Have you ever heard of the Arabic word “zamzam”? For example, maybe you know someone who’s going to Mecca and you heard somebody ask them to bring back “zamzam”. Afterwards, you might have wondered to yourself about what exactly this “zamzam” is that everybody’s asking for. After all, it is one of the most often asked for souvenirs of Muslims visiting Mecca for Hajj or Umrah.
Well, today it also happens to be the subject of today’s post. So, without further ado, let’s get started so you won’t have to wonder what zamzam is anymore.
Chances are, if you’ve ever read the Bible or the Holy Quran, you might already know what zamzam water is. (You just didn’t know its name.)
Zamzam water in the Bible is mentioned in Genesis 21:17-20:
"God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation." Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink."
Likewise, Islam’s holy book mentions zamzam water in Quran 2:158
"Verily! As-Safâ and Al-Marwah (two mountains in Makkah) are of the Symbols of Allâh. So it is not a sin on him who perform Hajj or 'Umrah (pilgrimage) of the House (the Ka'bah at Makkah) to perform the going (Tawâf) between them (As-Safâ and Al-Marwah). And whoever does good voluntarily, then verily, Allâh is All-Recogniser, All-Knower."
Still, even if you’ve never read about the zamzam well in the Bible or the Quran, Zamzam’s history is interesting.
The origins of zamzam lie in the story of the prophet Abraham.
Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were childless. As a result, Sarah told Abraham to lie with her maidservant, Hagar, so that he would have an heir. Abraham did as his wife suggested, and indeed, Hagar bore him a son whom Hagar called Ishmael. However, soon after, Sarah came to regret her decision and became jealous of Hagar. God then told Abraham to take Hagar and her son far away from Sarah’s jealous eyes.
Though he was very sad about this, Abraham did as God asked. He took Hagar from Canaan (today’s Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Palestine) to the far off barren land of Mecca. Giving her some dates and water, Abraham turned his back to her and started heading home. As he walked away, Hagar called out, “Has God told you to do this?”
Abraham shook his head, “Yes”.
Hagar replied, “Then God will not cause us to be lost.”
Inevitably, the two ran out of dates and water in that dry and desolate land. As a result, the child became very thirsty and started crying. Desperate, Hagar ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa in search of water for her son. On her seventh trip between the two hills, an angel appeared before her. “God has heard Ismael’s cries,” he said and immediately, a spring burst forth from the ground beneath Ismael’s heel. Hagar carefully collected some water for herself and her son. The well was subsequently named “Zamzam” from the phrase “Zomë Zomë”, meaning "stop flowing". This is believed to be a phrase Hagar repeated during her attempt to contain the spring water.
Today, some four millennial later, zamzam still quenches the thirst of countless numbers of people from across the globe. Located just 20 meters from the Kabba, the well pumps three to five gallons (11- 19 liters) of water a second. Of course, this leads one to wonder whether or not the well will ever run out of water.
Well, Muslims believe the well will never run dry because it’s a miraculously generated source of water from Allah. While this may be true, it’s also true that Zamzam’s water is renewable water. It’s primary source comes from Meccan rainfall that amounts to an average of 4.4 inch (111 mm) a year. Experts claim the Zamzam well hasn’t replenished itself in years, so the fact that it’s still flowing is truly miraculous.
As mentioned before, Muslims believe zamzam is holy water. In fact, in Saheeh al-Jaami, 3302, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “The best water on the face of the earth is the water of Zamzam. It is a kind of food and a healing from sickness.”
Arabic words that describe Arabic are murwiya (“quenched”) and shabbaa (“satisfying”). Along with a source of nourishment, Muslims also believe it to be a cure for all illnesses. It is also believed that if a person makes a wish after drinking Zamzam water, his wish will come true.
And, as if that’s not enough, here are five other interesting facts about Zamzam:
1. The Zamzam well is 30 meters deep.
2. Zamzam water has no color or smell but a distinct taste.
3. Its high calcium and magnesium salt content are believed to give Zamzam healing properties.
4. Zamzam helps stave off hunger pangs.
5. Zamzam may help reduce stomach acidity.
Today, the Zamzam well is located inside of the Masjid al-Haram only 20 meters from the Al-Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site. Indeed, millions of pilgrims from around the world travel to Makkah for Hajj. As a result, many are requested to bring some Zamzam back home with them. And since the Zamzam water price is SR5 ($1.33 USD) for 10 liters (2.6 gallons), many think that’s a pretty good deal for a souvenir.
Still, if you’d like to try Zamzam, but don’t know anyone going to Mecca anytime soon, don’t worry. Nowadays, you can get zam zam water online. However, the King Abdullah ZamZam Water Distribution Center advises against getting water anywhere from other than the original source. This is because they cannot authenticate the Zamzam’s purity and you may get water that is contaminated. In fact, it may not be Zamzam at all, but local tap water. So, when it comes to zamzam water, buy it straight from the source.
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