The Well of Zamzam that gushed forth underneath the footsteps of Isma`il, peace and blessings be upon him, is considered one of the important elements within the Sacred Sanctuary. Actually, this blessed Well had passed by several incidents which we are going to mention here as follows:

ZamzamBefore Islam

It was reported on the authority of Ibn `Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, that Abraham, peace and blessings be upon him, came to Makkah along with Hajar, the mother of Isma`il, who was a suckling baby. He left her and her son in a place on the spot of Zamzam with a water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. She used to drink and then give suck to her son until the water had all been used up. Then, her child (Isma`il) became thirsty and she started looking at him tossing in agony. The mother of Isma`il thought that he was dying of thirst; so, she left him and went to the mountain of Safa (that was the nearest mountain to her on that land). She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anyone. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she ran like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwah mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see any. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwah) seven times. When she returned to her son, she heard a voice and she said, ‘O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?’ Ibn `Abbas added, The Archangel Gabriel stroke (dug) the earth (at the place of Zamzam with his heel or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started making something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water. Then she drank (water) and suckled her child.” This incident was mentioned in detail by Al-Bukhari in his Sahih.

Zamzam was the First Sign of Permanent Settlement in Makkah

Al-Azraqi mentioned in his Akhbar Makkah and At-Tabari in his Tarikh Ar-Rusul wal-Muluk that some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by Hajar and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming in a trading caravan from Ash-Sham (the Levant). They landed in the lower part of Makkah where they saw a bird hovering above the valley. Someone said, “This bird must be hovering over water (of a well), though we know that there is no water in this valley.” They sent two men to see what is there. They came to Isma`il’s mother and talked to her. Then, they returned to inform their people of the good news (that there is water). So, they all came and settled beside the water after getting the permission of Isma`il’s mother. The whole story is mentioned in detail in Sahih Al-Bukhari. The narration cited that she granted them permission to dwell in this place without having any right to possess the water and they agreed to that.

The area of dwellings at Makkah had been increasing especially after Abraham and his son Isma`il, peace and blessings be upon them, built the Sacred House. (The tribe of) Jurhum continued to take charge of the Sacred House and (the Well of) Zamzam for a period of time until a Yemenite tribe so called Khuza`ah emigrated to this place after the collapse of the Ma’rib dam. Khuza`ah went into battle with Jurhum and at the end Khuza`ah were victorious and took charge of the Sacred House.

The Jurhumites were finally driven out from Makkah and they were separated in the province of Tuhamah. In the fifth century, Qusayy Ibn Kilab established himself in control of Makkah after a fierce battle with the tribe of Khuza`ah ending with their evacuation from Makkah and joining Kinanah under his authority. He thereupon brought people of Quraish to Makkah and divided it among its clans. The Well of Zamzam at that time was neglected since it had been buried and its landmarks were hidden completely. It continued to be so until `Abd Al-Muttalib Ibn Hashim, the grandfather of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, rediscovered it. One may wonder: how could people of Makkah and the pilgrims drink (water) after covering the Well of Zamzam?

The answer is: there were wells and springs that were dug after the disappearance of the Well of Zamzam such as the well of Al-Yusrah that was dug by Ka`b Ibn Lu’ayy and another well so called Ar-Rwua; they were opposite to the mount of `Arafah.

`Abd Al-Muttalib dug Zamzam following the Incident of the Elephant after he saw a spiritual figure in a vision saying, “Dig Zamzam.” Then, it vanished and once again came to him and said, “Dig Zamzam which is located between dung and blood, an ants’ nest, and pecking ravens.”

When `Abd Al-Muttalib woke up, he went immediately to the Sacred House wherein he discovered the place, where a cow was to be slaughtered at Al-Hazurah (a market in the Pre-Islamic period of Ignorance) but it escaped from its slaughterer. Then, it was overcome by death in the Sanctuary in the very place of Zamzam. The cow departed life and its flesh was carried away. Then, a raven came to eat from it and it fell in the dung and then ants gathered around what remained of it.

`Abd Al-Muttalib rose and started to ding in the assigned location but people of Quraish came to him and asked him, “What are you doing, why do you dig in the Sanctuary?” `Abd Al-Muttalib replied: “I am going to dig this well and fight anyone who tries to bar me.” He continued along with his sole son Al-Harith at that time to dig despite their vehement protest. Some Quraishites disputed with them while others stopped because they knew well `Abd Al-Muttalib’s high-ranked pedigree. `Abd Al-Muttalib was sharply harmed until he vowed that if he would have ten sons he would slaughter one of them (in sacrifice). Digging continued until he found golden swords. When the people saw the swords they said, “O `Abd Al-Muttalib, we should have a share in what you have found.” He replied that these swords would go to the Sacred House. He afterwards continued to dig until water flowed in the bottom.

Then, he built a cistern beside it and used to fill it with water along with his son so that the pilgrims may drink thereof. But some people of Quraish used to break this cistern by night and when `Abd Al-Muttalib wakes up he reforms it. When their corruption to the basin increased, `Abd Al-Muttalib supplicated his Lord (against them), then a shadowy figure came to him in a vision and told him to say: “O Lord, I do not make it permissible for the one who wants to take a bath in it but it is permissible for anyone to have a drink (of water) from it.” When `Abd Al-Muttalib woke up, he proclaimed what he had seen in the Sanctuary, then he went out. Afterwards, no one of Quraish corrupts his cistern unless he is afflicted with a malady in his body. So, they stopped corrupting it altogether.

Then, `Abd Al-Muttalib married another woman who bore him ten sons. He intended to sacrifice one of his sons, so he gathered them in the Ka`bah. The lots were cast, and it was `Abdullah’s arrow that came out. But after consultation with people they suggested to put `Abdullah and ten camels side by side and cast lots between them. If the arrow falls against `Abdullah, he should add more ten camels and so forth until his Lord accepts them and the arrow falls against the camels. The lots were cast ten times until the arrow fell against the camels. At last `Abd Al-Muttalib became certain that God had accepted his expiation, and the camels were duly sacrificed.

Zamzam in the Islamic Era

After `Abd Al-Muttalib dug the Well of Zamzam, it became the main source for watering the pilgrims to the Sacred House of God. With the advent of Islam, its importance increased since many Hadiths were reported in its favor. We may cite in this regard some of these Hadiths as follows:

Ahmad reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Fever is from the heat of the Hell-fire; so, cool it with Zamzam water.”

`Ali Ibn Abu Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, also reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, performed Tawaf (circumambulation) of Ifadah, then he asked that a bucket of Zamzam water should be brought to him. He afterwards performed ablution with this water and then said, “Draw water, O Banu `Abd Al-Muttalib; were it not that people would usurp this right of supplying water from you, I would have drawn it along with you.”

Disappearance of the sources and springs of water before the Day of Judgment except that of Zamzam

`Uthman Ibn Saj narrated, “Muqatil informed me on the authority of Ad-Dahhaq Ibn Muzahim that Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He, will take away the fresh water before the Day of Judgment. All sources and springs of water-supply will be lost except the water of Zamzam and the earth will issue (cast away) what is in its hollows of gold and silver. At that moment, the man will come with a sack full of gold and silver and offer it saying: is there anyone who accepts this from me? He will be replied: had you offered it to me yesterday I would have accepted it from you.”

Description of the Well of Zamzam in the course of time

Ibn Juraij was reported as having said that `Ata’ described to him the way of their watering from Zamzam saying: (The Well of) Zamzam had two cisterns in the first era; one between it and (Ar-Rukn) the Corner through which the pilgrims would have their drink of water and another cistern from behind for performing ablution. It had an attached reservoir to which water comes through the gate of As-Safa and it had no window at that time.

It was merely a well surrounded by a fence of stones that had been simply built. It continued to be so until the era of the `Abbasid caliph Abu Ja`far Al-Mansur who was the first to build a dome above the Well of Zamzam in the year 145 AH.

Zamzam was sixty cubits length. Its bottom included three springs: one facing the black corner, another opposite to mountains of Abu Qubais and As-Safa, and the third one facing Al-Marwah. The width of the mouth of Zamzam was 3.2/3 cubits.

The commander of the believers Abu Ja`far was the first to construct marbles on Zamzam, on the window, and to tile its floor with marble during his caliphate. Then, Al-Mahdi reconstructed them during his caliphate and roofed the room of Zamzam with teak at the hands of `Umar Ibn Faraj. The little dome was covered with mosaic as well as the building of Zamzam was restored and a large dome of teak was constructed above the room allocated for watering the pilgrims instead of the little dome that was above the Well of Zamzam. This was during the caliphate of Al-Mahdi in the year 160 AH. The Well of Zamzam and its dome was then restored and was covered with marble during the caliphate of the `Abbasid caliph Al-Mu`tasim in the year 220 AH.

A description for the cistern of Zamzam

This cistern is 39 cubits from inside and 40 cubits from outside. Its diameter is 12 cubits and is tiled with marble. Its walls are covered with marble. The length of its walls is 11 fingers and their width is 8 fingers. The area of this cistern through which the pilgrims have their drink of water is 28 cubits. This cistern is surrounded by 12 teak cylinder. The length of each cylinder is 4 cubits. Above the room there is a dome made of teak whose outside is green and its inside is yellow.

The most important repairs

The dome of Zamzam received several repairs and restorations in the course of time. The most important of these repairs are the following:

The Sacred Mosque was restored in the Mamluk era during the reign of Sultan An-Nassir Faraj Ibn Barquq after fire erupted in the Sacred Mosque in the night of 28 Shawwal, 802 AH. The dome of Zamzam was also restored in the year 815 AH at the hands of the Judge of Makkah Jamal Ad-Din Muhammad Ibn Abu Dhahirah. In the era of Sultan Qaitbai, the Well of Zamzam was restored and its marbles were replaced in 884 AH.

In the Ottoman era, the Sacred Mosque received great interest and several repairs were made to the building of Zamzam especially during the reign of Sultan Salim II, 982 AH. The dome of Zamzam was also restored in the era of Sultan Ahmad IV, 1083 AH. Then, the building of Zamzam was restored in the era of Sultan `Abd Al-Hamid I, 1187 AH and once again in 1203 AH. Before nowadays, the greatest works of building that were made to the dome of Zamzam was accomplished during the era of Sultan `Abd Al-Hamid the Second 1300 AH. These works were made by the engineer As-Said Muhammad Sadiq. Eventually, during the modern era, the building of Zamzam was reconstructed but away from its original location since the old building that was located near the Ka`bah used to hinder Tawaf in the modern age because of the large number of the pilgrims. The water of Zamzam was conducted to its new location in the eastern part of the Sanctuary by way of engines for lifting water and pipes. There became an assigned place for men and another for women. Finally, it is worth mentioning that despite the passage of thousands of years on discovering the Well of Zamzam, its water remained and will continue to be a source of purity and cure.

*by Mahmoud Isma`il Shil and `Abdur-Rahman `Abdul-Wahid