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A comprehensive study of the Eastern slave trade by an eminent British scholar A companion volume to The Black Diaspora, this groundbreaking work tells the fascinating and horrifying story of the Islamic slave trade. Islam's Black Slaves documents a centuries-old institution that still survives, and traces the business of slavery and its repercussions from Islam's inception A comprehensive study of the Eastern slave trade by an eminent British scholar A companion volume to The Black Diaspora, this groundbreaking work tells the fascinating and horrifying story of the Islamic slave trade. Islam's Black Slaves documents a centuries-old institution that still survives, and traces the business of slavery and its repercussions from Islam's inception in the seventh century, through its history in China, India, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, and Spain, and on to Sudan and Mauritania, where, even today, slaves continue to be sold. Ronald Segal reveals for the first time the numbers involved in this trade--as many millions as were transported to the Americas--and explores the differences between the traffic in the East and the West. Islam's Black Slaves also examines the continued denial of the very existence of this sector of the black diaspora, although it survives today in significant numbers; and in an illuminating conclusion, Segal addresses the appeal of Islam to African-American communities, and the perplexing refusal of Black Muslim leaders to acknowledge black slavery and oppression in present-day Mauritania and Sudan. A fitting companion to Segal's previous work, Islam's Black Slaves is a fascinating account of an often unacknowledged tradition, and a riveting cross-cultural commentary.


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A comprehensive study of the Eastern slave trade by an eminent British scholar A companion volume to The Black Diaspora, this groundbreaking work tells the fascinating and horrifying story of the Islamic slave trade. Islam's Black Slaves documents a centuries-old institution that still survives, and traces the business of slavery and its repercussions from Islam's inception A comprehensive study of the Eastern slave trade by an eminent British scholar A companion volume to The Black Diaspora, this groundbreaking work tells the fascinating and horrifying story of the Islamic slave trade. Islam's Black Slaves documents a centuries-old institution that still survives, and traces the business of slavery and its repercussions from Islam's inception in the seventh century, through its history in China, India, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, and Spain, and on to Sudan and Mauritania, where, even today, slaves continue to be sold. Ronald Segal reveals for the first time the numbers involved in this trade--as many millions as were transported to the Americas--and explores the differences between the traffic in the East and the West. Islam's Black Slaves also examines the continued denial of the very existence of this sector of the black diaspora, although it survives today in significant numbers; and in an illuminating conclusion, Segal addresses the appeal of Islam to African-American communities, and the perplexing refusal of Black Muslim leaders to acknowledge black slavery and oppression in present-day Mauritania and Sudan. A fitting companion to Segal's previous work, Islam's Black Slaves is a fascinating account of an often unacknowledged tradition, and a riveting cross-cultural commentary.

30 review for Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hana

    Thoughtful, engrossing and meticulously documented, Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora provides an excellent history of slavery in Islamic Africa starting with the Middle Ages through to the present-day. For nearly 750 years, from the middle of the eighth century, Islam was the central civilization of the Old World serving as the carrier that transmitted innovations from one society to another. Islam itself spread through trade as much as through conquest and lucrative overland and ma Thoughtful, engrossing and meticulously documented, Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora provides an excellent history of slavery in Islamic Africa starting with the Middle Ages through to the present-day. For nearly 750 years, from the middle of the eighth century, Islam was the central civilization of the Old World serving as the carrier that transmitted innovations from one society to another. Islam itself spread through trade as much as through conquest and lucrative overland and maritime trade routes stretched from Morocco and Spain, to Persia, India and China. Luxury goods dominated trade and among the 'goods' were slaves--from the Balkans, the Caucasus and, also increasingly with time, from sub-Saharan Africa. Economic booms have a way of creating their own special distortions. Starting in the seventh century, when Islam conquered the Persian Sassanid Empire and much of the Byzantine one, it acquired immense quantities of looted gold. In addition, supplies of newly minted gold arrived along trade routes that the empire inherited or developed; one reaching from the mines of Nubia to Aswan, others from central Africa to the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. This vast expansion of wealth encouraged a culture of conspicuous consumption and slaves were among the possessions that set the rich apart, though even small-holders and nomadic traders generally had a slave or two. Female slaves were required in considerable numbers in the Medieval Islamic world. Female slave musicians, singers, dancers, reciters and even composers of poetry were highly prized and costly. There were schools in Baghdad, Cordoba and Medina that supplied tuition and training in musical and literary skills. Many more women were bought for domestic work or as concubines. Overall, the ratio of female to male slaves was about 2:1 in the Islamic world. Homes of those who could afford the space were divided into separate quarters for men and women and the men were served by male slaves who functioned as grooms, guards, messengers and porters. To guarantee the virtue of the women of the household harems were secured not just by locks, but by slave guards, who were invariably eunuchs. Slave eunuchs sold for up to seven times the price of uncastrated male slaves reflecting the high death rate from the operation, but also high demand. In addition to their role as harem guards eunuchs served as administrators, tutors and secretaries and as male concubines. The Caliph in Baghdad in the early 10th century had seven thousand black eunuchs and four thousand white ones in his palace. While the North Atlantic slave trade arose primarily to provide agricultural workers, that role was filled in the Medieval Islamic world largely by local peasants rather than slaves. In theory, the Koran's injunctions should have guaranteed much kinder treatment of slaves in the land of Islam than was the case in the Americas. To some extent that was true: slaves were more often freed, integration into the broader social fabric was quite common and there were pathways to very high rank for both white and black slaves (though these were more common for the former); but practices forbidden by Koran, such as castration, were in fact commonplace. The number of Africans enslaved is obviously difficult to estimate and Segal does a good job reviewing various sources drawing on tax records, business documents in such repositories as the Cairo geniza, and Islamic and European writers. Spread over thirteen and a half centuries a number of 14 million for the total Islamic black slave trade (an average of about 10,000 per year) seems, if anything, a bit conservative. The number of Africans enslaved was thus roughly equal to the numbers enslaved in the Atlantic trade, but spread out over a much longer period of time. I found the overviews of the Caliphates and the Ottoman Empires and the spread of Islam concise and helpful. The chapters detailing the collision of European powers with the Afro-Islamic world were particularly thought-provoking. Colonization of Africa by European powers, some of which had committed to eliminating the Atlantic slave trade, had a curiously mixed effect on the actual practice of slavery in Islamic African provinces. European administrators, unwilling to disrupt the effective pursuit of profits or antagonize local Arab strong men and landowners, were inconsistent about the issue, often doing more harm than good. Detailed and thoughtful examinations of colonial policies in Nigeria (Britain), Somalia (Italy), Mauritania (France) and Zanzibar and the Kenya Coast (Britain) illustrate how uneven, careless policy-making created populations of squatters, impoverished day-laborers and vagrants who were often conscripted for government projects or even as labor gangs or fighting units in Europe's world wars. Slavery still persists in Mauritania, the Sudan and elsewhere in the Arab and African world; against a background of fourteen centuries of Islamic colonization and slave-owning, the practice becomes more comprehensible, if no less painful and dehumanizing to those enslaved. The final chapter leaps rather incongruously to a puzzled essay on African-America's fascination with Islam as an alternative to Christianity. I don't get it either, but it doesn't really fit the overall narrative. I would have much preferred to see the book summarize the state of the African diaspora in the Arab world and/or discuss how the dysfunctional mix of Arab and European colonialism helped create a series of failed and violent states. But that's nit-picking: overall, this is a very valuable book on a woefully understudied topic. Content Rating: PG Warning for dark thematic material. Some short sentences about the violence done to slaves, particularly as regards castration and concubinage. He doesn't overdo it with the gore or sexual elements, but without these few spare, shocking sentences the reality of the slaves' terrible experience would be lost.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Simon Wood

    SLAVERY AND ISLAM Ronald Segals short (240 pages) book on the subject of Slavery and Islam is one of the few books that cover this issue in a form that is accessible to the average reader. What is welcome about the book is that it stands apart from much of the fevered anti-Islamic writing that has been a growing phenomena over the last few decades and attempts to deal with the issue of Slavery in Islam in an impartial manner. Africa has suffered at the hands of the slave trade for well over a tho SLAVERY AND ISLAM Ronald Segals short (240 pages) book on the subject of Slavery and Islam is one of the few books that cover this issue in a form that is accessible to the average reader. What is welcome about the book is that it stands apart from much of the fevered anti-Islamic writing that has been a growing phenomena over the last few decades and attempts to deal with the issue of Slavery in Islam in an impartial manner. Africa has suffered at the hands of the slave trade for well over a thousand years, the European component of that trade was at it height between the 1500's into the 1800's. Slavery already existed in the lands that were to come under Islam, and the trade was carried over from then (7th century) and though the Ottoman empire banned it in the 1850's it has continued in some parts of the Islamic world until well into the twentieth century, in two countries Mauritania and Sudan it is believed to be still continuing. A section of the book makes the comparison between the two trades and makes the point that in the few centuries that the Europeans traded in slaves they enslaved almost as many Africans as Islamic countries did over 13 centuries. Further to this he points out that "in European Slavery the Africans were depersonalised, a unit of labour in an America where the original populations had been hideously depleted by European arms and diseases." This is in comparison to Islam where "the overall treatment of slaves was overall more benign, in part because of the values and attitudes promoted by religion inhibited the very development of Western style Capitalism, with its effective subjugation of people to the priority of profit." In short Slaves in Islam became part of the service sector, soldiers and household servants, cooks and concubines where in the Americas slaves were a unit of production in the highly capitalised production of commodities for world trade. In both instances the Slave Trade itself was equally bloody. No one wishes to be enslaved, and this is as true whether the masters are Christian and capitalist or of the Muslim religion. The journeys that Slaves made across the Saharan Desert or on dhows to Arabia were fully as brutal as those experienced by the slaves who made their passage across the Atlantic. The castration of slaves to feed the market for Eunuchs is one particular aspect of Islamic slavery that is absent from the Western experience. The figures for death rates following the "operation" are horrendous though the author is unable to give a precise figure. Segal also reflects on the situation for Slaves once they reach their destination, and it is here - in general - that the differences between the two systems become more noticeable. The authors conclusion is that "the freeing of individual slaves by their owners was much more frequent and widespread in Islam." It also covers the question of why there is no noticeable Diaspora of Blacks in the Islamic world. A recent comment posted on one of my reviews states quite categorically that it was a result of the widespread castration of male slaves. While there certainly was a trade in Eunuchs it was not a majority of those African males enslaved, who were only reckoned to be a third of those traded, females making up two thirds (this is the reverse of the proportions for the Atlantic trade). The conclusion that Segal comes to is that "the comparative smallness of a black Diaspora in Islam is evidence not of the small numbers carried by the trade, but of the degree to which large numbers were absorbed in the wider population." He also notes examples of Slaves and former Slaves who rose to high and respectable positions within Islamic societies. The book ranges through time and geography to give accounts of particular examples of Islamic societies and the forms of slavery they practiced. It is this part of the book that becomes a little confusing, the reader is bombarded with names and places from Spain (Al-Andalus) to India and all across North Africa as well as the Ottoman Empire. Also covered are those places that came colonies under European Imperialism, and the changes that occurred in relation to slavery which was gradually replaced by Capitalistic labour relations which secured similar ends (coercing labour) without the inhuman ownership of one person by another. A short section on Islam and the post slavery black population of America is interesting, but seems somewhat superfluous given that they were neither formally slaves and the hybrid beliefs they held were only in part related to Islam as it was known elsewhere. As a good impartial history of Slavery and Islam I know of none that is better. It has its weaknesses, and is not as comprehensive as books on the Atlantic slave trade and American Slavery in part because of the diversity of experience and the fact that the history of Islamic slavery stretches back far further in time and the sources are not as readily available as those for the American experience. Overall an interesting book, that is worth reading.

  3. 4 out of 5

    GoldGato

    This was a fascinating book in that it helped explain the various forms of slavery used under the guise of Islam along with the differences between slavery in the West and slavery in the East. Structured first with a historical slant, then a region-by-region explanation, it is well set-up for the patient reader. While slavery in the West was directed to the productive economy, in the Ottoman Empire it was a form of consumption. In the Ottoman Empire, slaves had stipulated rights, which was in conf This was a fascinating book in that it helped explain the various forms of slavery used under the guise of Islam along with the differences between slavery in the West and slavery in the East. Structured first with a historical slant, then a region-by-region explanation, it is well set-up for the patient reader. While slavery in the West was directed to the productive economy, in the Ottoman Empire it was a form of consumption. In the Ottoman Empire, slaves had stipulated rights, which was in conformity with Islamic teachings. These enslaved servants could become high-ranking generals and viziers and then be freed to become fairly rich. Some free-born Muslims often bribed their way into becoming slaves, so they, too, could rise high in the organization. The devil was in the tail. One reason I appreciated the outline and structure of this book was that it explained the beginning, rise, and expansion of Islam. This provided a nice history lesson before the focus started on the various nations and nationalities. The intricacies of the many African tribes, the grasping of the European powers (such as the French 'liberty villages'), and the subversion of Islamic creed for golden greed makes for a very defined reading. At times, I lagged at the many details, then picked up again as the last part of the book looked at the Arab-versus-African conflicts and the ongoing slavery trade in Mauritania and the Sudan. While the author manages to keep personal views out of most of the book, his indignation comes through at the end. This is well-written with many notes, and as such, is a worthy read. Book Season = Spring (season of hope)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sumayyah

    Interesting. Ronald Segal combines Islamic history with the history of the African slave trade. He managed to uncover the names and positions of several former African slaves who rose to power. A few parts are lacking, or filled with controversial, disputed information. Overall, this book is an asset. I recommend this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ahmed El

    A grim account of the many atrocities of the slave industry from early Islamic empires until today. This book does a brilliant job highlighting the differences and similarities between the Trans-Saharan slave practice and the Atlantic one. For an injustice which lasted a little over 12 centuries, I can only say it is saddening how little awareness there is about its history among Middle Eastern nations.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laurel Zuckerman

    Fascinating look at the little known history of slavery in the Moslem world. This book should be assigned reading in classes on slavery.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Must read for all those interested in the global African diaspora, we're more than just those who ended up in the Americas. This follows the Diaspora of those who were slaves of the Trans Saharan slave trade which expanded from North Africa to Western Asia/ Middle East to Spain to India and even China. Must read for all those interested in the global African diaspora, we're more than just those who ended up in the Americas. This follows the Diaspora of those who were slaves of the Trans Saharan slave trade which expanded from North Africa to Western Asia/ Middle East to Spain to India and even China.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mariam

    I read this to understand more about slavery specifically how it played out in Africa and what a sad story it was. I was one of the naive people who thought that kind of slavery was over or at least not so prominent and this book was such an eye opener.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Martin Willoughby

    This is a well researched book, but has one large drawback: it spends most of the time telling the reader the history of Islamic expansion rather than what happened to the slaves. It's still an interesting book, but doesn't do what it says on the cover. There is very little information about the lives of the slaves and how they came to be slaves. Koranic attitudes to slavery are highlighted on several occasions, as is the difference between European slavery and the Middle Eastern slavery (European This is a well researched book, but has one large drawback: it spends most of the time telling the reader the history of Islamic expansion rather than what happened to the slaves. It's still an interesting book, but doesn't do what it says on the cover. There is very little information about the lives of the slaves and how they came to be slaves. Koranic attitudes to slavery are highlighted on several occasions, as is the difference between European slavery and the Middle Eastern slavery (Europeans mainly used them in industry, Arabs mainly used them as servants and soldiers). But while there is a lot of history of Islam, there is very little about the slaves themselves. A better book about Islamic slavery is White Gold by Giles Milton. Although that book is about Europeans taken slaves by Barabry Coast pirates, there are parts of the book that talk about the lives of black slaves used as soldiers. One thing I did take from this book that I wasn't aware of before is in 1511, 50 black slaves were taken from Andalucia in Spain to the West Indies. Those slaves hadn't been captured by Europeans, but were left behind by the Arabs when they lost their last foothold in Iberia. It begs a question: would Europe have thought of slavery as an option if there were no slaves in Spain?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    A wonderful examination of a theme I have never even considered. Well researched and thorough in its claims, I feel as though I have a basic understanding of the concepts and history after reading this book. The author seldom strays into personal arguments and sentiments despite the emotional topic. My only wish was that he had first given a short history on the existence of slavery in the covered areas before Islam - the book somewhat abruptly begins with the advent of Islam and does not cover A wonderful examination of a theme I have never even considered. Well researched and thorough in its claims, I feel as though I have a basic understanding of the concepts and history after reading this book. The author seldom strays into personal arguments and sentiments despite the emotional topic. My only wish was that he had first given a short history on the existence of slavery in the covered areas before Islam - the book somewhat abruptly begins with the advent of Islam and does not cover the practices already in place before that time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kuldip S Attalia

    An eye opener. Opens a can of worms on slavery by Islamists.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Craig Bolton

    Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora by Ronald Segal (2002) Islam's Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora by Ronald Segal (2002)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Graham

    A book like this needs to be read. People tend to forget that Muslims had millions of slaves and that slavery still exists in many Muslim countries. Read this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Nathen

  15. 5 out of 5

    Pawpaw

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lemas Mitchell

  18. 5 out of 5

    Starbrite Washington

  19. 5 out of 5

    Masonbooklove

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Kenvyn

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shawn Fisher

  22. 5 out of 5

    Francis Sagote

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

  25. 5 out of 5

    James Attree

  26. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Ayre

  27. 4 out of 5

    Grant

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ess

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gary

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