This is Part 6 of the chapter "Islamic Slavery" from M. A. Khan's book, "Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery". To uphold the Quran's command and Muhammad's tradition, wherever Jihadi Muslim invaders have gone -- Asia, Africa or Europe -- they have engaged in extensive slavery, Africa being the worst affected. (Part 1Part 5, Part 7)


Muslim invaders and rulers engaged in enslaving the vanquished infidels in large numbers in their raids and wars everywhere. Prophet Muhammad’s inauguration of wholesale enslavement of non-Muslims for selling them or engaging in household work and concubinage was progressively expanded after his death as the Muslim power progressively increased through the reigns of the Rightly Guided Caliphs (632–60), the Umayyads (661–750) and the Abbasids (751–1250).

When Muslim General Amr, directed by Caliph Omar, conquered Tripoli in 643, he took away the women and children from both the Jews and Christians. Caliph Othman, records ninth-century historian Abu Khalif al-Bhuturi, imposed a treaty on the Nubia (Sudan) in 652, requiring its rulers to send an annual tribute of slaves—360 for the caliph and forty for the Egyptian governor,[1] which continued until 1276. Similar treaties were concluded during the Umayyad and Abbasid rules with the towns of Transoxiana, Sijistan, Armenia and Fezzan (modern Northwest Africa), who had to send a stipulated annual tribute of slaves of both sexes.[2] During the Umayyad rule, Musa bin Nusair, an illustrious Yemeni General, was made governor of North Africa (Ifrikiya, 698–712) to put down a renewed Berber rebellion and to spread the domain of Islam. Musa put down the revolts and enslaved 300,000 infidels. The Caliph’s one-fifth share, numbering 60,000, was sold into slavery and the proceeds were deposited into the caliphal treasury. Musa engaged 30,000 of the captives into military service.[3]

In his four-year campaign in Spain (711–15), Musa had captured 30,000 virgins from the families of Gothic nobility alone.[4] This excludes the enslaved women from other backgrounds, and of course, the children. In the sack of Ephesus in 781, 7,000 Greeks were driven away as slaves. In the capture of Amorium in 838, slaves were so numerous that Caliph al-Mutasim ordered them to be auctioned in batches of five and ten. In the assault of Thessalonia in 903, 22,000 Christians were divided among the Arab chieftains or sold into slavery. In Sultan Alp Arsalan’s devastation of Georgia and Armenia in 1064, there was immense slaughter and all the survivors were enslaved. Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur of Spain raided Lisbon in 1189, enslaving some 3,000 women and children. His governor of Cordoba attacked Silves in 1191, making 3,000 Christians captive.[5]

Having captured Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187, Sultan Saladin enslaved the Christian population and sold them. In the capture of Antioch in 1268, Mamluk Sultan al-Zahir Baybars (r. 1260–77) enslaved 100,000 people after putting 16,000 defenders of the garrison to the sword. ‘The salve market became so gutted that a boy would fetch only twelve dirhams and a girl five,’ notes Hitti.[6]

It is already noted that, after Muslims assumed power in Southeast Asia, they had promoted slavery to such an extent that the Portuguese—arriving after a century—found that almost all the people belonged to slave-masters and the Arabs were prominent among the masters. It is also noted that Muslim rulers in Southeast Asia often enslaved the entire population after capturing a territory and carry them away. In Java, Muslim rulers reduced the entire hill people, a substantial part of the population, to slavery through raids and purchase. Sultan Iskandar Muda (r. 1607–36) of Aceh brought thousands of slaves to his capital as a result of the conquests in Malaya. Java was the largest exporter of slaves in around 1500; these slaves were captured in ‘decisive wars of Islamization’.[7] The Sulu Sultanate, despite being under constant threat of being overtaken by the Spanish, brought as many as 2.3 million Filipinos as slaves from the Spanish-controlled Philippines through Moro Jihad raids between 1665 and 1870. Late in the 1860s to 1880s, slaves constituted 6 percent to two-thirds of the population in the Muslim-ruled regions of the Malay Peninsula and Indonesian Archipelago.

Late in the eighteenth century, Moroccan Sultan Moulay Ismail (r. 1672–1727) ‘had an army of black slaves, said to number 250,000.[8] In 1721, Moulay Ismail ordered an expedition against a rebel territory in the Atlas Mountains, where the rebels had resolved against sending tributes to the sultan. Upon defeating the rebels, ‘All the men were put to the sword, while the women and children… were carried back’ to the capital. Soon afterwards, he ordered another expedition of 40,000-strong force under the command of his son Moulay as-Sharif against the rebel town of Guzlan that had withdrawn tribute. Upon seeing no hope of winning the battle, the rebels surrendered and sued for mercy. But Moulay as-Sharif ‘ordered every man to be killed and decapitated.[9] Their women and children were obviously carried away as slaves.

Guinea (Africa, currently 85 percept Muslim) came under the Muslim rule in the eighteenth century. During the latter part of this century, the ‘Upper Guinea Coast had “slave town” with as many as 1,000 inhabitants’ under a chief. Traveling in Islamic Sierra Leone in 1823, Major Laing witnessed “slave town” in Falaba, the capital of Salima Susu.[10] These slaves worked in agricultural projects of the chief. The East African Empire of famed Sultan Sayyid Sa’id with its capital in Zanzibar (1806–56) ‘was founded upon slavery… Slaves were shipped to the markets of Southern Arabia and Persia as domestic retainers and concubines.[11]

Ronald Segal, who is sympathetic to Islam,[12] informs that African children of the age-group of ten to eleven years were captured in large numbers for military training to serve in the Muslim army. From Persia to Egypt to Morocco, slave armies consisting of 50,000 to 250,000 soldiers became commonplace.[13] Similar to the rearing of the Ottoman Janissary soldiers (discussed below), Sultan Moulay Ismail used to pick up ten-year-olds from the black slave-breeding farms and nurseries, castrate them and train them into loyal and fierce fighters, called bukhari, because, they pledged allegiance to the sultan swearing by Sahih Bukhari. The best of these bukharis served as the sultan’s personal and palace guards; the rest served in maintaining orders in the provinces. He had 25,000 bukharis guarding his capital at Meknes, while 75,000 were stationed in the garrison town of Mahalla.[14]

According to estimates of Paul Lovejoy (Transformations in Slavery, 1983), about two million slaves were transported from Africa and the Red Sea coast to the Islamic world in the nineteenth century alone, with at least eight million (estimated mortality rate 80–90 percent) likely perished in process. In the eighteenth century, estimated 1,300,000 black Africans were enslaved. Lovejoy estimates that a total of some 11,512,000 slaves were dispatched from Africa to the Islamic world by the nineteenth century, while the estimate of Raymond Mauvy (cited in The African Slave Trade from the Fifteenth to the Nineteenth Century, UNESCO, 1979) puts the total number at fourteen million, which also include some 300,000 enslaved in the first half of twentieth century.[15] Murray Gordon’s Slavery in the Arab World put the total number of black slaves harvested by Muslim slave-raiders at eleven million—roughly equal to the number taken by European traders to their colonies of the New World. At the end of the eighteenth century, caravans from Darfur used to transport 18,000–20,000 slaves in a single trip to Cairo. Even after Europe banned slavery in 1815 and pressured Muslim governments to stop the practice, ‘In 1830, the Sultan of Zanzibar claimed dues on 37,000 slaves a year; in 1872, 10,000 to 20,000 slaves a year left Suakin (Africa) for Arabia.[16]

[1]. Vantini G (1981) Christianity in the Sudan, EMI, Bologna, p. 65–67

[2]. Ibn Warraq (1995) Why I am not a Muslim, Prometheus Books, New York, p. 231

[3]. Umayyad Conquest of North Africa, Wikipedia,

[4]. Lal KS (1999) Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, p 103; Hitti PK (1961) The Near East in History, D. Van Nostrand Company Inc., New York, p. 229-30

[5]. Brodman JW (1986) Ransoming Captives in Crusader Spain: The Order of Merced on the Christian-Islamic Frontier, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, p. 2-3

[6]. Hitti (1961), p. 316

[7]. Reid A (1988) Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450–1680, Yale University Press, New Haven, p. 133

[8]. Lewis B (1994) Race and Slavery in the Middle East,  Oxford University Press, Chapter 8,

[9]. Milton G (2004) White Gold, Hodder & Stoughton, London, p. 143, 167-71

[10]. Rodney W (1972) In MA Klein & GW Johnson eds., Perspectives on the African Past, Little Brown Company, Boston, p. 158

[11]. Gann L (1972) In Ibid, p. 182

[12]. Segal emphasizes that anti-Semitism is in complete conflict with the amicable relationship Prophet Muhammad had established with Judaism and Christianity. He asserts that there is no historical conflict between Jews and Muslims, although some conflict arose only after the crusades. Such assertionsl go directly against Prophet’s exterminating or exiling the Jews of Medina and Khaybar and his final instruction, while in death-bed, to cleanse Arabia of the Jews and Christians. He also urged his followers to kill the Jews to the last one [Sahih Muslim, 41:6985]

[13]. Segal R (2002) Islam’s Black Slaves, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, p. 55

[14]. Milton, p. 147–150

[15]. Segal, p. 56–57

[16]. Braudel F (1995) A History of Civilizations, Translated by Mayne R, Penguin Books, New York, p. 131

Comments powered by CComment

Joomla templates by a4joomla