The Arab slave trade originated before Islam and lasted more than a millennium. Arab traders brought Africans across the Indian Ocean from the Swahili Coast of present-day Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania, and elsewhere in Southeast Africa and from Eritrea and Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa to present-dayIraq, Iran, Kuwait, Somalia, Turkey and other parts of the Middle East and South Asia (mainly Pakistan and India). Unlike the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the New World, Arabs supplied African slaves to the Arab world, which at its peak stretched over three continents from the Atlantic to the Far East.
Luiz Felipe de Alencastro states that there were 8 million slaves taken from Africa between the 8th and 19th centuries along the Oriental and the Trans-Saharan routes. The Arab trade of Zanj (Bantu) slaves in Southeast Africa is one of the oldest slave trades, predating the European transatlantic slave trade by 700 years.Male slaves were often employed as servants, soldiers, or laborers by their owners, while female slaves, including those from Africa, were long traded to the Middle Eastern countries and kingdoms by Arab and Oriental traders as concubines and servants. Arab, African and Oriental traders were involved in the capture and transport of slaves northward across the Sahara desert and the Indian Ocean region into the Middle East, Persia and the Far East
By the 14th century, an overwhelming number of slaves came from sub-Saharan Africa, leading to prejudice against black people in the works of several Arabic historians and geographers. For example, the Egyptian historian Al-Abshibi (1388–1446) wrote: “It is said that when the [black] slave is sated, he fornicates, when he is hungry, he steals.” Enslaved Africans were sold in the towns of the Arab World. In 1416, al-Maqrizi told how pilgrims coming from Takrur (near the Senegal River) had brought 1,700 slaves with them to Mecca. In North Africa, the main slave markets were in Morocco,Algiers, Tripoli and Cairo. Sales were held in public places or in souks
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
So the question arises, with the historical evidence of the Muslim incarceration of Africans into the servitude of their masters, why do so many Blacks in Africa practice Islam? And we look no further than the the War in Darfur is a major armed onslaught in the Darfur region of Sudan. It began in February 2003 when the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel groups took up arms against the government of Sudan, which they accused of oppressing Darfur’s non-Arab population. The government responded to attacks by carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur’s non-Arabs. This produced the deaths of tens to hundreds of thousands of civilians and the indictment of Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir for genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.
The Darfur crisis is also related to a second conflict. In southern Sudan, civil war has raged for decades between the northern, Arab-dominated government and Christian and animist black southerners. Yet another origin is conflict between the Islamist, Khartoum-based national government and two rebel groups based in Darfur: the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement. Non-Arab people, especially women, were reportedly raped by Janjaweed militiamen as a result of the Sudanese government’s goal of completely eliminating the presence of black Africans and non-Arabs from Darfur Sudan.
The rapists targeted black Sudanese. The Washington Post Foreign Service interviewed verified victims of the rapes and recorded that Arabic terms such as “abid” and “zurga” were used, which mean slave and black. One verified victim, Sawelah Suliman, was told by Janjaweed ethnic cleansing rapists, “Black girl, you are too dark. You are like a dog. We want to make a light baby,”.[