Zamzam Well

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Pilgrims visiting the Well

The Well of Zamzam (or the Zamzam Well, or just Zamzam; زمزم is a well located within the Masjid al Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 20 metres east of the Kaaba, the holiest place in Islam. Ibraham's infant son Ishmael was thirsty and kept crying for water and was kicking at the ground when water gushed out. Millions of pilgrims visit the well each year while performing the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages, in order to drink its water.


Origin of Zamzam

The Zamzam well was revealed to Hagar, the wife of Ibraham and mother of Ishmael, around the year 2000 BC. Hagar was desperately seeking water for her infant son, but could find none, 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. Ismael scraped the land with his feet, where suddenly water sprang out. There are other versions of the story involving Allah sending his angel, Gabriel, who touched the ground where water rose.[1]

The name of the well comes from the phrase Zomë Zomë, meaning ‘stop’, a command repeated by Hajar during her attempt to contain the spring water.[2]

Ibraham rebuilt the Bait-ul-Allah (House of God) near the site of the well, a building which had been originally constructed by Adam, and today is called the Kaaba, a building towards which all Muslims around the world face in prayer, five times each day. The Zamzam well is located approximately 20 metres east of the Kaaba.

Zamzam Well

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka'ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ishmael's mother followed him saying, "O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?" She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered you to do so?" He said, "Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect us," and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka'ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:

'O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Kaba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.' Qur'an, 014:037

Ishmael's mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had).

When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times."

The Prophet said, "This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, 'O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?" And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam Zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it."

The Prophet added, "May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael's mother! Had she let the Zam-zam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zam-zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth." The Prophet further added, "Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her, 'Don't be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.' The House (i.e. Kaba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada'. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, 'This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.' They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water)." The Prophet added, "Ishmael's mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, 'Do you allow us to stay with you?" She replied, 'Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.' They agreed to that." The Prophet further said, "Ishmael's mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learnt Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them.

After Ishmael's mother had died, Abraham came after Ishmael's marriage in order to see his family that he had left before, but he did not find Ishmael there. When he asked Ishmael's wife about him, she replied, 'He has gone in search of our livelihood.' Then he asked her about their way of living and their condition, and she replied, 'We are living in misery; we are living in hardship and destitution,' complaining to him. He said, 'When your husband returns, convey my salutation to him and tell him to change the threshold of the gate (of his house).' When Ishmael came, he seemed to have felt something unusual, so he asked his wife, 'Has anyone visited you?' She replied, 'Yes, an old man of so-and-so description came and asked me about you and I informed him, and he asked about our state of living, and I told him that we were living in a hardship and poverty.' On that Ishmael said, 'Did he advise you anything?' She replied, 'Yes, he told me to convey his salutation to you and to tell you to change the threshold of your gate.' Ishmael said, 'It was my father, and he has ordered me to divorce you. Go back to your family.' So, Ishmael divorced her and married another woman from amongst them (i.e. Jurhum).

Then Abraham stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished and called on them again but did not find Ishmael. So he came to Ishmael's wife and asked her about Ishmael. She said, 'He has gone in search of our livelihood.' Abraham asked her, 'How are you getting on?' asking her about their sustenance and living. She replied, 'We are prosperous and well-off (i.e. we have everything in abundance).' Then she thanked Allah' Abraham said, 'What kind of food do you eat?' She said. 'Meat.' He said, 'What do you drink?' She said, 'Water." He said, "O Allah! Bless their meat and water." The Prophet added, "At that time they did not have grain, and if they had grain, he would have also invoked Allah to bless it." The Prophet added, "If somebody has only these two things as his sustenance, his health and disposition will be badly affected, unless he lives in Mecca." The Prophet added," Then Abraham said Ishmael's wife, "When your husband comes, give my regards to him and tell him that he should keep firm the threshold of his gate.' When Ishmael came back, he asked his wife, 'Did anyone call on you?' She replied, 'Yes, a good-looking old man came to me,' so she praised him and added. 'He asked about you, and I informed him, and he asked about our livelihood and I told him that we were in a good condition.' Ishmael asked her, 'Did he give you any piece of advice?' She said, 'Yes, he told me to give his regards to you and ordered that you should keep firm the threshold of your gate.' On that Ishmael said, 'It was my father, and you are the threshold (of the gate). He has ordered me to keep you with me.'

Then Abraham stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished, and called on them afterwards. He saw Ishmael under a tree near Zamzam, sharpening his arrows. When he saw Abraham, he rose up to welcome him (and they greeted each other as a father does with his son or a son does with his father). Abraham said, 'O Ishmael! Allah has given me an order.' Ishmael said, 'Do what your Lord has ordered you to do.' Abraham asked, 'Will you help me?' Ishmael said, 'I will help you.' Abraham said, Allah has ordered me to build a house here,' pointing to a hillock higher than the land surrounding it." The Prophet added, "Then they raised the foundations of the House (i.e. the Ka'ba). Ishmael brought the stones and Abraham was building, and when the walls became high, Ishmael brought this stone and put it for Abraham who stood over it and carried on building, while Ishmael was handing him the stones, and both of them were saying, 'O our Lord! Accept (this service) from us, Verily, You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.' The Prophet added, "Then both of them went on building and going round the Ka'ba saying: O our Lord ! Accept (this service) from us, Verily, You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing." Qur'an, 02:127 [3]

Zamzam Well

ZamZam Well and Jurhum

The tribe of Banu Jurhum were attracted to Mecca because of the zamzam, and led to their settling down, in this area. They stayed and governed the area for 300 years, and according to some narrations, 500 years. It was the immorality, mischief, and flagrant disobedience of this tribe that led to their disgraceful eviction from the pure land of Makkah . When they left Makkah, they dumped the treasures of the Kaaba S, its Ghilaaf (covering) and valuable swords into the well of Zam-zam, then they covered it with sand, thereby covering it completely and closing it up. Five hundred years passed upon it in this condition. During this era, its name and signs were completely forgotten and erased.

ZamZam and Abdul-Muttalib

Many generations passed in Makkah with Zamzam in complete oblivion, until Abdul Muttalib (the paternal grandfather of the ProphetSaws.gif resurrected the dead well. Abdul-Muttalib himself was oblivious to Zamzam. With the approaching of the last divine message, a sequence of significant preludes was in order; the rebirth of Zamzam was one.

It so happened that for three consecutive nights, Abdul-Muttalib had a very clear vision about digging a well. During each vision, the name of the well was different and no location was mentioned. On the fourth night, however, both Zamzam and its location were communicated to Abdul-Muttalib so clearly that he attended to the appointed task on the morning of the very fourth night.

To the utter disbelief of the Makkans who ridiculed the seemingly futile attempt at finding water in such an arid place, Abdul-Muttalib found water in an ancient buried well so close to the Ka'bah. And it was only natural that the Makkans claim a share in this, obviously, special well. Abdul-Muttalib gave no concessions and rejected any such claim.

The Makkans and Abdul-Muttalib's could not negotiate a middle ground, so both parties agreed to seek arbitration. They set out for a priestess whose judgment was accepted by both parties.

On their way, and while crossing the desert, the caravan ran out of water. The companions of Abdul-Muttalib all but gave up any hope of salvation. And when all seemed lost, water sprang out from the ever so small notch that Abdul-Muttalib's camel made with its pad. Upon seeing this, the Makkans knew that He who saved Abdul-Muttalib from this eminent death on this very journey to settle the very question of Zamzam, had made Abdul-Muttalib the sole heir to this special water. The matter was settled and the family of the Prophet, sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam, was ennobled with a mark of clearest distinction.

It is of paramount importance to mention that Abdul-Muttalib's possession of Zamzam was not an act of ownership where he would deny its water to others. Being the sole heir to Zamzam meant that Abdul-Muttalib alone was to provide Zamzam water to the pilgrims; no one else (save his family of course) could partake in this most honorable privilege.


  1. Shil, Mahmoud Isma`il & `Abdul-Wahid, `Abdur-Rahman. The Well of Zam zam. IslamOnline. Retrieved on 2005-06-06.
  2. Zamzam Studies and Research Centre. Saudi Geological Survey. Retrieved on 2005-06-05.
  3. Sahih Bukhari, Volume 55, Book 04, Number 583


According to Islam Online, 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 Abu Ja`far Al-Mansur 771 AD (149 AH) a dome was built above the well, and it was tiled with marble. In 775 AD (153 AH), 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 (213 AH) there was further restoration, and the dome was covered with marble during the caliphate of Al-Mu`tasim.[1]

In 1417 (795 AH), during the time of the Mamluks, the mosque was damaged by fire, and required restoration. Further restoration occurred in 1430 (808 AH), and again in 1499 (877 AH) during the time of Sultan Qaitbai, when the marble was replaced.[1]

In modern times, the most extensive restoration took place to the dome during the era of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1915 (1333 AH). 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.[1]

Technical information

The Zamzam well was excavated by hand, and is about 30 metres deep and 1.08 to 2.66 metres 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 via water fountains and dispensing containers near the Tawaf area.[2]

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 which has a concrete "collar". The lower half is in the bedrock. Between the alluvium and the bedrock is a half-metre 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.[2]

The water level is 3.23 metres (about 10.59 ft) below the surface. A pumping test at 8000 litres/second for more than a 24 hour period showed a drop in water level from 3.23 metres below surface to 12.72 metres and then to 13.39 metres, after which the water level stopped receding. When pumping stopped, the water level recovered to 3.9 metres below surface only 11 minutes later. 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.

Sodium chloride (common salt) is in excess in Zamzam making it taste salty. Muslims believe that Zamzam is beneficial for health. They also claim that the excess amount of sodium does not cause any harmful effects. An independent study of the water has not been done so far.

Minerals parts per million

Calcium 198

Magnesium 43.7

Chloride 335

Sulfur 370

Iron 0.15

Manganese 0.15

Copper 0.12

(Analysis of a study conducted in the laboratory of the Department of Water and Waste Water Treatment, the Western Province, Saudi Arabia, 1400 H.E.)

Commercial sale of Zamzam

In Europe, alleged Zamzam water is frequently encountered in bottles such as these
The Saudi government has prohibited the commercial export of Zamzam from the kingdom. However, there is a strong commercial demand for Zamzam which resulted in commercial distribution of fake Zamzam along with alleged Zamzam in many countries. British Food Standards Agency have issued warnings about such fake water containing dangerous levels of arsenic.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Shil, Mahmoud Isma`il & `Abdul-Wahid, `Abdur-Rahman. The Well of Zam zam. IslamOnline. Retrieved on 2005-06-06.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Zamzam Studies and Research Centre. Saudi Geological Survey. Retrieved on 2005-06-05.
  3. Sahih Bukhari, Volume 55, Book 04, Number 583
  4. Mahmoud Isma'il Shil and 'Abdur-Rahman 'Abdul-Wahid. Historic Places: The Well of Zamzam. Retrieved on 2008-08-06.
  5. Zam Zam water warning, 2005-10-20, Food Standards Agency


External links

Careem, S. H. A. The Miracle of Zamzam. Sunday Observer. Retrieved on 2005-06-05.

Provides a brief history of the well and some information on the health benefits of Zamzam water.
  • Saudi Geological Survey's Zamzam Studies and Research Center. On activities carried out by the center to secure the supply, in terms of quality and quantity, of Zamzam water.
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