Islamic lore has it that the angel Gabriel caused water to spring from the desert ground to rescue Abraham’s second wife, Hagar, and their son Ishmael, as they wandered in the wilderness.
Another legend says that Ishmael, tired and thirsty, dragged his feet along the ground, and that holy water flowed from the soil his feet touched.
The well built around the spring is called the Zamzam well, and its water is considered holy, with healing properties to body and soul. It is located in Mecca, in the compound around the Kaaba.
Islamic tradition has it that the prophet Mohammed’s heart was miraculously removed from his living body and rinsed in Zamzam water. When his heart was replaced, the Prophet was filled with renewed wisdom and faith.
Mohammed himself stated that Zamzam water is the purest on earth, and good for whatever purpose a pilgrim intends. It’s also said that he drank it standing out of respect for its holiness.
The original fencing at the mouth of the well has been preserved and is displayed at the Exhibition of the Two Holy Mosques Architecture Museum in Mecca.
Claims for physical healing range from relief from fatigue in illness and pregnancy, reversing thyroid complications, protecting your teeth and eyesight, and curing more or less whatever ails you. It is said to relieve anxiety and endow you with courage.
But over all, the highest value of Zamzam well water is spiritual growth and increase of faith.
Some say that Zamzam water alone is enough to keep a person nourished and healthy, and there are many legends about people who lived on it for 40 days, even growing plumper over that time.
Hajj or Umrah pilgrims make a point of drinking Zamzam well water while walking the seven Tawaaf circles around the Kaaba. They also take bottles of Zamzam water back home with them. However, the Saudi Arabian government forbids exporting Zamzam water commercially.
Water was taken from the Zamzam by buckets and ropes for centuries. In 2015, the late Saudia Arabian king Abdullah renovated the well’s works and access to the water. The renovation was completed in 2018 and cost over SR700 million ($187 million USD).
The well is enclosed in an underground room and may be viewed behind windows. Electric pumps draw the water, which is piped in to the area around the Kaaba.
Volunteers hand out Zamzam water bottles to pilgrims arriving by bus. Pilgrims can drink and fill bottles with it simply by turning a tap on at a common water station, or from plastic barrels stationed near the starting point of the Taawaf circles on the Kaaba.
Health claims aside, there’s been controversy over contaminated Zamzam well water sold in the United Arab Emirates and the UK. A BBC London report published in 2013 stated that water taken from the Zamzam well and sold in in Britain contained high levels of nitrate, as well as harmful bacteria, and arsenic at levels three times the legal limit in the UK.
The Saudi government refuted this by stating that as commercial exports of the water are illegal, the public should assume that the bottled water being sold in the UK was plain tap water and should not be purchased.
The Saudis then had the Zamzam water immediately tested by laboratories licensed by the French Ministry of Health, with results showing that it’s safe and fit for human consumption.
The Saudi Geological Survey has stated that three samples are taken from the Zamzam well and tested every day. During Ramadan 100 samples are tested daily. The samples are examined in the King Abdullah Zamzam Water Distribution Center in Mecca.
Have you drank zamzam and noticed any unusual or special properties? Peter Steel protector of living water in Canada taught me personally that water is indeed holy. His message before he passed on last year in 2019 was that we need to protect it with all our heart and all our might.