10 Facts About The Arab Enslavement Of Black People Not Taught In Schools

Atlanta BlackStar
slave arab

The Number of People Enslaved

The number of people enslaved by Muslims has been a hotly debated topic, especially when the millions of Africans forced from their homelands are considered.

Some historians estimate that between A.D. 650 and 1900, 10 to 20 million people were enslaved by Arab slave traders. Others believe over 20 million enslaved Africans alone had been delivered through the trans-Sahara route alone to the Islamic world.

Dr. John Alembellah Azumah in his 2001 book, The Legacy of Arab-Islam in Africa estimates that over 80 million Black people more died en route.

castrated african guarding harem in tunis

Arab Enslavers Practiced Genetic Warfare

The Arab slave trade typically dealt in the sale of castrated male slaves. Black boys between the age of 8 and 12 had their scrotums and penises completely amputated to prevent them from reproducing. About six of every 10 boys  bled to death during the procedure, according to some sources, but the high price brought by eunuchs on the market made the practice profitable.

Some men were castrated to be eunuchs in domestic service and the practice of neutering male slaves was not limited to only Black males. “The calipha in Baghdad at the beginning of the 10th Century had 7,000 black eunuchs and 4,000 white eunuchs in his palace,” writes author Ronald Segal in his 2002 book, Islam’s Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora.

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Slavery memorial _Stone_Town

Arab Slave Trade Inspired Arab Racism Toward Blacks

Its important to note that Arab is not a racial classification;  an Arab is almost like an American in that people classified as Arab today could be Caucasian (white people), Asiatic or even Arabized Africans. In the beginning there was some level of mutual respect between the Blacks and the more lighter skinned Arabs. However,  as Islam and the demand for enslaved Blacks grew, so did racism toward Africans.

As casual association with Black skin and slave began to be established, racist attitudes towards Blacks began to manifest in Arabic language and literature. The word for slave – Abid – became a colloquialism for African. Other words such as Haratin express social inferiority of Africans.
arabs enslaving african women as concubines

Arab Enslavers Targeted Women For Rape

The eastern Arab slave trade dealt primarily with African women, maintaining a ratio of two women for each man. These women and young girls were used by Arabs and other Asians as concubines and menials.

A Muslim slaveholder was entitled by law to the sexual enjoyment of his slave women. Filling the harems of wealthy Arabs, African women bore them a host of children.

This abuse of African women would continue for nearly 1, 200 years.

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transatlantic slave trade

Arab Slave Trade Ushered in The European Slave Trade

The Arab slave trade in the 19th century was economically tied to the European trade of Africans. New opportunities of exploitation were provided by the transatlantic slave trade and this sent Arab slavers into overdrive.

The Portuguese (on the Swahili coast) profited directly and were responsible for a boom in the Arab trade. Meanwhile on the West African coast, the Portuguese found Muslim merchants entrenched along the African coast as far as the Bight of Benin. These European enslavers found they could make considerable amounts of gold transporting enslaved Africans from one trading post to another, along the Atlantic coast.

La_Vengeance_des_fils_dAntarThe Arab Slave Trade Sparked One of The Largest Slave Rebellions in History

The Zanj Rebellion took place near the city of Basra, located in present-day southern Iraq, over a period of fifteen years (A.D. 869–883). The insurrection is believed to have involved enslaved Africans (Zanj) who had originally been captured from the African Great Lakes region and areas further south in East Africa.

Basran landowners had brought several thousand East African Zanj people into southern Iraq to drain the salt marshes in the east. The landowners forced the Zanj, who generally spoke no Arabic, into heavy slave labor and provided them with only minimal subsistence. The harsh treatment sparked an uprising that grew to involve over 500,000 enslaved and free men who were imported from across the Muslim empire.

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arab slavery of africans

Arab Enslavers Avoided Teaching Islam to Blacks to Justify Enslaving Them

According to some historians,  Islam prohibited freeborn Muslims from being enslaved, so it was not in the interest for Arab slavers to convert enslaved Africans to the religion. Since converting enslaved Africans to Muslim would grant them more rights and reduce the potential reservoir of people to enslave, propagators of Islam often revealed a cautious attitude toward proselytizing Africans.

Still, if an African converted to Islam he was not guaranteed freedom nor did it confer freedom to their children. Only children of slaves or non-Muslim prisoners of war could become slaves, never a freeborn Muslim.


The Time Period

The Arab slave trade was the longest yet least discussed of the two major slave trades. It began in seventh century as Arabs and other Asians poured into northern and eastern Africa under the banner of Islam. The Arab trade of Blacks in Southeast Africa predates the European transatlantic slave trade by 700 years. Some scholars say the Arab slave trade continued in one form or another up until the 1960s, however, slavery in Mauritania was criminalized as recently as August 2007.

Antar ibn shaddadThe Arab Slave Trade Allowed More Upward Mobility Than the European Slave Trade

Upward mobility within the ranks of Arab slaves was not rare. Tariq ibn Ziyad – who conquered Spain and whom Gibraltar was named after – was a slave of the emir of Ifriqiya, Musa bin Nusayr, who gave him his freedom and appointed him a general in his army.

Son of an enslaved Ethiopian mother, Antarah ibn Shaddād, also known as Antar, was an Afro-Arabic man who was originally born into slavery. He eventually became a well-known poet and warrior. Extremely courageous in battle, historians have dubbed him the “father of knighthood … [and] chivalry” and “the king of heroes.”

This kind of upward mobility did not occur  in the European slavery system.


enslaved white women

Arab Slave Trade Not Limited To Africa or Skin Color

One of the biggest differences between the Arab slave trade and European slaving was that the Arabs drew slaves  from all racial groups. During the eighth and ninth centuries of the Fatimid Caliphate, most of the slaves were Europeans (called Saqaliba), captured along European coasts and during wars.

Aside from those of African origins, people from a wide variety of regions were forced into Arab slavery, including Mediterranean people; Persians; people from the Caucasus mountain regions (such as Georgia, Armenia and Circassia) and parts of Central Asia and Scandinavia;  English, Dutch and Irish; and Berbers from North Africa.

9 thoughts on “10 Facts About The Arab Enslavement Of Black People Not Taught In Schools”

    1. And you don’t know unless you have read about such atrocities concerning slavery. I did not know it was so prolific, he went up to the 1960s. This is unbelievable and incomprehensible.

      1. It still happens today in the Middle East, with the victims being African, Asia and European folks who have been taken against their wills. The arabs have never stopped this repulsive behavior. About that best that can be done with many arab countries is to create glass parking lots with the space.

        1. I concur with the glass parking lot modification. Becoming more urgent now that Boko Haram and other splinter al Qaida gangs have aligned with ISIS. The entire Middle East is rapidly becoming an ISIS caliphate, much to the dismay of non-ISIS people (King of Jordan, President of Egypt, etc.) and much to the apparent joy of B. Hussein Obama.

  1. Re: “In the beginning there was some level of mutual respect between the Blacks and the more lighter skinned Arabs. However, as Islam and the demand for enslaved Blacks grew, so did racism toward Africans.”

    Anti-black racism is right in the Qur’an and ahadiths, where Muhammad himself is officially recorded as having called blacks:

    “Pug-nosed Raisin-heads with Donkey-cocks who carry the plague!” And who quipped, “If you throw a black off a cliff, he’ll probably snap his fingers to keep time all the way down!”

    Sho’ nuff YO!

    No doubt the fried chicken and watermelon jokes got lost to the sands of time.

    PS: to all those racist blacks who proudly give their kids “Arab” names, because they admire the threat-power of their “swarthy brothers” – all the original Arabs, including Muhammad (who was described as being a “VERY white man,” with reddish hair) have been classified by geneticists as “Caucasians.”


  2. Well, well, what do ya know! What prompted this can of worms to be opened? Slavery by white hands, brown, red, yellow or even black hands is not acceptable by any means. Wrong is wrong. In the judgment, I’d rather be the enslaved than the slave holder. The wrath of God is not a small thing, His judgement is sure & swift, won’t be a slap-on-the-wrists. He hates “SIN”, by any means, by any hands. There is still so much more not taught in schools in ref. to the black race, positive points, accomplishment’s, inventions, etc. Jesus had the same mistreatment, He, knows, He sees, He will judge! God bless

  3. When I was a teen (around 1960 to 1966) I saw a TV documentary on Africa, in which they explained that the woman shuffling along with shackled ankles, shopping for food in an open-air market, was a slave. That memory has not faded; it shocked me then, to realise that there were still Africans living as slaves.

    Last year, the Q Society brought Simon Deng to Australia for public meetings, at which he talked about his years as a slave, his escape and his work aimed at warning “The West” about the true nature of Islam.

    There are many forms of slavery current today. Cocoa is grown by slaves, for example.

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