What's cool, refreshing and will quench your thirst in the hot, Arabian desert?
If you answered (fill in the name of the latest fad soft drink), you're wrong. Zamzam is the name of the well that provides the water billions of people have thirstily drunk from throughout history, especially during the Hajj pilgrimage.
It is linked to some of the most important personalities in world history: the Prophets Abraham and Ismail (peace be upon them) and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), as well as Ismail's mother Hajira (may Allah be pleased with her).
The Zamzam well is located in Makkah, which is the heart of the Hajj pilgrimage. Standing only a few meters east of the Kaba, the well is 35 meters deep and topped by an elegant dome.
How the Zamzam came into being
All traditions agree that Allah created the well to provide Hajira, the wife of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), and her baby Prophet Ismail (peace be upon him) with water in the hot, dry valley they were in.
In her desperate search for water, Hajira ran seven times back and forth in the scorching heat between the two hills of Safa and Marwa to provide for her baby who was dying of thirst. Today, this same act is a necessary rite of Hajj all Muslims, mothers and fathers, must complete.
Prophet Ibraham settled his family there as part of God's mission for him. The first thing Hajira had to do then, was to look for water in the area. She was searching for it while watching at her son and would run whenever she could not see Ismail. Allah saw her effort and miraculously blessed the spot with a water spring.
The Zamzam before the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)
The appearance of the Zamzam began the settlement of the Makkan valley, where the descendants of Prophet Ismail populated the area.
But as time passed, Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail's monotheistic message which once dominated the region began taking a backseat to pagan, polytheistic beliefs.
Nonetheless, the well of Zamzam retained its importance in later generations. The grandfather of the Prophet, Abdul Muttalib, was honored with the responsibility of taking care of the well and the pilgrims to Makkah.
Zamzam water: the power drink
One of the miracles of Zamzam water is its ability to satisfy both thirst and hunger.
One of the Companions of the Prophet said that before Islam, the water was called "Shabbaa'ah" or satisfying. It was filling and helped them nourish their families.
After Islam, this powerful ability to quench thirst and fill stomachs remained. The Prophet said: "The best water on the face of the earth is the water of Zamzam; it is a kind of food and a healing from sickness."
More recently, in the last few decades, samples of Zamzam water have been collected by scientists and they have found certain peculiarities that make the water healthier, like a higher level of calcium.
Zamzam water: a cure for sickness
Apart from its ability to serve as satisfying food and drink, Zamzam water's health benefits are also commended. The Prophet said it was a healing from sickness.This is why pilgrims to Makkah to this day collect it in bottles to bring back for relatives and friends back home who are ill.
The Prophet used to carry Zamzam water in pitchers and water skins back to Madinah. He used to sprinkle it over the sick and make them drink it.
Wahab ibn Munabbah, who was of the second generation of Muslims, said 'I swear by Him in whose possession my life is, Allah Ta`ala will relieve the person of all illnesses who drinks Zamzam to his fill and will also grant him good health.'
Zamzam water and Hajj
During Hajj and Umra, pilgrims are recommended to drink Zamzam water to their fill to quench their thirst. They also continue the tradition of bringing it back for family and friends.
For example, despite tight laws forbidding the import of foreign liquids and fruits, there is an exception made for pilgrims returning from Makkah, who bring water of the Zamzam home for loved ones.