In Zam Zam, there lies a sign for those who seek the truth about Islam.
About 4,000 years ago, a young infant was crying for water and rubbing his feet in the sands of a desolate valley, where stands today the magnificent house of God, the Ka’aba, and the city of Makkah. His mother was running in between the nearby hills known as Safa and Marwa in search of water, possibly to ask for water from a passing caravan. All of a sudden, she saw water gushing out under the feet of her infant son. This was the beginning of the famous well of Zam Zam that continues to flow even today. The infant was Ismael and his mother Hajira, wife of Prophet Ibrahim. At that time, these two were the only habitants of the valley of Makkah, described in the Holy Quran as a valley without a blade of grass. They were left in the then barren valley by Hazrat Ibrahim under the command of Allah who had great designs for the place. They were the first citizens of Makkah, the most revered place and seat of the religion of Islam. Makkah, today, is a city with more than a million people and the well of Zam Zam is located in the heart of the city. The well of Zam Zam is the oldest flowing well in the world and is located right in the Mutaf (circling area around the Ka’aba).
As she was trying to contain the newly-appeared spring, Hajira said “Zam Zam” meaning “stop” or “hold on.” Since then, this water has been flowing and carries the name of Zam Zam. After being in use for many centuries, it disappeared after the Bani Jurham, a tribe of Makkah in whom Ismael was married, filled it up with soil before leaving Makkah. It remained obliterated and untraced for quite a few centuries till its location was disclosed in a dream to Abdul Mutallib, the grandfather of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in the first half of the 6th century AD, that is about 540 AD. Hazrat Abdul Mutallib, in spite of opposition from the local leaders and chieftains of Makkah, excavated the ground with the help of his only son, Haris, till he found the well (in all, he was blessed with ten sons, but nine were borne after the rediscovery of Zam Zam). The city of Makkah is located in a valley with hard, granite mountains on all sides, and the Haram Sharif (Masjid-ul-Haram) located at its lowest point. There is about 50 to 100ft deep sandy silt formation underlain by igneous rocks. The well of Zam Zam is located in this sand/silt formation and its water level is about 40 to 50ft below the natural ground level.
The well of Zam Zam used to have a manual system of drawing water, till the early 1950s. In those days, the peak discharge drawn during the Haj season would just suffice the number of Hajis not exceeding a hundred thousand. Today, Hajis exceed 2.2 million and in addition, the Zam Zam water is being pumped to Masjid-i-Nabvi in Madinah through a 450km-long pipeline from Makkah. The installed pump capacity today is 3 cft/sec (1,350 gallon/minute). The well of Zam Zam has been in operation since the last 1,450 years at a stretch. Till an electric motor and pump was installed in the late 1940s or the early 50s, the discharge never exceeded 0.05 cft/sec (about 22.5 gallons per minute). The discharge from the well since then is on a constant rise with an increase in the number of Hajis. It has now reached 3cft/sec (1,346 gallons per minute) and runs constantly for hours per day, and sometimes without stopping for days. Today, Zam Zam water is supplied to 2.2 million Hajis during the Haj season and to Madinah. Any open well in the world, after a few years, suffers from the growth of algae, making water unpalatable and causing taste and odour problems. Here, Zam Zam has been operational for fourteen centuries without any biological or algae growth, and remains in use without any kind of treatment (recently chlorination is being done by Saudi authorities).
Some facts about the well of Zam Zam:
1)This well has never dried up. On the contrary it has always fulfilled the demand for water.
2)It has always maintained the same salt composition and taste ever since it came into existence. Its potability has always been universally recognised as pilgrims from all over the world visit Ka’aba every year for Hajj and umrah, but have never complained about it. Instead, they have always enjoyed the water that refreshes them. Water tastes different at different places.
3)Zamzam water’s appeal has always been universal. This water has never been chemically treated as is the case with water pumped into the cities.
4)Biological growth and vegetation usually takes place in most wells. This makes the water unpalatable owing to the growth of algae causing taste and odour problems. But in the case of the Zamzam water well, there wasn’t any sign of biological growth.