Timelines: Timeline of African Slavery in the Arab/Islamic World, 634 – Present

The main slave routes of the Arab Slave Trade in Africa from the 8th to 15th centuries CE. Image credit: Wikipedia

Shalom, everyone! As we mentioned in previous posts, the Arab Slave Trade of Africans preceded the Transatlantic Slave Trade by more than 700 years. Much has been written and taught about the Transatlantic Slave Trade but little is mentioned about the even more brutal Arab Slave Trade, which continues even to this day. Millions of more Africans were trafficked throughout the Arab/Muslim world than were ever taken to the Americas. But then, why is the African population of the Arab/Muslim world so low? This is because there was a much higher ratio of enslaved female Africans to male Africans trafficked throughout North Africa and Asia. The primary reasons for this were for concubinage and domestic housework. These females bore their master mixed-race children who were then be absorbed by the majority society. Sometimes, not even these babies were spared. Many mixed-race babies were killed at birth to prevent the increase of the African population in these regions. Another reason why the African population in North Africa and Asia is low is that the majority of enslaved male Africans were castrated, thereby preventing them from reproducing.

Enslaved Africans in the Arab/Muslim world held a variety of roles including as concubines, cooks, porters, agricultural labor, miners, and even soldiers. Nubia and Ethiopia were two of the first slave-exporting regions of Africa. This was then followed by the Sudan, Saharan Africa, western sub-Saharan Africa and eastern Africa. The primary regions to which Africans were trafficked include modern-day Turkey, Syria, Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, the Sudan, Iran and even India. Let’s not also forget that during their conquests of the African continent, the Arabs/Muslims forcibly converted millions of Africans to Islam, who in turn participated in the capture and enslavement of their fellow non-Muslim Africans.

The names Arabs/Muslims gave to enslaved Africans were “Zanj” (“rust”/”negro”) and “Abd” (“slave”). The Arab/Muslim slave trade also involved the abduction and enslavement of millions of Europeans, especially European women, who were also trafficked throughout North Africa, the Middle East and western and central Asia. The following is a timeline of African slavery in the Arab/Islamic world from 634 AD to the present. Please note that this post is a work-in-progress. As more information becomes available, this timeline will be updated:

Year Historical Event
634 – 641 Muslim conquest of the Levant. Arab Muslim armies topple the Byzantine Empire in the Levant (modern Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and southeastern Turkey).
639 – 642 Muslim conquest of Egypt.
633 – 651 Muslim conquest of Persia. Arab Muslim armies topple the Sassanian Empire.
647 – 742 Muslim conquest of the Maghreb (North Africa)Arab Muslim armies topple the Byzantine Empire.
711 – 714 Muslim conquest of Sindh (modern-day Pakistan).
711 – 721 Muslim conquest of the Iberian Peninsula.
869 – 883 Zanj Rebellion. Enslaved Africans, also known as the Zanj, in the Iraqi city of Basra stage the largest and longest slave rebellion in history, fighting against the inhumane treatment they received at the hands of the Arab slavemasters.
800s – 1600s Islamization of the Sudan, northwestern Africa, and the Horn of Africa.
1500 – 1900 Historians estimate that as many as 17 million to 50 million slaves sold by Arab/Muslim slave traders on the coast of India, the Middle East, and North Africa.
1830 Mahmud II issues a decree freeing all white slaves in the Ottoman Empire.
1846 Ahmad I ibn Mustafa abolishes the slave trade under British pressure, but this is later reversed by his successor, Muhammad II ibn al-Husayn.
1847 Slave trade from Africa abolished in the Ottoman Empire.
1871 Slave trade criminalized in the Ottoman Empire.
1877 Slavery abolished in Egypt.
1882 All white and black slaves emancipated in Turkey by royal decree.
1897 Slavery abolished in Zanzibar after becoming a British protectorate.
1905 Slavery abolished in Mauritania.
1908 Young Turk Revolution eradicated open trade of Zanj and Circassian women from Constantinople.
1922 Slavery abolished in Morocco.
1924 Slavery abolished in the Ottoman Empire when new Turkish constitution disbanded the imperial Harem and made all eunuchs and concubines free citizens of the new Turkish Republic.
1927 Treaty of Jeddah signed by the United Kingdom, Hejaz and Nejd (modern-day Saudi Arabia) abolishing the slave trade
1929 Slavery abolished and criminalized in Persia.
1936 Slavery abolished in Northern Nigeria.
1946 Beginning of large slave defections in French Sudan.
1952 Slavery abolished in Qatar.
1962 Slavery abolished in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
1970 Slavery abolished in Oman.
1981 Slavery abolished again in Mauritania.
1983 Second Sudanese Civil War starts a new wave of Arab slave-trading of Black African Sudanese, primarily the Dinka, Nuer and Nuba of central Sudan.
2002 End of slave-raiding and abduction in Sudan.
2007 Slavery criminalized in Mauritania.
Present Slave-trading and slave auctions still occur in Tunisia and Libya…



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