaba. One of the rites of the pilgrimage is that, after you circumnambulate the Kaaba seven times, you pray near the "station of Ibrahim" where Ibrahim used to stand when he was building the Kaaba (which you can see here).

    Men and women both walk between the two hills of Safa and Marwah seven times, but there's one area where men should run each time.

    There is Zamzam water available in coolers all along the way, and all throughout the mosque, so people drink whenever they want - but the time when you are supposed to drink Zamzam water is actually before walking between Safa and Marwah - after praying at the station of Ibrahim. Zamzam does have a taste to me, too; the coolers provide it chilled or not, but I prefer it cold.

    Millions of Muslims come to Makkah to perform the Hajj, but millions also come throughout the year to perform the Umrah (minor pilgrimage) which can be done at any time of the year, and which includes the rites you mentioned. (Although there's no requirement to make ablution with Zamzam water, as far as I know; many people make ablutions in their hotels.)

  11. Abu Sinan, I'm sure you know this, but just to be clear... if it's a Waqf, then it's a religious endowment and not exactly a payout from the government.

  12. Hi Aalia -
    My hubby and his brother are always telling me stories from the Koran and they are always so interesting. There is so much research to be done! Thanks for your suggestions - I'll see what I can do!

    Thanks, Ann -
    I am so thankful for your clarifications. I haven't been to Mecca yet (one day, Inshallah) and I am still so new to all of this. I appreciate your input!

  13. I want some! I can do with some healing!
    Very interesting susie: I had heard about it but never knew exactely what it was!

  14. Ann,

    I dont really know that much about it. All I know is that the family receives an amount of money from the Saudi government, or some arm of it.

    Hopefully when I go to Saudi, Insha'Allah, I'll be able to sit with my wife's uncles and learn more about it.

  15. asalaam alaikum susie,
    happy to have found your blog. great info, and i was about to make a comment with much of what ann im glad she beat me to it :-) let me add that maqam ibrahim has been moved further away from the kaaba too to permit the masses to tawaf around without it being in the way..which mashaAllah it is still in the middle of the people tawaffin!

    as far as exporting zamzam..actually when you go to the jeddah aiport you will know this is not true. zamzam is carried by muslims back to their homes all over the world..unless something has changed in the past few weeks.

    also as far as selling zamzam..those who are selling them are doing it illegally because..and there has been some crackdowns on them in the past..

    one more thing about zamzam..Masjid an-Nabawi here in Madinah gets a daily shipment of it..or should I say truckloads of it. Men sometimes can also find zamzam in Masjid Quba here in Madinah at times as well..

    I recently hear Sh. Mohamed Saleh on Huda tv saying that if you believe in the baraka of Zamzam by Allah's will then anything you ask for will be given by ALLAH..not just there are more benefits to it than health.
    Also when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was a young child there's the story of Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) who washed our beloved's heart with zamzam..

    and Allah knows best..
    may Allah increase us all in knowledge and reward you for sharing with us.
    may ALLAH faciliate a trip to makkah for you soon..and inshaAllah look me up when you make it to madinah :-)

  16. Susie,
    I really enjoyed reading about the Zam Zam Well. I am really learning a lot, thanks.

  17. To Aafke and Jessie -
    Thanks - I'm glad you found this post informative. I am impressed with the wealth of information from all the commenters here too!

    To Suhaa -
    Thanks for adding all the great info. And inshallah, when I get to Madniah, I will look you up!

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