The well of Zam-zam

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.

ZamZam drinking water

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.

Electrical systems for pumping and treating ZamZam water

“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.”

Samples of ZamZam being taken for testing

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.

14 thoughts on “The well of Zam-zam

  1. Your link about the BCC London investigations into ZamZam water doesn’t actually talk about ZamZam water from Saudi Arabia, but instead discusses water sold in the UK by British stores.

    To quote the article:

    “A BBC investigation discovered “Zam Zam” water was being sold by Muslim bookshops in Wandsworth, south-west London, and Upton Park, east London, as well as in Luton, Bedfordshire” and “None of the three shops involved would say why they were selling the water or how they obtained it, but further investigation suggested it had now been removed from their shelves.”

    Another article from the BBC tells us that:

    “Environmental health officers carried out on-the-spot inspections at about 50 stores to ensure fraudulent Zam Zam water was not being sold. They said the water was known to contain high levels of nitrates and arsenic, was not being sold.” and “The warning does not cover genuine Zam Zam, which is sourced from the Well of Zam Zam, located within the Masjid al Haram in Mecca.” and “She said: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia forbids the commercial export of genuine Zam Zam, so we have no idea of the true source of the water which ends up on the streets of the UK.”

  2. You are not addressing why the other wells dry up much faster, the rain fall should also refill the other wells, also zam zam well is like a gushing spring. The high quality and unique aspect of zam zam which can cure sicknesses and has capacity to feed millions everyday from such a small well is a miracle. Also if you compare zam zam water to any other wells nearby you will see a clear difference in taste and mineral composition,the water shouldnt taste very different from nearby wells if its the same water from rainfall and should be the same quality.
    So to conclude zam zam is a miracle because the well outlasts other wells and the water quality is the best in the world, the water can treat sicknesses and has the capacity to feed millions everyday.

    Mecca is built on a mass of igneous rock, and due to the process in which they form, these rocks have no pores and – due to partial melting of the minerals of which the rock comprises -cause any existing pores to close up. Science tells us that water reservoirs can only exist in rocks that are highly porous and permeable. Geologist Dr Zaghloul Al-Najjar, states that this simple and great fact verifies the sanctity and holiness of the land. the only rational answer is the water is blessed by God as a mercy and the story of Hajar is true.

    1. I thought I did address that. Put simply, the Saudi government spends millions in infrastructure on this well to ensure it continues to run. There is nothing supernatural about it. Do you disagree? Do you think Allah is sending angels to refill the water or something? Is there no other similar wells we can find in the world that naturally refill?

      1. This well has the capacity to meet demand which is millions everyday, if the other wells were used for the same purpose they wouldn’t last a month. The water has a unique taste, have you tasted it ?

    2. I did taste it when I went for Umrah few years ago. The taste is different yes, but so is every other water I’ve tasted. The water in Kenya tasted different. Water in Egypt tasted different. The mineral composition of water would vary from place to place. I don’t think millions drink zam-zam daily, like you are saying. Maybe thousands at most?

      1. I am not sure if this is the correct numbers Masjid Al-Haram can hold approximately 900,000 people inside, and another 1,200,000, and the masjid is almost always full and many people fill up their bottles with zam zam. Also gallons are transferred to other cities across saudi arabia. They pump 8 thousand liters per second I believe. But at the end of the day I guess to Me it’s a miraculous and blessed but others might not see it that way.

        1. I’d rather trust the Saudi government over you.
          And they clearly stated that if the threshold is not maintained, the well will dry up.

  3. Someone who worked in Saudi Arabia had mentioned the water is supplied by a concealed water pipeline. Water is purified at a water purifying hub and then supplied to pilgrimage. No one is allowed to visit the well and it is well guarded.

  4. zam zam is miraculous,Mr Admin are you denying that fact if so you are calling Allah’s Habeebi a liar . If Muhammad sallalahu alayhiwassalam say it is a cure for all diseases it is surely true. Debating with you will not help because you have been heavily influenced by the West who rely needs scientific proof for everything or else it’s a lie.

  5. wonder what could constitute as ‘miracle’.

    the glazier or what not is the logical reason of its existance.

    depending on a person, a logical explanation means god no more. for others, that is the prove of God’s Wise.

  6. The prophet simply stated that the well will not dry up he didn’t specify the mechanisms that ensure this nor did he i dicate that it qas a miracle that it doesn’t dry up. Our belief in prophet is based on the miracle of the quran not the zamzam well

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