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The Disappearance and Rediscovery of Zamzam and the ‘Well of the Ka'ba’

  • G. E. Hawting

According to Muslim tradition, some time after the spring of Zamzam had been caused by God to gush forth for Hagar and Ishmael following their expulsion into the wilderness by Abraham, it disappeared. Because of the sins of the tribe of Jurhum, which until then had possessed Mecca and the control of its sanctuary (wilāyat al-bayt), Zamzam, the well of the sanctuary, dis-appeared or was hidden, and Jurhum was driven out of Mecca and lost the wilāyat al-bayt. The rediscovery of the well is associated with the grandfather of the Prophet, 'Abd al-Muttahb. At a much later, but unspecified date, we are told, he experienced a dream in which the place of Zamzam was revealed to him. From this time on the well, according to tradition, enjoyed a continuous existence, it being one of the features of the Meccan sanctuary which were taken over when Muhammad adopted the sanctuary for Islam. Zamzam, however, is not the only well associated with the Meccan sanctuary. Muslim tradition knows too of a dry pit inside the Ka'ba which is sometimes referred to as the ‘well of the Ka'ba’.

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1 I am grateful to Professor P. M. Holt, Mr. Michael Cook, and Dr J. Wansbrough for reading earlier versions and offering advice

2 Al-Azrāqi, , Kitāb Akhbdr Makka, apud Wustenfeld, F., Die Chroniken der Stadt Meklca, I, Leipzig, 1858, 282 ff.; Hishām, Ibn, Sīra, second ed., Cairo, 1375/1955, I, 142 if.; Sa'd, Ibn, Kitāb al-ṭabaqāt al-kabīr, Leiden, 19041921, i/l, 49 ff.; al-Ya'qūbi, , Tārīkh, Beirut, 1390/1970, I, 246 if.; al-Fākihī, , Tārīkh Makka, MS Leiden, Or. 463, fols. 338a ff.

3 Hishām, Ibn, Sīra, I, 143.

4 Al-Azraqī, , Alchbār Malcka, 284, 11. 9 ff.; al-Fākihī, , Tārīkh Makka, 339a, 11. 17 ff.

5 Al-Ya'qūbī, , Tārīkh, I, 246 (3 dreams); al-Fākihī, 338a, 11. 16 ff. (3), 338b, II. 6 ff. from foot (3), 338b, 11. 12 ff. (4).

6 Al-Azraqī, 286; Hishām, Ibn, Sīra, i, 146; Ibn Sa'd, i/l, 50; al-Fākihī, 338, 11. 16 ff.

7 Ibn Sa'd, i/l, 49–50.

8 Al-Azraqī, 52.

8 Loc. cit.

9 Hishām, Ibn, Sīra, I, 111, 114; al-Fākihī, 339a, 1. 12.

10 AJ-Azraqī, 279 ff.

11 Al-Ṭabarī, , Tārīkh, Leiden, 18791901, I, 1130 ff.

12 Al-Azraqī, 287: after finding the gazelles, 'Abd al-Muttalib places one of them above the door of the Ka'ba and the other ‘in the belly (baṭn) of the Ka'ba in the pit (jubb) which was there and into which were put the things which were brought to the Ka'ba’.

13 Al-Ṭabarī, , Tārīkh, I, 1132; so too Hishām, Ibn, Sīra, I, 114; cf. al-Azraqī, 52, 281.

14 Al-Ṭabarī, loc. cit.; Ibn Hishām, loc. cit.

15 Aspects of Muslim political and religious history in the 1st/7th century, with special reference to the development of the Muslim sanctuary, Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1978, 91–6.

16 e.g., Hishām, Ibn, Sīra, I, 146; al-Ṭabarī does not have any detailed account of ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib's discovery, but neither of his two allusions to it mentions the finding of the ḥajar al-rukn (I, 1088, 1134).

17 For an attempt to establish the relationship of the different Jewish versions and the development of each, see Collins, M. F., ‘The hidden Vessels in Samaritan tradition’, in Journal for the Study of Judaism, III, 1972, 97116; for the tradition in Samaritanism, see Kippenberg, H. G., Garizim und Synagoge Berlin, 1971, 234–54.

18 Ginzberg, L., The legends of the Jews, Philadelphia, 19111938, III, 48, 158, 161, iv, 24, 320–1; M. F. Collins, loc. cit.

19 Josephus, , Antiquities, XVIII, 4.i–ii; Kippenberg, H. G., Garizim und Synagoge, 113–14.

20 On the Taheb, see Kippenberg, H. G., Garizim und Synagoge, 276305; laser, S. J., The Dositheans, Leiden, 1976, esp. pp. 127–31, 140–2.

21 MaeDonald, J., The theology of the Samaritans, London, 1964, 44.

22 MaeDonald, J. (ed.), The Samaritan chronicle no. II, Berlin, 1969, 114 ff., 126.

23 Memar Marqah, ed. and tr. MaeDonald, J., Berlin, 1963, v, 2 (= Eng. tr., 197); see also v, 4 (= Eng. tr., 207).

24 Gaster, M., The Samaritans. Their history, doctrine and literature, London, 1925, 91; Kippenberg, H. G., Oarizim und Synagoge, 238–46.

25 The Samaritan chronicle no. 11, 126.

26 Ibid., 114. It may be relevant that Rabbinical polemic against the Samaritans accused them of knowing that golden idols were hidden on Gerizim and revering it for that reason: Collins, M. F., op. cit., 114–15.

27 Al-Ṭabarī, , Tārīkh, I, 2856 ff.; Ibn Sa'd, i/2, 164–5; al-Mas'ūdi, , Tanhīh, Cairo, 1938, 254–5; G. Levi Delia Vida, ‘'Othmān b. 'Affan’, in Encyclopaedia of Islam, first edition.

28 Ibn Sa'd, i/2, 15, 131, 160–6; Hirschfeld, H., New researches into the composition and exegesis of the Qoran, London, 1902, 22–4; Wansbrough, J., Quranic Studies, Oxford, 1977, 64–5.

29 Midrash Babba on Numbers, xv, 10; Midrash Tanḥūmā, ed. Buber, S., Wilna, 1885, IV, 50.

30 Ginzberg, L., Legends, III, 161.

31 al-Najjār, Ibn, Dwrra, apud al-Fāsī, , Shifā’ al-gharām, Cairo, 1956, 341–2; Yāqūt, , Mu'jam al-buldān, Leipzig, 18661873, I, 430; Wiistenfeld, F. (tr.), Geschichte der Stadt Medina, ch. 6, § 1 (p. 147).

32 Al-Ṭabarī, , Tārīkh, I, 2856, 2858.

33 For an example of the difficulties involved in establishing the earliest usage of the term fitna, see Juynboll, G. H. A., ‘The date of the great fitna’, in Arabica, xx, 1973, 142–59.

34 Māja, Ibn, Sunan, Cairo, 1952, muqaddima, bāb 11 (p. 41, no. 111); Wensinck, A. J., ‘Muhammad und die Propheten’, in Ada Orienttdia, II, 1924, 178.

35 See above, p. 45, n. 8a.

36 Wensinck, A. J., ‘The ideas of the western Semites concerning the navel of the earth’, in Verhandelingen der Koninklijlce Akademie van Wetenschappen, Afdeeling Letterkunde, nieuwe reeks, deel XVII, 1, 1916, pp. 2530.

37 2 Mace, 2:4–8; The Samaritan chronicle no. II, 114. According to 2 Mace, loc. cit., the cave was situated on the mountain from which Moses viewed the Promised Laud. According to the Memar Marqah. II, 12, v, 3 (= Eng. tr., 83, 206), Moses was buried in a cave on Mt. Nebo, the mountain from which he viewed the Promised Land. This association of ideas is reminiscent of the Syriac Cave of Treasures (Me'ārath Gazzē) in which Adam was buried and in which God deposited gold, frankincense and myrrh. This cave was situated immediately below Paradise, a feature which associates it with the navel of the earth circle of ideas: Bezold, C., Die Schatzhohle, 2 vols., Leipzig, 18831888; Budge, E. A. Wallis, The cave of treasures, London, 1927; Wensinck, , Navel, 27.

38 e.g., al-Azraqī, 169–70: kānafi'l-Ka'ba…jubb ‘amiq…fa-summiyattilka’ l-bi'ral-Akhsaf…

39 e.g., ibid., 73 (also fī baṭn al-Ka'ba).

40 Ibid., 43.

41 Ibid., 73, 170 (it was called al-Akhsaf ‘and the Arabs called it al-Akhshaf’!); Dozy, R., Die Israditen zu Mekka, Leipzig, 1864, 176–7, attempts to derive the name from Aramaic asap in the sense of pot or vessel; al-Azraqī, 170, seems to want to derive it from the fact that a thief was shut up (?khusifa) by God in the pit.

42 Ibid., 31, 73, 169.

43 Al-Ṭabarī, , Tārīkh, I, 1130f.

44 A1-Azraqī, 49, 104 ff.; 'al-Razzāq, Abd, Muṣannaf, Beirut, 1970 ff., v, 9103, 9105, 9106.

45 Al-Azraqī, 73.

46 Wellhausen, J., Reste arabischen Heideniums, third edition, Berlin, 1927, 103; Smith, W. Robertson, The religion of the Semites, second edition, London, 1894, 197–8, 228, 340; Fahd, T., Le pantheon de Varabie centrale à la veille de I'hégire, Paris, 1968, 38—41.

47 Wensinck, , Navel, 2930, 59–63.

48 See above, p. 51, n. 42.

49 AI-Fākihī, 337b, 1. 5 from foot; al-Fāsī, , Shifā', i, 247; note too the speech of Khālid al-Qasrī comparing the sweet water of the caliph with the bitter water of Abraham, when he tried to supplant Zamzam by a water source he had constructed on the orders of the caliph (al-Ṭabarī, , Tārīkh, II, 11991200).

50 Al-Fākihī, 337b.

51 Sidersky, D., Origines des legendes musulmanes, Paris, 1933, 50—1; Grünbaum, M., Neue Beiträge zur semitischen Sagenlcunde, Leiden, 1893, 103.

52 Midrash Eabba on Genesis 21:29. Ibn Ezra identifies Beer-lahoi-roi with Zamzam (Grünbaum, M., Sagenkunde, 106).

53 Wellhausen, J., Reste, third edition, 103; Smith, W. Robertson, Semites, 167–8; Fahd, T., Pantheon, 40.

54 See above, p. 46, n. 11.

55 See above, p. 46, n. 14.

56 Al-Azraqī, 42–3; Hisham, Ibn, Sīra, I, 196–6; al-Tabarī, , Tafsīr, Cairo, 1954—, III, 61.

57 Al-Azraqī, loc. cit.; of. al-Fākihī, 339a, where 'Abd al-Muṭṭalib finds three stones with inscriptions in Zamzam.

58 AI-Azraqī, 111.

59 According to al-Azraqī, 171, Muḥammad found 70,000 awqiya of gold in the jubb which was in the Ka'ba at the time of the fath.

60 Al-Azraqī, 169–73.

61 Ibid., 157–8; cf. al-Ya'qūbī, II, 452–3; W. Barthold, ‘Tibet’, in Encyclopaedia of Islam, first edition.

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