Islamic Slavery in India

The Arabs were the first invaders of India to capture and enslave large numbers of its inhabitants. In the 7th and 8th centuries, and later under the Ghaznavids (962-1187), huge numbers of Hindus became slaves. Many more were enslaved under the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526), the Timurid jihad (1398), and the Mughals (1526-1857). K.S. Lal claims that the slave-taking added significantly to the growth of the Muslim population in India: “… every slave captured in war or purchased in the market or sent in lieu of revenue or tribute was invariably converted to Islam, so that slave-taking in medieval India was the most flourishing and successful missionary endeavour.”

The nobility owned huge numbers of slaves and maintained large slave armies. For example, a 14th century sultan kept 180,000 slaves of whom 40,000 were palace guards. In this situation of abundance the price of female slaves was very low. The large numbers of slaves captured in campaigns were either sold in local markets or sent to markets in central Asia.

Islm and Slavery, Samuel Green

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