Basis of nomenclature: The word ‘zam-zam’ originates from the word ‘zumaazim’, for which the following is recorded as its meanings: “Excessive water, far-reaching humming sound, the gathering of a scattered thing, to protect, the water of zam-zam or zam-zaam or zuwaa- zim is the mixture of sweet and brackish water.” (Lisaanul Arab, vol. 12, page 275)
In the initial stages of this well, a far-reaching humming sound could be heard, hence the name ‘Zam-Zam’. According to lmaam Nawawi (rahrnatullahi alaih), the name ‘Zam-Zam’ was given owing to the excessiveness and large quantity of the water, because the words: ‘Zam-Zam’,’Zam-Zoom’ and ‘Zamaa-Zirn’ are said at the time of excessive water. (Muslim Shareef, vol.1, page 400)
Other names for ‘Zam-Zam’: Just as ‘Zam-Zam’ has many virtues and benefits, similarly, it has many names, The following names are recorded in “Lisaanul Arab”: “Zam-zam, Maktoomah, Maghnoonah, Shubaaghanah, Suqyaa, Ar-ruwaa, Rakdhatu Jibraeel, Hazmatu Jibraeel, Shifaa-u-Suqm, Ta’aam-u-Tu’am, Hafeer-atu Abdil Mutallib,Zam-zaam, Zawaa-zim” (LisaanulArab,vol.15, page 166)
It is reported frorn Hadhrat Abdullaah lbn Abbaas (radhiallaahu anhu) that during the era of ignorance it was known as ‘Shubaa’a’. (Akhbaar Makkah, page 291). Imaam Zubaidi (rahmatuilahi alaih) states that if the various names of ‘Zam-zam’ are gathered from the Ahaadith Kitaabs and dictionaries, it will total up to 60 names. (Taajul Uroos, vol.8, vol.328)
HISTORY OF ZAM ZAM WATER: The water of zam-zam is that well / spring which was a comfort and saviour of Hadhrat Haajira, when she was grieved and hopeless. It was the wondrous miracle of Hadhrat Jibraeel-e-Ameen (alaihi salaam), which is satiating the thirst of the believers of Tauheed, since 2000 years before Hadhrat Isaa (alaihi salaam). The magnetic effect of this incomparable water attracted the Banu Jurhum to its friends (Hadhrat Ismaeel and Haajira- alaihimus salaam) and made therm a companion to them, and turned this desolate place into the Islamic headquarters.
The details of this incident are as follows, when Hadhrat Ebrahim (alaihi salaam) was ordered by Allaah Ta’ala to leave his chaste wife, Hadhrat Haajira (alaiha salaam) and his innocent baby, Hadhrat Ismaeel (alaihi salaam) in the desert of Arabia, with no friend or helper, then the answer to the sustenance of life for this ‘forlorn’ mother and son was given within a few days. The innocent child was striking his heels upon the ground due to severe thirst. The mother was also becoming restless due to the lack of water, and she ran up one mountain, and down again and ascended the other mountain, in search of water, boping to find something to sustain the life of her child.
Hadhrat Jibraeel (alaihi salaam) made an appearance. With a strike of his heels, or an indication of his hands, or his wings, a spring started flowing.
As soon as the water was sighted, Hadhrat Haajira was overtaken with joy. Her sadness and despondency was immediately removed and replaced by sheer joy. She quenched her own thirst and that of her child. She filled a container with the water and built a sand wall around the spring in order to dam it up.
Nabi-e-Kareem (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said that, had Hadhrat Haajira (alaiha salaam) not done this, this water would have become like a sea rather than a spring, and it would have saturated the entire earth.
It was the very desire forth is water that attracted the tribe of Banu Jurhum here, and led to their settling down, in this area. They stayed and governed the area for 300, and according to some narrations, 500 years. It was the immorality, mischief, and flagrant disobedience of this tribe that led to their disgraceful eviction from the pure land of Makkah Shareef. When they left Makkah, they dumped the treasures of the Kaaba Shareef, its Ghilaaf (covering) and valuable swords into the well of Zam-zam, then they covered it with sand, thereby covering it completely and closing it up. Five hundred years passed upon it in this condition. During this era, its name and signs were completely forgotten and erased.
But, when Allaah Ta’ala desired to revive this well and satiate the Urnmat with it, HE used the Quraish and the grandfather of Rasullullah(sallallahu alaihi wasallam), by way of a dream to dig up the well. Abdul Mutallib used to say that one night he had a dream, wherein someone was telling him to dig up ‘Tayyibah’. He says that he asked: “What is ‘Tayyibah’?” But the person (in his dream), just walked away, without giving a reply. On the following night he said that he had another dream, wherein he was told to dig up ‘Maghnoonah’. He says that he asked: “What is’Maghnoonah’?” But, again this person simply disappeared. On the third night he again had a dream wherein he was told to dig up Zam- Zam, and clean it up. He says that, he asked: “What is ‘Zam-Zam’?”
He was then told that it is a well, whose water will never decrease, and that he will find no difficulty in digging it up. Also that he will find no embarrassment in it, and that it is the inheritance of his father. He was told to serve it to the Haajis. Abdul Muttalib, says further that he asked for a sign of the location to this well. He was told that it is at the place where the ant-hills are in abundance. He was also told that when he reaches the place in the morning, he will find a crow pecking at the exact spot, where he is to dig.
The next morning, Abdul Mutallib left home towards the Haram Shareef, with his eldest son, Haarith, taking with them a pick-axe and a spade. According to the glad-tidings of Allaah Azza Wa Jalla, he saw a crow pecking at a spot between the idols, ‘Assaaf’ and ‘Naila’. There were also many ant-hills around that spot. Following the instructions of Allaah Ta’ala, both the father and son started digging.
Even the Quraish, become a hindrance, and objected by saying that this is the sacred place of their idols, and that they will never consent to its being dug up. However, Abdul Mutallib did not listen to any of this and he continued his task. In a short space of time he reached his objective and struck water. He also found the buried treasures of the Jurhum, which they left there, upon their departure from Makkah Mukarrama.
When the Quraish saw that Abdul Mutallib succeeded in his objective and that he unearthed a great treasure, they laid claim to it as being the inheritance of their fore-father, Hadhrat lsmaeel (alaihi salaam). They therefore claimed a stake in it. They also wanted a share in the distribution and protection of the Zam-Zam well, but Abdul-Mutallib rejected their claim and became the sole-custodian of the well. This led to a conflict and they decided to call in a third party, to arbitrate the issue. They decided on the tribe of Banu Sa’ad Bin Huzail, which was stationed in Syria. So, Abdul Mutallib and a few persons from every tribe in the Quraish, set out on this journey to Shaam (Syria). The road was long and arduous. There were many caves and mountains along the way. When this caravan reached a certain place, their water stocks dwindled. Thirst was starting to get a hold of them. Those who had some water by them, refused to give it to Abdul Mutallib and his companions, saying that they have become the custodians of the well of Zam-Zam, and yet they are asking for water now. The- situation became very difficult, and they could not even walk any further. The Power of Allaah Ta’ala came into play, when eventually Abdul Mutallib managed to get upon his camel and it stood up, a spring of clear, fresh and sweet water gushed forth, from below, the place where his camel had sat. Out of sheerjoy, Abdul Mutallib screamed out a Takbeer, and all of them drank to their fill, and filled their containers. So much so, that even those who refused to give their water to Abdul-Mutallib, managed to fill their containers. When all of them saw this strange and wonderful scenario, they concluded that their decision was made and their matter resolved. They took an oath that they will never dispute with him regarding the well of Zam-Zam. That same Being Who has blessed you with a spring of water in this desolate desert, is the same One who has blessed you with the well of Zam-Zam. So, instead of going any further, they all turned back to Makkah. This incident occurred about 40 to 70 years prior to the birth of Rasulullah(sallallahu alaihi wasallam).
During the era of ignorance, two idols, ‘Assaaf’ and ‘Naila’were kept upon the well of Zam-Zam. ‘Assaaf’ was a male and ‘Naila’, a female, who had a connection with the tribe of Jurhum, and they were inhabitants of Yemen. There was a love relationship between the two of thern. When they came to Makkah for Haj, they committed an indecent act in the Haram. This led to Allaah Ta’ala turning them into stone. People were greatly affected by this story. They were then flung nearby, to the place where the well of Zam-Zam is situated, so that others may see their plight and take lesson from their sin. Their forms remained like this for a period of time, until a time came when the Mushrikeen (idol-worshippers) made them also into idols and worshipped them. Oaths were being taken upon their names, and in order to gain favour with them, animals were sacrificed in their names. Therefore, when Abdul Mutallib, started digging nearby them, the Quraish came to their defence.
Imaamul Mu’arrakheen, Allama Azraqi, states; ‘ When Assaaf Bin Bughaa and Naila Binti Zi’ib committed their vile and immoral act in the Haram Shareef, then Rabb Zul Jalaal tumed them into stone. The people flung one of them onto mount Safa and the other onto mount Marwah. As time went by, people started worshipping them. Later on, a person by the name of Umar Bin Lahya fottified the people’s belief and worship in them.
When the era of Qussay Bin Kilaab came, he placed the statue of Assaaf near the Kaaba and that of Naila near the well of Zam-Zam. Hence, the Mushrikeen, used to begin their Tawaaf of the Kaaba at the statue of Assaaf and end at Naila. They also made lstilaam at these idols. Then, when Allaah Ta’ala placed the control of Makkah Mukarrama in the hands of Rahmatul Lil Alameen, these two idols (like all the others) were destroyed. “
The minds of the Mushrikeen were obscured due to their idol-worship. Soundness of mind leaves them. Just look at this, Where a totally immoral and depraved man and woman shamelessly commit an act of indecency in front of the Kaaba Shareef, and Allaah Ta’ala turns them into stone as a lesson for man to come, yet the Mushrikeen turn this very curse into their object of worship, from whom they ask of their needs.
Source: History & Virtues of Zam Zam