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For other uses, see Zamzam.
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, the holiest place in Islam. According to Islamic mythology, it is a miraculously generated source of water from God, which sprang thousands of years ago when Abraham's (Ibrāhīm) infant son Ishmael (ʼIsmāʻīl) was left with his mother Hagar (Hājar) in the desert, where he was thirsty and kept crying. Millions of pilgrims visit the well each year while performing the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages, in order to drink its water. However, safe consumption is questionable due to possible elevated levels of carcinogenic substances in Zamzam water.
Islamic tradition states that the Zamzam Well was revealed to Hagar, the second wife of Abraham and mother of Ishmael. 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. Hajar 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 (or wing), and the water rose. A similar story about a well is also mentioned in the Bible.
The name of the well comes from the phrase Zomë Zomë, meaning "stop flowing", a command repeated by Hagara during her attempt to contain the spring water.
According to Islamic tradition, Abraham rebuilt the Bayt Allah ("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. In other Islamic tradition, Muhammad's heart was extracted from his body, washed with the water of Zamzam, and then was restored in its original position, after which it was filled with faith and wisdom.
The well originally had two cisterns in the first era, one for drinking and one for ablution. At that time, it was a simple well surrounded by a fence of stones. Then in the era of the AbbasidcaliphAl-Mansur 771 AD (154/155 AH) a dome was built above the well, and it was tiled with marble.
In 775 AD (158/159 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 (220 AH) there was further restoration, and the dome was covered with marble during the caliphate of Al-Mu'tasim.
In 1417 (819/820 AH), during the time of the Mamluks, the mosque was damaged by fire, and required restoration. Further restoration occurred in 1430 (833/834 AH), and again in 1499 (904/95 AH) during the time of SultanQaitbay, when the marble was replaced.
In modern times, the most extensive restoration took place to the dome during the era of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1915 (1333/1334 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.
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 wadialluvium 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.
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 1⁄2-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.
Zamzam water is colourless and odorless, but has a distinct taste, with a pH of 7.5–7.7, indicating that it is alkaline to some extent.
The water and potential health risks
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;such sales have also been reported in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where it is illegal to sell Zamzam water. The Saudi government has prohibited the commercial export of Zamzam water from the kingdom. In May 2011, a BBC London investigation found that water taken from taps connected to the Zamzam Well contained high levels of nitrate, potentially harmful bacteria, and arsenic at levels three times the legal limit in the UK, the same levels found in illegal water purchased in the UK. Arsenic is a carcinogen, raising concerns that any who regularly consume commercial Zamzam water in large quantities may be exposed to higher risks of cancer.
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.[better source needed] Subsequent research from 2017 has found that the methodologies of testing are incomplete, inadequate and biased.
The BBC's findings have drawn mixed reactions from the Muslim community. 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." 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. The Saudi authorities have thus said that the water is fit for human consumption. 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.
- ^ abcde"Zamzam Studies and Research Centre". Saudi Geological Survey. Archived from the original on June 19, 2013. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
- ^Bible. Genesis 16:3A Hebrew – English Bible, Retrieved July 13, 2011
- ^ abcKazmi, Aftab (May 4, 2011). "UAE residents told to avoid buying Zam Zam water". gulfnews.com. Retrieved May 5, 2011.
- ^ abcdeMahmoud 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.
- ^Islam, Shafay (October 31, 2012). "Seeking The Truth: Zamzam - The Holy Water Mention In Bible".
- ^"Sahih Muslim Book 001, Hadith Number 0314". Hadith Collection.
- ^Except where stated all dates are Julian calendar
- ^ abcdefgWalker, John. "Calendar Converter".
- ^Gregorian calendar
- ^"Water quality of bottled water in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia: A comparative study with Riyadh municipal and Zamzam water". Journal of Environmental Science and Health. October 12, 2011. doi:10.1080/10934529.2011.609109. Retrieved 5 December 2016.
- ^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
- ^"Zam Zam water warning". UK Food Standards Agency. Archived from the original on 4 December 2014. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
- ^Lynn, Guy (May 5, 2011). "Contaminated Zam Zam holy water from Mecca sold in UK". BBC News. Retrieved May 6, 2011.
- ^"Zam Zam Water Is Safe, UK". Medical News Today (Press release). Council of British Hajjis (Pilgrims). 13 May 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2015. [unreliable source?]
- ^Telias, Michael (2017). "Miraculous Water is Just Bad Science". Skeptic. Vol. 22 (No. 1): 8–12.
- ^H.A.R. (May 9, 2011). Zamzam Water is Safe to Drink. Waleg Retrieved June 17, 2011
- ^Griner, David (6 May 2011). "Holy Water From Mecca Marketed Illegally in the UK". Adweek. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- ^ abBadea Abu Al-Naja (May 7, 2011). Kingdom rejects BBC claim of Zamzam water contamination. Arab News, retrieved June 2, 2014
- ^"'No arsenic in genuine holy water', Saudis say". BBC News. 8 May 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
- 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.