Mekka's Mixed Blessing: The contamination of Zamzam Water
Zamzam -- the Muslim faith's miracle Mekka Valley holy water is the Islamic answer to the Jordan Valley's Blessed Babtism water. This 'Muslim' water has had a long and more recently checkered story. It is associated with a special thirst-quenching experience, said to satisfy hunger appetite as well as to cure illness. Though more recently people are alleging that it might cause harm to the human body. Continue reading below »
Regardless, the holy water's beneficient qualities are no secret. The emergence of the Zamzam water began the settlement of the Mekkan valley, where the descendants of Prophet Ishmail populated the area. This gave rise to a shrine worship and following that began as more idolatry, but then eventually came to represent a legitimate source of the Islamic tradition, once recovered from the mouth of paganism and restored to a pilgrimage point of focus for the faithful. It has, since this bygone era, served to quench the thirst of billions of pilgrims and natives to the region.
Mekka besides is located in a hot dry valley with few sources of water and scorching heat that render water an eternal relief. Muslims therefore consider the Zamzam well an ancient and still contemporary miracle, never having dried out despite the millions of liters of water consumed every year. The safety of sipping on water from the well has recently been debated in light of a BBC arsenic scare, originating in 2005.
A report from the British Food Standard Agency alleged that it were contaminated, polluted and very tainted by chemicals that were not fit for human consumption. Is it dare we suggest, in view of the findings, a carcinogenic? It's level of arsenic has been a source of concern specifically. However, hummous, the internationally loved chick-pea nutritious dip, is also known to contain arsenic, but in low safe permitted levels, and has so far not proved to be poisonous. Why not so with Zamzam?
Is this scare-mongering or scientifically-based valid concern for the quality of human life? In Britain's climate of Islamophobia, unfortunately such reports from respected sources, have been a senstive issue to broach with the Muslim community of 2.8 million members in the UK.
In spite of modern Western-concentrated security constraints on water crossing air-security, there is an exception made for pilgrims returning from Makka, who bring water of the Zamzam home for loved ones.
Otherwise, is it a blessing gone too commercial? Perhaps polluted by mass production and world distribution or maybe exhaustive consumption? Until today, it is predominantly a story endowed by the mystery and auro of water springing from the desert. It is a source of endless fascination, as well as an endless water supply, and more permanently, faith by its followers. The story or fable lives on with the living well of Zamzam.
Yet how has Zamzamit fared in the modern age of competion in the water (life-bestowing) industry? Does it retain the sacred properties in 2011 that it held for people who believed in its beneficial agents historically and before the proliferation of world Muslims. Do we still subscribe to its blessed life-promoting attributes? It is safe to say that no one minds the myth of water imbuing eternal life, for example, and 'magical'-like miracle-water or, in this case, Holy Water, is something a lot of the world will always have time for, Muslim or not.