This item has been added to the Database within the Explore Islamic Art Collections project. Information is available in: English, Arabic.
Two Chinese blue-and-white porcelain sealed ‘Zamzam’ water bottles
London, United Kingdom
Khalili Family Trust – Hajj and the Arts of Pilgrimage Collection
pot 1989 a,b
Porcelain, leather, string, wax
Prophet was known to drink from the well and use the water for significant purposes. The most famous hadith (Prophetic saying) regarding Zamzam states that the water is good for whatever purpose it is intended. Thus, over time, the water has been used for many purposes: in graves, to prevent harm, to cure and in ceremonies to obtain blessings.
Similar examples to these bottles are in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul and were used during ceremonies involving the mantle of the Prophet. During these ceremonies the mantle was dipped in Zamzam water and what dripped from the cloth was then collected in bottles similar to these. Other comparable types were simply sent from Mecca to Istanbul containing Zamzam water and closed with leather, string and sealed with wax.
The well is believed to have been discovered by Hagar and Ismael, after being abandoned by Abraham in Mecca. It was later rediscovered by ‘Abd al-Muttalib, Prophet Muhammad’s grandfather, who is credited with having dug several wells, most importantly that of Zamzam. From then on the responsibility of giving water to pilgrims was to remain in the lineage of one of his sons.
Water from the well of Zamzam was previously collected in buckets by a rope pulley mechanism and then transferred to earthenware vessels. Now the well is entirely managed subterraneously by electric pumps and the King Abdullah Zamzam Water Factory produces approximately 200,000 bottles of water a day.
Date and provenance based stylistic grounds and by comparison with similar items in the Topkapi Palace Museum.
Aydin, H., Sacred Trusts: Pavilion of the Sacred Relics (Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul), The Fountain, 2005.
Zamzam, in Saudi Geological Survey (https://sgs.org.sa/English/Topics/Pages/Zamzam.aspx last accessed 08-07-2019)
Qaisra Khan "Two Chinese blue-and-white porcelain sealed ‘Zamzam’ water bottles" in Explore Islamic Art Collections. Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;EPM;uk;Mus22;24;en
Prepared by: Qaisra Khan
MWNF Working Number: UK2 24