Zamzam (Arabic: زمزم) is a sacred prominent well located in al-Masjid al-Haram, 21 meters far from East of the Ka'ba. According to hadiths, Zamzam, which originally was a spring, was a miracle of Allah for Isma'il (a). The Holy Prophet (s) regards it curative and superior to any kind of water found on earth.
Water of Mecca had been provided by Zamzam well. Afterwards, other wells were constructed in and around Mecca. Water of Zamzam well had always been significant and sacred in view of Mecca people. Using Zamzam water, they performed ablutions for their corpses. Currently, water of this well is accessible to pilgrims of the Ka'ba through piping. Pilgrims often take the water to their countries as souvenir.
'Abd al-Muttalib named it as "Zamzam".
The following could be considered as the reason for naming this well "Zamzam":
- Because it is tasty and palatable. Zamzam literally means tasty and a bit salty water.
- Because it is plentiful and ample.
- Hajar blocked the flow of water by surrounding its spot with stones and pebbles when the water burst out of the ground so as to gather the water. (Zam means to block something or to gather it)
- Because of Jibra'il's croon (zamzamah), since Zamzam is Jibra'il's speech.
Zamzam has various other names such as "Rakdat Jibra'il", meaning the place in which Jibra'il stepped, "Hafirat Isma'il" meaning the well belonging to Isma'il, "Hafirat 'Abd al-Muttalib" meaing the well belonging to 'Abd al-Muttalib, "Birra" meaning full of blessing, "Madnuna" meaning precious and exquisite, "Rawa'" meaning reputation, "Shab'a" meaning quenching ones' thirst, and "Shifa' al-suqm" meaing a heal for diseases. Also some other names like "Baraka", "Sayyida", "Nafi'a", "'Awna", "Bushra", "Safiya", "'Asima", "Salima", "Maymuna", "Mubaraka", "Kafiya", "'Afiya", "Tahira", and "Ta'am tu'm".
- The best kind of water on the earth
- Taking grief and fear away
- Expanding one's beneficial knowledge
- Enhancing one's aliment and income
- It is highly recommended to give water of Zamzam to others as a gift
- It is highly recommended to drink this water and pour it on the body
- Recommendation of tabarruk by the water of Zamzam
- Recommendation of Tahnik with the water of Zamzam (An Islamic tradition that is when the baby is born, one pushes baby's palate by his finger. In hadiths, it is recommended to perform this tradition by making the finger wet with Zamzam water).
Ceremonials for Using Zamzam Water
Ibrahim (a) was ordered by God to bring his wife Hajar and his son Isma'il to the dry scorching land of Mecca, abandoning them and entrusting them to God. After a while, Hajar ran out of water. She ran the distance between the two mountains al-Safa' and al-Marwa seven times seeking for water. When she came back to her child, she observed the vision of Jibra'il who knocked on the ground and water burst out of the spot by God's will. Hajar told the water "Zam! Zam!" (meaning "stop! Stop!") Then she surrounded the spot from which the water was coming out with soil and sand so as to prevent the water from subsiding into the ground.
There are different opinions on the issue of how Zamzam originated. Some ascribed it to Jibra'il who undertook this mission disguising as a human. Some others relate Zamzam's origination to Isma'il and regard it as a miracle and Karama, "Zamzam was created and its water suddenly came out of the ground when little Isma'il was rubbing his heels on the ground out of being extremely thirsty." Sunnis and Shi'as have different hadiths on this issue, so do historians.
Historical Status of the Water
Some historical narrations testify that Zamzam was noteworthy among nations before Islam. In Akhbar Makka, Fakihi narrates from Mujahid, "We traveled to Rome. A monk provided us with a place to spend the night. He asked if anyone of us had come from Mecca, and i said " I am from Mecca". He asked me whether I knew the distance between Zamzam and Hijr. I said I had no idea but to estimate it approximately. He told me: "But I know the distance. Zamzam water comes from under Hijr. I prefer a pan of this water to a pan filled with gold"."
Since the ancient time, people of Mecca had always been viewing Zamzam's water as a sacred water and used it to perform ablutions for their corpses and other uses such as drinking.
First Time Zamzam Grew Dry
There was no water in the desert of Mecca. No one had lived there until God created Zamzam for the sake of Isma'il. Consequently, a tribe from Yemen by the name of "Jurhum" got settled there because of the water. Gradually, Mecca became residential and civil.
Jurhum tribe consumed Zamzam water for many years, but gradually, water of Zamzam subsided and finally was drained as a result of Jurham's misbehaving towards the house of God (Ka'ba), understating it, and misusing the properties and the money dedicated to it. The area where the well had been located decayed as time went on and no sign of it remained due to consecutive floods in the region. Ultimately, Khuza'a tribe took over the power and exiled Jurhum tribe from haram (Ka'ba and its near surrounding areas).
Renewed Measure for Establishing Zamzam
When 'Abd al-Muttalib was the leader of Quraysh and had the responsibility of giving water to Hajjs (pilgrims of Ka'ba), he went to suburbs along with his camels and extracted water from the wells located around Mecca. Mecca experienced drought for a period of time. At that time, wells of Mecca grew dry due to lack of rainfall. Once when 'Abd al-Muttalib was sleeping in Hijr Isma'il, he observed someone in his dream ordering him to dig Birra. He asked the person what "Birra" is. In the next day, the same person told him to dig Tayyiba. He again asked what "Tayyiba" is. In the third day, he saw the same person again in his dream stating "dig Madnuna!". He questioned that what "Madnuna" is. Finally, in the fourth day, that person told 'Abd al-Muttalib, "dig Zamzam, the water which will never subside and will ever be scolded, the water which quenches thirst of abundant of pilgrims. Dig the spot at which a raven with red point and feet knocks ants' nest with his point." Exactly at the mentioned point located a stone and ants came out of the ground from under the stone while a raven was hunting them.
With the help of the signs, Abd al-Mutalib found the spot. He called on his son Harith and they both started to search for the hidden well by digging the ground. At one point they reached the well and water where Ismael had put stones around it.
Through the Ages
The first construction specified for giving water to pilgrims was built in the sahn (courtyard) of Masjid al-Haram between the Eastern Rukn and Maqam Ibrahim by 'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib. It was named Siqayat al-'Abbas. Later in 65/684, when expanding Masjid al-Haram, Siqayat al-'Abbas was moved to the East of haram. A wooden dome was built above it and its name changed into Qubbat al-'Abbas.
Two domes were constructed by al-Mahdi al-Abbasi's order beside Zamzam well, at its East. One was allocated for al-Siqaya (giving water to pilgrims) at the place where 'Abbas gave water to pilgrims. The other dome was specified for keeping the Qur'ans.
In 1126/1714, Qubbat al-'Abbas, which used to be in the form of square, was reconstructed as an octagon. As time went on, it was no longer used as a place for giving water to pilgrims. So, people kept the Qur'ans and "mawqufa" books for students studying religion science. In 1259/1843, an equipped library was established there which afterwards developed. Today, this library is known as Maktabat al-haram al-makki al-sharif.
In 1374/1954, a building was constructed above Zamzam at the same time with installing a water engine above the well. Since this building hampered people from circulating Ka'ba, it was destroyed in 1383/1963. The whole establishment was moved underground with links of two rows of stairs for entering and exiting. Due to these refinements, the new location of Zamzam well was five meters under the surface of al-Masjid al-Haram, and its one-meter opening was expanded into a five-meter one. Also its depth became 30-40 meters.
In recent years, a wider area was needed for tawaf due to the increasing number of pilgrims. Therefore, the underground construction was no longer used and instead, a special construction was made for Zamzam at the East side of al-Masjid al-Haram. In addition to this position, there are other special places for water of Zamzam in different parts of haram as well as many water containers. This construction was destroyed just like the previous one in order to extend the capacity of al-Masjid al-Haram.
The water of Zamzam is transferred to purification center located in Ajyad Street, near the Third Tariq al-Da'iri, after being extracted from the well. After purification, the water is cooled in a special building near Bab al-fath, and again is returned to al-Masjid al-Haram. An amount of Zamzam water is sent to Masjid al-Nabi by water tankers every day. It is common for Muslims to take Zamzam water to their cities after performing al-hajj al-'umra. Turkish and Egyptian pilgrims have outpaced other nationalities on this issue.
The original spring of Zamzam is positioned on the direction of al-Hajar al-Aswad. The average consumption of Zamzam water by Ka'ba pilgrims is 10 thousand cubic meters.
Initially, Zamzam water was extracted with ropes and strings, yet today the well is located in an underground room and can be viewed from behind large glasses and pilgrims are not allowed to enter. Electrical pumps extract the water from the well and make it accessible for pilgrims through large containers.
- The material for writing this article is mainly taken from زمزم in Farsi WikiShia.