It seems most religions have some form of Holy water. Christian have their version of holy water, which is blessed by a member of the clergy or another religious figure and reserved for spiritual cleansing and baptisms.
Hindus have holy water and thousands flock to bathe, and purify themselves in the Ganges river which they believe is a personification of their she-god Ganga.
Yet none come close to Zam-zam. Zam zam is not your average tap water, nor collected rainwater stored in a reservoir, nor desalinated sea water. Rather its source is pure.
The Origins of Zam-zam:
Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated the story of Haajar, the wife of Ibrahim and the mother of his son Isma’il. He said:
Ibrahim brought her and her son Isma’il while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka’bah under a tree on the spot of Zamzam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Makkah, nor was there any water. So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Isma’il’s mother followed him saying, “O Ibrahim! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?” She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her. Then she asked him, “Has Allah ordered you to do this?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “Then He will not neglect us,” and returned while Ibrahim went on his way. When he reached al-Thaniyyah, where they could not see him, he faced the Ka’bah, and raising both hands, prayed to Allah in the following words:
“O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House (the Ka‘bah at Makkah) in order, O our Lord, that they may perform As‑Salaah (Iqaamat‑as‑Salaah). So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks,” [Ibrahim 14:37 – interpretation of the meaning]
Isma’il’s mother went on suckling Isma’il and drinking from the water (she had). When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Isma’il) tossing in agony (or he said: kicking with his heels). She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa 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 anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached Marwa where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times.
When she reached Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, “O (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?” And she saw an angel at the place of Zamzam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water started flowing out after she had scooped some of it.”
Ibn Abbas said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) added, “May Allah bestow Mercy on Isma’il’s mother! Had she left the Zamzam alone (flowing without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zamzam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth.” The Prophet further added, “Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.’ The House (i.e. Ka’bah) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada’. They landed in the lower part of Makkah where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, ‘This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.’ They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water).”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) added, “Isma’il’s mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, ‘Do you allow us to stay with you?’ She replied, ‘Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.’ (Taken from https://islamqa.info/en/11069)
A bit of history:
When the tribe of Jurhum evacuated Makkah they sealed up the well, and buried treasures in it. The location of the well was unknown for some time. Abdul-Muttalib, the Prophet’s grandfather was ordered in a dream to dig up the well in a particular place. He did that and found swords armours and two deer of gold. Quraish leaders tried to make a claim for partnership over the well, yet Abdul-Muttalib refused as he had been singled out by Allah in his dream. They decided to consult their diviner, but on the way Allah signs were made clear to them of Abdul-Muttalib’s privilege. From then on, he established the tradition of giving zam-zam to pilgrims. (Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtoum, pg 51/52)
Al-Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “The people used to compete over Zamzam during the time of Jaahiliyyah. People who had children used to bring them and give them to drink, and this was their early-morning victuals. We used to used to think that it was a help for people who had children.” Al-Abbas said: “During the Jaahiliyyah, Zamzam was known as Shabaa’ah (satisfaction).” (Taken from https://islamqa.info/en/1698)
Later on, after Muhammad peace be upon him was granted prophethood, on the night of Isra wal Mi’raj, his heart was washed with this miraculous water. Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him), who reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “My roof was opened when I was in Makkah, and Jibreel (peace be upon him) came down and opened my chest, then he washed it with Zamzam water. Then he brought a gold basin full of wisdom and faith, poured it into my chest, and closed it up again. Then he took me by the hand and ascended with me into the first heaven.” (Bukhari)
Blessings of Zamzam Water:
- It is food: Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said concerning the water of Zamzam, “It is a blessing, and it is food that satisfies.” (Muslim)
- It is a cure for the ill: Al-Tayaalisi added to the above hadith in version he narrated, “and a cure for the sick.”
A’ishah reported that she took Zamzam water home with her in bottles, and said, “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) took some of it away with him, and he used to pour it on the sick and give it to them to drink.” (Tirmidhi)
We also learn from the hadith of A’ishah that the blessings of Zam-zam remain with it even if you take it away from Makkah.
- It is for whatever it drunk for: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The water of Zamzam is for whatever purpose it is drunk for.” (Ibn Maajah)
Ibn al-Mubaarak entered Zamzam and said, “O Allah, Ibn al-Mu’ammal told me, from Abu’l-Zubayr from Jaabir that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: ‘The water of Zamzam is for whatever purpose it is drunk for,’ so, O Allah, I am drinking it (to quench) my thirst on the Day of Resurrection.” (Taken from https://islamqa.info/en/1698)
It was reported that when Ibn Abbas (the uncle of the prophet) (may Allah be pleased with him) drank from the water of Zamzam, he said: “O Allah, I ask you for beneficial knowledge, plentiful provision and healing from every disease.” (Taken from https://islamqa.info/en/16980)
Be sure when you drink Zam-zam to have a good intention, and hope for a good reward.
One should say Bismillah before drinking, and it is preferable to sit down and face the Qibla. One should drink in three breaths, and to thank Allah upon finishing as per the Sunnah. It is sunnah for one to drink to his fill.
It is permissible to make wudhu with it. However, one should not use it inappropriately such as to remove najaasah, or for istinjaa, that would be disrespectful to say the least.