Today (?) in Middle Eastern history: Muhammad conquers Mecca (630?)

You’ve probably noted those question marks in the title to this post, and they aren’t there to remind me to go back and check my facts later. The question marks are there because there’s no compelling reason to believe that this event happened on the date that corresponds with January 11, 630, on our calendar. Don’t get me wrong, the chances that it happened on January 11, 630, are much better than the chances it happened on, say, March 24, 1975, but the fact is that lining up the Islamic calendar with ours isn’t an exact science and the variability gets worse the further back you go. Making things more complicated, we can’t be entirely sure that the Hijri calendar in use in what was the year 8 for Muslims was exactly aligned with the Hijri calendar as it is today. Complicating things still further, the extant sources—all of which are fundamentally problematic in their own rights—give multiple dates for the conquest. The technical term historians use for this sort of thing is “yikes.”

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