Brief history of Islamic slave trade in Bharat

Following the tragic murder and the lack of dispensation of justice in the case of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the #Blacklivesmatter movement stirred up, both in real life and online. When the hashtag started trending, I found it highly offensive and insensitive of the muslims in India to highjack the movement to trend #muslimlivesmatter.

No, Muslims aren’t opressed or killed brutally by Indian police. No, muslims do not fear for their lives due to their race. No, muslims are not treated with brutality in any other country other than islamic theocratic nations, where they are regularly stoned to death for something as innocent as apostasy, even in 2020.

So of course it is hypocritical of muslims to even compare their lives in Bharat with those of black minorities in the US. Also please don’t misconstrue my words – of course muslim lives matter, just as any life matters, but its objectively inconsiderate to appropriate the BLM movement to suit their agenda, especially in such a trying time. (The Dalit-African movement is also bogus, but thats a topic for another day.)

Drawing parallels between US’s race issues with the Bharatiya majority-minority situation is entirely wrong, not only due to the fact that the history of US and Bharat are different, but also, the two countries cannot be compared fairly on economic, social, or political grounds.

When we examine the history of slavery in the US, post-abolition Jim Crow laws, the multitude of hate crimes, lynchings, hangings, etc over the years, all the way upto present day police brutality, institutionalized racism, the 13th amendment, the lack of representation by way of legislation, etc, it is clear that muslims in Bharat have not even faced a single one of these issues.

Even their average household incomes in their respective countries with respect to the majority cannot be compared. While black families in the US typically earn a whopping 50% less income than their white counterparts, in Bharat, there isn’t much distinction between the average monthly incomes of Hindus and Muslims in Bharat – both groups are equally poor.

In comparison, in Bharat, the average per capita expenditure for Muslims is Rs. 32.66 per day, while the same for Hindus is Rs 37.50, according to an NSS report published in 2009-10 by the Government of Bharat (Christians and Sikhs are much better off than both groups, at Rs 51.43 and Rs 55.30 per day respectively).

It’s obvious to see that the poverty levels aren’t all that much different between most Hindus and Muslims. Yet Muslims are on the receiving end of a multitude of state benefits – Ministry of Minority Affairs has a bigger and bigger budget each year. This year, the Finance Minister announced Rs 5,029 crore outlay for the Minority Affairs Ministry in the 2020-2021 fiscal, an increase of Rs 329 crore from last year.

Apart from this, students from the Muslim community were found to receive about 80 per cent of total scholarships offered under 20 Central government schemes in 2018-19. This means that they benefit from state schemes disproportionately above and beyond any other minority community, despite Hindus being equally poor. In contrast, African Americans were offered zero reparations post abolition of slavery, not even a paltry piece of the land they had been forced to cultivate for free.

Another major distinction we must make in order to validate or invalidate the congruence of the “muslim lives matter” hashtag with the BLM movement is the history of our nation. The black population in the US was formed by British and European settlers bringing Africans to the newly formed country as slaves via the transatlantic slave trade, and continued to be oppressed, killed and denied their basic human rights even until as late as the sixties.

Whereas in Bharat, Muslims played the invader-colonizer role – enslaving not only Africans throughout the Arab Islamic world, but a large number of Hindu men and women as well – they were sold, traded, and carted around booming slave-markets. A case of the minority ruling and oppressing the majority may seem rare, but if any country is to be compared with Bharat, it is South Africa that best fits the same structure and historical context as that of Bharat.

Despite the Muslims being the ruling class in major portions of the country for almost 8 centuries, after independence, Bharat decided to constitute minority welfare bodies and enshrine minority rights in the new constitution. If any parallels are drawn, it is the Hindus that have been victims for centuries, and continue to be till today, under the guise of the government’s “secular” policies which simply mean suppression and trampling of majority rights in the name of minority appeasement.

In the medieval world, whether in Islamic or Christian societies, slavery ideals were shared. It was ordained that the God of both religions had bestowed the earth and all its wealth and resources upon believers, the ‘infidels’ have no natural or human rights, and that the believers could do to the infidels whatever they wished – kill, plunder, rape their women, reduce them to the status of slaves or non-citizens (in Christianity, it is termed the “Doctrine of Discovery”). In short, slavery and colonialism became a divinely ordained institution.

During the Arab conquest of Sindh, 20,000 Hindus were enslaved after the capture of Brahmanabad – a fifth of them were retained for the state and the remainder were distributed among troops. Similarly, Mahmud of Ghazni’s raid saw Hindu slaves being seized and carried to Ghazni, and slaves formed a considerable portion of the booty captured from Bharat on multiple occasions.

During the Mongol invasions in the 13th to 14th centuries, enslavement of Bharatiyas in central Asia is documented in Timur’s invasion of Bharat when 100,000 Bharatiya slaves were seized by his soldiers. Timur ordered the slaughter of the slaves fearing rebellion, just before his invasion of Delhi. Following the invasion, he carried out a large scale enslavement of “several thousand artisans and professionals” including stonecutters, who would later be used in construction of his “great” mosque at Samarkand.

The collection of Hindu artisans as slaves was an important object of Muslim invasions. The subsequent establishment of the Delhi and Deccan sultanates formed the basis of slave trade as a domestic economy across the country, and slave markets propped up across the country. Amir Khusrau wrote that “THE TURKS WHENEVER THEY PLEASE, CAN SEIZE, BUY OR SELL ANY HINDU”.

During Tuglaq’s reign, it was noted that an “excessive supply” of slaves was found in the Delhi slave-markets, making them very cheap. During Shahjahan and Aurangzeb’s reign, destitute peasants and their women and children were carried away by tax collectors for selling them to exact revenue.

Slave trade in Bharat had become such so popular that some rulers even fixed prices to regulate the slave-markets. For instance, Sultan Alauddin Khilji fixed the price for a good looking girl suitable for concubinage to 20-40 tankhas (ten tankhas being equal to 1 gold coin), and the price of a male slave at 100 to 200 tankhas. Handsome boys sold at 20-40 tankhas and others less fit for labour at 7-8 tankhas.

Shri K.S. Lal, in his book, Muslim Slave System in Medieval India, has summarized the prices fetched by Hindu slaves at various times in history. 53,000 Hindu captives brought by Sultan Mahmud in the year 1019 were sold at 2-10 dirhams apiece; Ghori and Qutbuddin Aibak’s assault on the Salt Range of Punjab yielded so many Hindu captives that they were sold at five Hindu captives for a single dinar (according to Persian historian Hazan Nizami).

Read more in the screenshots below, taken from Chapter VII, Islamic Slavery from Islamic Jihad :Legacy Of Forced Conversion, Imperialism, and Slavery by M. A. Khan:

Link: https://archive.org/details/IslamicJihadLegacyOfForcedConversionImperialismSlavery

Also, need I touch upon the countless Hindu women taken as sex slaves by Muslims in medieval Bharat?Kaffir (Hindu) women were sold as sex slaves in markets, and kept by the ruling class as concubines.

Shri K.S.Lal writes:

“Muhammad bin Tughlaq became notorious for enslaving women and his reputation in this regard spread far and wide. Ibn Battuta who visited India during his reign and stayed at the Court for a long time writes:

“At (one) time there arrived in Delhi some female infidel captives, ten of whom the Vazir sent to me. I gave one of them to the man who had brought them to me…. My companion took three girls, and — I do not know what happened to the rest.” [21]

On the large scale distribution of girl slaves on the occasion of Muslim festivals like Id, he writes:

“First of all, daughters of Kafir (Hindu) Rajas captured during the course of the year, come and sing and dance. Thereafter they are bestowed upon Amirs and important foreigners. After this daughters of other Kafirs dance and sing… The Sultan gives them to his brothers, relatives, sons of Maliks etc. On the second day the durbar is held in a similar fashion after Asr. Female singers are brought out… the Sultan distributes them among the Mameluke Amirs” [22]

Scott C. Levi writes about Indian Slaves taken to Central Asia on page 63 of his book The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and its Trade, 1550-1900

Further Reading:

Muslim Slave System in Medieval India by K. S. Lal

Islamic Jihad :Legacy Of Forced Conversion, Imperialism, and Slavery by M. A. Khan

https://qz.com/1368251/black-income-is-half-that-of-white-households-just-like-it-was-in-the-1950s/

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/02/27/examining-the-black-white-wealth-gap/

-by Sai Priya

(This article was first published on the author’s blog on June 3, 2020 and is being reproduced with permission, after minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide)


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