What is the significance of drinking Zamzam water whilst standing up and/or facing the Qibla?
There are two parts to your question: 1) Facing the direction of the Qibla when drinking Zamzam water; and 2) The legal status (hukm shar’i) of drinking Zamzam water whilst standing up. We will discuss both these issues separately, insha Allah.
Facing the Qibla whilst drinking Zamzam water
Classical scholars and jurists (fuqaha) have listed, in their respective works, many etiquettes (adaab) of drinking Zamzam water – of which facing the Qibla is one.
The proof for this is what has been related by Abdur-Rahman ibn Abi Mulayka that, “A man came to Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him); so he asked the man, ‘Where are you coming from?’ The man replied, ‘I drank from Zamzam.’ Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) said, ‘Did you drink from it as you are supposed to?’ He replied, ‘O Ibn Abbas, how am I supposed to drink it?’ Ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) said, ‘When you drink Zamzam water, face the Qibla, utter the name of Allah, drink it in three breaths, and drink as much as you like. When you finish drinking, praise Allah; for the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, ‘The difference between us and the hypocrites is that they do not drink the Zamzam water to their fill.’” (Sunan al-Darqutni 2/288 and Sunan Ibn Majah no: 3061. Al-Busiri said in his Zawa’id that its chain is Sahih)
Accordingly, the jurists of the various Schools of Islamic law state that it is ‘recommended’ to face the Qibla whilst drinking Zamzam water. (Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar 2/524; Nawawi, Al-Majmu 8/250; and Bahuti, Sharh Muntaha ‘l-Iradat 2/65)
As such, it is a recommended practice and from the etiquette of drinking Zamzam that one faces the Qibla – as encouraged by the great Companion Sayyiduna AbdAllah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him). However, it is not necessary; and thus not sinful or even disliked to drink it without facing the Qibla. At times, the practice of facing the Qibla is exaggerated to the point that one who does not face it is looked down upon; this must be avoided. People have a choice in facing the Qibla or otherwise when drinking the blessed water of Zamzam.
Standing up or being seated whilst drinking Zamzam
Classical scholars and jurists (fuqaha) have differed over whether one should drink Zamzam water standing up or seated.
a) According to some scholars, it is ‘recommended’ to stand and drink Zamzam. This was chosen by a group of Hanafi scholars; such as Mulla Ali al-Qari, Imam al-Lakhnawi, and Imam Ibn Abidin who cited ‘standing’ as one of the etiquettes (adaab) of drinking Zamzam. (See: Ali al-Qari, Jam’ al-Wasa’il; Lakhnawi, Umdat al-Ri’aya 1/267; and Radd al-Muhtar 2/524)
Their evidences are the following Hadiths:
Sayyiduna AbdAllah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) says, “I served Zamzam water to the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), and he drank from it whilst standing.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 1528 and Sahih Muslim 2027)
Sayyiduna AbdAllah ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) drank Zamzam water from a bucket whilst he was standing. (Sahih Muslim 2027)
The great Hadith scholar and Hanafi jurist, Imam Mulla Ali al-Qari’ (Allah have mercy on him) explains that the general practice of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) was to drink whilst being seated, and this is the real Sunna. However, Zamzam (as well as leftover water after performing ablution) is to be exempted from this in that one should stand and drink. The reason is that it is encouraged to drink Zamzam as much as possible to one’s fill, and this is better achieved in a standing position. (Jam’ al-Wasa’il fi sharh al-Shama’il 1/308)
b) According to many Shafi’i and other jurists, it is a Sunna to be seated whilst drinking Zamzam water, and mildly disliked (makruh tanzih) to stand. This is due to the general prohibition in various Hadiths of drinking water whilst standing up – which, according to them, includes Zamzam water. For example:
Sayyiduna Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) disapproved the drinking of water while standing. (Sahih Muslim 2024)
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “None of you should drink while standing; and if anyone forgets, he must vomit.” (Sahih Muslim 2026)
The great Hadith scholar and Shafi’i jurist, Imam Nawawi (Allah have mercy on him) explains in his Commentary that the prohibition in the above hadiths refers to this practice being mildly disliked (makruh tanzih), and not unlawful (haram). This is because it is established that the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) drank whilst standing up. He (Allah Allah bless him & give him peace) would occasionally carry out certain actions in order to show their permissibility – despite his regular practice being to the contrary. As such; his regular practice was to drink water while being seated, but on a few rare occasions he stood up and drank to show that it was not unlawful to do so. (Nawawi, Al-Minhaj sharh Sahih Muslim p: 1532)
Thus, in accordance with the regular practice of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace), according to this group of scholars, it is a Sunna and better to drink even Zamzam water while being seated, and mildly disliked to drink it in a standing position.
c) According to many Maliki and Hanbali scholars, it is permitted without any dislike to drink Zamzam or any other drink whilst standing. This is due to the hadiths in which the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) drank Zamzam water standing up [quoted above]. (See: Mardawi, Al-Insaf 8/330 and Ibn Juzay, Al-Qawanin al-Fiqhiyya 646)
So, in conclusion, it is neither necessary to stand and drink Zamzam water nor be seated, as both are permitted. As for what is better, there is a genuine and valid difference of opinion on the issue. Some are of the opinion that it is better to stand, some say it is better to sit, and some say both are equal. As such, no one should be rebuked or looked down upon whether they drink Zamzam water standing up or being seated.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK