Zam Zam in Danger

By Aqeelah Bawa

May 10, 2011

Holy drinking water contaminated with arsenic is allegedly being sold illegally to Muslims by UK retailers. This is according to a recent report by BBC journalist, Guy Lynn, who found the pure holy water contains higher than normal levels of arsenic, nitrates and other chemical substances. The investigative reporter claims Zamzam which originated from Makkah is being sold in London. Zamzam is an integral cleansing tool on the holy pilgrimage and the sale of the water is therefore illegal.

"We have tested the water which pilgrims brought back from the holy city, as well as tested water from the taps in Makkah and bottles on sale there. All had very similar results to the water that was tested in the UK. Arsenic found in the water tested to three times the levels which are allowed by UK standards and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines," he told VOC's Drivetime. The water could be polluted naturally from soil and rocks and drinking it in moderation is fine.

But, Lynn said, through undercover filming, the retailers said there were people purchasing and consuming large quantities daily. Prior to the piece being aired on BBC, the investigative team approached Saudi authorities for a response about the apparent contamination at the source. "We did not receive a response before the piece aired, but two days later, Saudi authorities denied and refuted the fact that the water is contaminated, and as far as they were concerned it is safe to drink," Guy said.

Research

Islamic Heritage Research Foundation executive director, Dr Irfan Al Alawi, based in the UK, said he was not very surprised at the findings. He has done extensive research into the risks of the holy water being contaminated and the impact that large-scale construction in Makkah has had on Zam-zam wells.

"I've been saying for the last 25 years that Zamzam is in danger. During the early 1970's and early 1980's, construction on the Grand Mosque, where the Zamzam well used to be, caused the source to be disturbed," he said. The well dates back to more than 4,000 years and is about 98 ft (29.87m) deep and 3ft (0.91m) by 9ft (2.74m) in diameter. According to Al-Alawi, during construction on the Darul Tawheed hotel at the time, the Bin Laden construction company was instructed to be careful with its excavations, as it may rupture the well.

"The old bricks of the well did not have the capability to withstand construction. During the winter months in Makkah in January and February, there is a lot of flooding and rain, the flooding system is not suitable for the well." Al Alawi said there is a history of construction around the well itself. In 1975 King Faisal, removed the old building which over stood the Kaabah, where the Zam-zam water was pulled up using ropes in order to expand the Tawaaf area.

During King Khalid's term, he had the entrance of the Zamzam well moved and there was a risk factor as well. The area under the Kaabah consequently flooded with rain water, which attacked the natural sources of the Zamzam. A geological survey was conducted on the area and Saudi authorities mentioned that Zamzam had to be filtered.

Purification

"The public should be aware though that the water they consume from the taps is never directly consumed from the well. The Zamzam water is pumped into another area, located in Kuday District (some 4.5km from the Haram), which uses the latest technology to purify and filter the water."

The plant purifies five million litres of Zamzam water every day through two main purification lines, each using a number of filters besides one sterilization unit. The water is then brought back to the Grand Mosque where the pilgrims then have access to it. Al Alawi said the water would not have needed any filtration systems if the sources were not disturbed.

"The water was contaminated by gravel, sand and dust and thereafter they decided to filter it. However, the Saudi geological survey is not allowed to disclose what chemicals are being used to purify the holy water." Al-Alawi has delivered a number of public talks on how the construction to the Grand Mosque caused the water to become affected. One of the most frequently asked questions is how the Muslim world has allowed the Saudi authorities to do so.

"We should have put an end to this about 20 years ago. Everyone believes the expansion of the mosque was necessary and important. But they do not realize that we will never get the real source of the 4,000 year old Abrahamic well back again. If we do not stop now we will lose it forever. We might even lose the Zamzam essence of the well if this continues," Al Alawi urged

Courtesy: Voice of the Cape [South Africa]

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