Zamzam Well

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Well of Zamzam
Native name
Arabic: زمزم
Zamzamwill.JPG
Pilgrims visiting the well.
Location Masjid al-Haram, Mecca
Coordinates 21°25′19.2″N 39°49′33.6″E / 21.422000°N 39.826000°E / 21.422000; 39.826000Coordinates: 21°25′19.2″N 39°49′33.6″E / 21.422000°N 39.826000°E / 21.422000; 39.826000
Area about 30 m (98 ft) deep and 1.08 to 2.66 m (3 ft 7 in to 8 ft 9 in) in diameter
Founded Traditionally about 2000 BC
Governing body Government of Saudi Arabia
Official name: Zamzam
Zamzam Well is located in Saudi Arabia
Zamzam Well
Location of Zamzam Well in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

The Well of Zamzam (or the Zamzam Well, or just Zamzam; Arabic: زمزم‎) is a well located within the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 20 m (66 ft) east of the Kaaba,[1] the holiest place in Islam. According to Islamic belief, it is a miraculously-generated source of water from God, which began thousands of years ago when Abraham's (Ibrāhīm) infant son Ishmael (ʼIsmāʻīl) was thirsty and kept crying for water. Millions of pilgrims visit the well each year while performing the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages, in order to drink its water.

Traditional origin of the Zamzam Well[edit]

Islamic history states that the Zamzam Well was revealed to Hagar (Hājar)(or Hajra in Urdu), the second wife of Abraham[2] and mother of Ishmael.[3] By the instruction of God, Abraham left his wife and son at a spot in the desert and walked away. She was desperately seeking water for her infant son, but she could not find any, as Mecca is located in a hot dry valley with few sources of water. Hagar ran seven times back and forth in the scorching heat between the two hills of Safa and Marwah, looking for water. Getting thirstier by the second, the infant Ishmael scraped the land with his feet, where suddenly water sprang out. There are other versions of the story involving God sending his angel, Gabriel (Jibra'il), who kicked the ground with his heel and the water rose.[4]

The name of the well comes from the phrase Zomë Zomë, meaning stop was a command repeated by Hagar during her attempt to contain the spring water.[1]

According to Islamic history, Abraham rebuilt the Bait-ul-lah ("House of God", cognate of the Hebrew-derived place name Bethel) near the site of the well, a building which had been originally constructed by Adam (Adem), and today is called the Kaaba, a building toward which Muslims around the world face in prayer, five times each day. The Zamzam Well is located approximately 20 m (66 ft) east of the Kaaba.[1]

History[edit]

In Europe, alleged Zamzam water is frequently bottled in plastic containers of this type.
The Zamzam Well

According to IslamOnline, the well originally had two cisterns in the first era, one for drinking and one for ablution.[4] At that time, it was a simple well surrounded by a fence of stones. Then in the era of the Abbasid caliph Al-Mansur 771 AD[5] (154/155 AH)[6] a dome was built above the well, and it was tiled with marble. In 775 AD (158/159 AH),[6] Al-Mahdi rebuilt the well during his caliphate, and built a dome of teak which was covered with mosaic. One small dome covered the well, and a larger dome covered the room for the pilgrims. In 835 AD (220 AH)[6] there was further restoration, and the dome was covered with marble during the caliphate of Al-Mu'tasim.[4]

In 1417 (819/820 AH),[6] during the time of the Mamluks, the mosque was damaged by fire, and required restoration. Further restoration occurred in 1430 (833/834 AH),[6] and again in 1499 (904/95 AH)[6] during the time of Sultan Qaitbay, when the marble was replaced.[4]

In modern times, the most extensive restoration took place to the dome during the era of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1915[7] (1333/1334 AH).[6] To facilitate crowd control, the building housing the Zamzam was moved away from its original location, to get it out of the way of the Tawaf, when millions of pilgrims would circumambulate the Kaaba. The water of the well is now pumped to the eastern part of the mosque, where it was made available in separate locations for men and women.[4]

Technical information[edit]

The Zamzam well was excavated by hand, and is about 30 m (98 ft) deep and 1.08 to 2.66 m (3 ft 7 in to 8 ft 9 in) in diameter. It taps groundwater from the wadi alluvium and some from the bedrock. Originally water from the well was drawn via ropes and buckets, but today the well itself is in a basement room where it can be seen behind glass panels (visitors are not allowed to enter). Electric pumps draw the water, which is available throughout the Masjid al-Haram via water fountains and dispensing containers near the Tawaf area.[1]

Hydrogeologically, the well is in the Wadi Ibrahim (Valley of Abraham). The upper half of the well is in the sandy alluvium of the valley, lined with stone masonry except for the top metre (3 ft) which has a concrete "collar". The lower half is in the bedrock. Between the alluvium and the bedrock is a 12-metre (1 ft 8 in) section of permeable weathered rock, lined with stone, and it is this section that provides the main water entry into the well. Water in the well comes from absorbed rainfall in the Wadi Ibrahim, as well as run-off from the local hills. Since the area has become more and more settled, water from absorbed rainfall on the Wadi Ibrahim has decreased.

The Saudi Geological Survey has a "Zamzam Studies and Research Centre" which analyses the technical properties of the well in detail. Water levels were monitored by hydrograph, which in more recent times has changed to a digital monitoring system that tracks the water level, electric conductivity, pH, Eh, and temperature. All of this information is made continuously available via the Internet. Other wells throughout the valley have also been established, some with digital recorders, to monitor the response of the local aquifer system.[1]

The water level is 3.23 m (10.6 ft) below the surface. A pumping test at 8,000 litres per second (280 cu ft/s) for more than a 24-hour period showed a drop in water level to 12.72 m (41.7 ft) below the surface and then to 13.39 m (43.9 ft), after which the water level stopped receding. When pumping stopped, the water level recovered to 3.9 m (13 ft) below surface only 11 minutes later[citation needed]. This data shows that the aquifer feeding the well seems to recharge from rock fractures in neighbouring mountains around Mecca.[citation needed]

Zamzam water has no colour or smell, but it has a distinct taste, and its pH is 7.9–8.0, indicating that it is alkaline to some extent and is similar to seawater.

Mineral concentration
as reported by researchers at King Saud University[8]
mineral concentration
mg/L oz/cu in
Sodium 133 7.7×10−5
Calcium 96 5.5×10−5
Magnesium 38.88 2.247×10−5
Potassium 43.3 2.50×10−5
Bicarbonate 195.4 0.0001129
Chloride 163.3 9.44×10−5
Fluoride 0.72 4.2×10−7
Nitrate 124.8 7.21×10−5
Sulfate 124.0 7.17×10−5
Total dissolved alkalinity 835 0.000483

Fraudulent Zamzam water and potential health risks[edit]

In May 2011, a BBC London investigation found that fraudulent water marketed as having been taken from the Zamzam Well contained high levels of nitrate, potentially harmful bacteria, and arsenic at levels three times the legal limit in the UK.[9] Arsenic is a carcinogen, raising concerns that Muslims who regularly consume commercial Zamzam water in large quantities may be exposed to higher risks of cancer. The British Food Standards Agency has in the past issued warnings about water claiming to be from the Zamzam Well containing dangerous levels of arsenic;[10] such sales have also been reported in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where it is illegal to sell Zamzam.[3] The Saudi government has prohibited the commercial export of Zamzam water from the kingdom.[3] However, there is a strong commercial demand for Zamzam which has resulted in continued commercial distribution of water alleged to be Zamzam.

Later in that month the Council of British Hajjis stated that drinking Zamzam water was safe and disagreed with the BBC report. They also went on to point out that the Government of Saudi Arabia does not allow the export of Zamzam water for resale. Also stating that it was unknown if the water being sold in the UK was genuine, people should not buy it and report the sellers to the Trading Standards.[11]

The BBC's findings have drawn mixed reactions from the Muslim community.[12] Environmental health officer Dr Yunes Ramadan Teinaz told the British broadcaster about commercially marketed Zamzam water that, "People see this water as a holy water. They find it difficult to accept that it is contaminated, but the authorities in Saudi Arabia or in the U.K. must take action."[13] The Saudi authorities have stated that water from the well was tested by the Group Laboratories of CARSO-LSEHL in Lyon, licensed by the French Ministry of Health for the testing of drinking water. According to reports of these results, the level of arsenic in Zamzam water taken at its source is much lower than the maximum amount permitted by the World Health Organization.[14] The Saudi authorities have thus said that the water is fit for human consumption.[15] Zuhair Nawab, president of the Saudi Geological Survey (SGS), has claimed that the Zamzam Well is tested on a daily basis, in a process involving the taking of three samples from the well. These are said to be examined in the King Abdullah Zamzam Water Distribution Center in Mecca, which is equipped with advanced facilities.[14]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Zamzam Studies and Research Centre". Saudi Geological Survey. Archived from the original on June 19, 2013. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  2. ^ Bible. Genesis 16:3 A Hebrew – English Bible, Retrieved July 13, 2011
  3. ^ a b c Aftab Kazmi (May 4, 2011). "UAE residents told to avoid buying Zam Zam water". gulfnews. Retrieved May 5, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Mahmoud Isma'il Shil and 'Abdur-Rahman 'Abdul-Wahid. "Historic Places: The Well of Zamzam". Archived from the original on February 23, 2008. Retrieved August 6, 2008. 
  5. ^ Except where stated all dates are Julian calendar
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Calendar Converter
  7. ^ Gregorian calendar
  8. ^ Nour Al Zuhair, et al. A comparative study between the chemical composition of potable water and Zamzam water in Saudi Arabia. KSU Faculty Sites, Retrieved August 15, 2010
  9. ^ By Guy Lynn (May 5, 2011). "Contaminated Zam Zam holy water from Mecca sold in UK". BBC News. Retrieved May 6, 2011. 
  10. ^ Zam Zam water warning. Food Standards Agency, (archived (October 25, 2005)), retrieved May 4, 2010
  11. ^ Zam Zam Water Is Safe, UK
  12. ^ HAR (May 9, 2011). Zamzam Water is Safe to Drink. Waleg Retrieved June 17, 2011
  13. ^ David Griner (May 6, 2011). Holy Water From Mecca Marketed Illegally in the UK. Adweek, Retrieved May 24, 2011
  14. ^ a b Badea Abu Al-Naja (May 7, 2011). Kingdom rejects BBC claim of Zamzam water contamination. Arab News, retrieved June 2, 2014
  15. ^ News London (May 8, 2011). 'No arsenic in genuine holy water', Saudis say. BBC News, retrieved May 8, 2011

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Careem, S. H. A. "The Miracle of Zamzam". Sunday Observer. Retrieved June 5, 2005.  Provides a brief history of the well and some information on the alleged health benefits of Zamzam water.