Quenching the soul: Drinking from Makkah’s Zamzam well
Around 50 meters from the Ka’bah, Islam’s holiest site, lies the “Well of Zamzam,” which according to Islamic tradition was formed miraculously millennia ago at God’s command.
After circumambulating the Ka’bah, pilgrims perform Sa’ey – traversing between the hills of Safa and Marwah – in a religious reenactment of the journey of Prophet Ibrahim’s wife in search of water for her infant son, the Prophet Ismail.
The story, according to Islamic tradition, began when Prophet Abraham left his wife Hajar and son in a barren area in Makkah upon the order of Allah. As their supply of water and food ran out, the two grew thirsty, prompting the mother on her search for water, but to no avail.
She then climbed Mount al-Safa, which was close to her, to see if there were any travelling caravans to assist her. Seeing no one, Hajar descended and headed to Mount al-Marwah, Bilal Philips, founder of the Islamic Online University, said, recalling the Islamic tradition.
Hajar kept walking between the two hills until fresh water miraculously emerged from the ground, according to the tradition, Philips told Al Arabiya News.
The water has been flowing ever since and in time grew to be known as the spring of Zamzam.
The well of Zamzam is 3.5 meters deep, 17 meters of which are of granite rock, according to a report by the Saudi Gazette. The part above the rocky layer is of lime with a constructed well.
The name Zamzam appears to refer to the sound of a hungry person, according to the Arabic al-Waseet Dictionary.
Years later, Muslims commemorate the tradition with the rite of Sa’ey during the annual pilgrimage to Makkah.
“The significance of Zamzam water is on one hand the reiteration of the Quranic message that with difficulty comes ease,” Philips said.
“It is a commemoration of God’s miracle coming to the aid of Hajar at a time when none could help her but him [God].”
It is recommended for pilgrims and for all Muslims in general to drink from Zamzam, Philips added.
Significance of Zamzam
Pilgrims at the Grand Mosque make sure to drink as much water as possible from Makkah’s Zamzam Well and buy containers to take home for family and friends.
Many Muslims believe Zamzam water has miraculous benefits, including curing ailments, but Philips notes that it is a misconception to attribute the water with magical powers.
Such misconceptions have encouraged black market trading of the coveted water.
Philips said “it is part of popular fable” in which people believe drinking Zamzam water cure them immediately of ailments.
“People might out of ignorance mistakenly interpret the prophet’s hadith. Zamzam is for what purpose or intention it has been drunk for.”
“If a person drinking [Zamzam] believes it will cure him from all ills, the fact that he believes the water itself can cure him, is not going to cure him. If it is a matter of asking God to cure him, he is opening doors to God to benefit him through that channel.”
More than 2 million Muslims are currently in Makkah to perform the annual pilgrimage in Islam.
Hajj is considered the fifth pillar of Islam and Muslims who have the physical and financial ability to perform it are required to carry it out at least once in their lifetime.