October 10 and the problem with “this day in history”

Today is the traditional anniversary of the Battle of Tours (732), which either saved the Christian world as we know it or interrupted a small Arab-Berber raiding party from getting deeper into France, depending on your point of view. I’d have written a big thing about it for today, but here’s the thing:

  1. I’m traveling, and I only had time to crank this little thing out before I left
  2. Nobody’s really sure if the battle actually took place on October 10. Christian accounts have the battle taking place on a Saturday, but October 10 was a Friday in 732. Islamic accounts, when they bother to mention the battle at all, say it took place during the month of Ramadan, and in 732 October 10 did not fall within Ramadan. October 25 is possible, but other historians actually argue that the battle took place on October 17, 733, even though that was a Tuesday, or at least “late October 733,” because the Arab commander who died at Tours, the Andalusian governor Abd al-Rahman al-Ghafiqi, may not even have been appointed to his post as of October 10, 732.

Anyway, that post I linked to above will take you to another account of the battle that definitely covers the “this day in history” requirement.

Today is also the Gregorian anniversary of the Battle of Karbala (680), at which the third Shiʿa Imam, Husayn, was martyred. The problem with commemorating this as the anniversary of the battle is that Karbala already has an anniversary, on the Islamic (Hijri) calendar, called Ashura. But since the Hijri calendar is lunar, Ashura won’t be here until October 23. Normally, since this blog is geared toward a Western audience, I ignore Hijri dating and commemorate events according to when they occurred on the Gregorian calendar, but I have a problem doing this with Karbala since it has such a specific commemoration on its Hijri anniversary. It’s one of the complications that arise when you do these kind of “this day in history” things about civilizations that don’t all date things the same way.

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