Is Zam-Zam unlimited? Many Muslims consider the well of ZamZam to be a miracle, but is it really though? If this were true, Saudi Arabia would have converted their desert into an oasis. But they haven’t. There really isn’t anything special about Zam-Zam.
I won’t repeat the whole story here as it is a popular myth. The well supposedly popped out of nowhere just for Hajar and her son who were starving in the desert left alone by Ibrahim.
“Musa” wrote on my blog:
How can you explain the zam zam well that feeds millions of people everyday and was even scientifically tested by western scientists? Over 5,000 years the well hasnt dried up, zam zam well is a miracle indeed.
Zamzam Studies and Research Center (ZSRC) in Saudi Arabia explains quite clearly that they carefully monitor the water levels and only allow as much as can safely be taken so that the well does not dry up. Not only that, it’s refilled by rainfall. Here is an excerpt from their page:
A threshold water level in the well is maintained. If the water level goes below this level the pumping is stopped, water level is allowed to recover, and then pumping is resumed. The annual discharge from the well is restricted to around 500,000 m3. However, this limit can be modified if hydrological condition so permit. For example, due to last year ‘s high rainfall the augmented aquifer recharge allowed proposed production increase by about 92000 m3 for the year 1432 AH.
There you have it. The water levels are carefully monitored and refilled by rainfall. According to weather data published online, Rainfall in Riyadh is about 100mm per year. The surrounding areas also get similar amounts of rainfall. In California, the wettest areas get six times the rainfall as the drier areas. They transfer the water via aqueducts to support the farming industry. As well, the article also states:
“In order to manage demand water from Zamzam well is pumped, treated, and stored in underground storage tanks on a continual basis.”
So the water is treated. It isn’t pure. And it needs to be stored in case of shortage. Electric pumps used to draw out Zamzam water because it’s not overflowing anymore.
“Every week water samples are collected from the Zamzam well and the various outlets including thermoses and water taps in AlHaram, and Sabeel Kudai and Khazzan outlets. Samples are analyzed for chemical and microbial components. Zamzam water is filtered through a series of sand filters and cartridge filters and then sterilized by ultraviolet (UV) irradiation at these treatment plants before distribution to consumers. AlHaram Authority is advised to take action if and when some unexpected adverse component is detected.”
I guess the holy water has germs in it. LOL! But we already know this from the fact that many harmful pathogen superpreader events happen in churches and Mosques. God might keep the devil away, but he can’t keep germs away.
So there you have it. The water isn’t distributed in its pure form. It is monitored and goes through various filtering and testing before it is distributed. There is nothing miraculous about this. It’s just science.
Nathan Halverson published an interesting article where he has explained that the reason why Zam-Zam hasn’t dried up is because Saudi Arabia has an ancient aquifer beneath it – glacial water from the last Ice Age trapped under the sand, thanks to quirks in its geology. This aquifer has made it possible for Saudi to become the world’s 6th biggest producer of wheat. It is possible that the Zam-Zam is fed by this aquifer which some estimates put it as big as Lake Erie. But the aquifer water is being drawn down so fast that it is drying up: hence the controls on Zam-Zam. So again, no miracle.
Another funny thing about Zamzam is if you make a prayer to Allah before drinking Zamzam Allah will grant you your wish. The hadith goes:
The water of Zamzam is for whatever purpose it is drunk for,’ so, O Allaah, I am drinking it (to quench) my thirst on the Day of Resurrection.”
So you can drink it for whatever purpose and your wish would be granted? I am sure a lot of Muslims – myself included when I was still a Muslim – have prayed for something before drinking Zamzam and their wish was still not granted. What do you make of that? Did they drink the water wrong?
Some Muslims believe that it is a miracle that when ZamZam water is mixed with ordinary water the ordinary water gains properties of ZamZam water. However, a simple understanding of basic science says otherwise. If you mix any two or more ordinary liquids, they gain some properties from each other. This isn’t unique to ZamZam only hence there is nothing miraculous.
In October 2005 the British Food Standards Agency issued warnings against what they claimed was fraudulent Zamzam water being sold in different areas of the UK that contained dangerous levels of arsenic. Muslim leaders are the ones who reported this issue to the agency so I feel like maybe they made up the “fake Zamzam” part because a few years later in 2011,
BBC reported that Zamzam water that was being illegally sold to Muslims in some areas of London and Luton had a high level of arsenic. “The water is poisonous, particularly because of the high levels of arsenic, which is a carcinogen,” said Dr. Duncan Campbell, president of the Association of Public Analysts. Coincidence?
A few days later The Saudi Arabian embassy in London has said there is “no arsenic” in Zamzam water and that the water was tested in March of that year and it was found fit for drinking.
Dr. Yunes Ramadan Teinaz who is an environmental health officer has said that it is a sensitive matter because Muslims see this as holy water so they find it hard to believe that it’s not safe. He also added that the authorities in Saudi Arabia or in the UK must take some action to protect people.
The problem is this didn’t just happen twice. It happened in 2010 and in 2007 also. Bbc reported it was “fake” Zamzam water with a high level of arsenic.
Now to be clear, there’s no solid evidence. Maybe the Zamzam water that was being illegally sold in the UK with high levels of arsenic was not really from Makkah. Or maybe it was. But the point is that when we start treating water as magical, people are going to take advantage and scam others.
In conclusion, there is nothing special about the zam-zam well any more than any other well in the world.