Though the teachings of the Prophet forbade the true believer to hold in slavery any member of the faith, extensive Moslem conquests brought vast numbers of non-believers under their control. If those captured did not accept the new faith, they were put to death or into chains and harems.
Christian Slaves of the Moslems:
“The rapid extension of Mohammedan conquest brought under Moslem control many thousands of unbelievers. Of these many at once accepted the new faith, many fled, and many were put to death; but many more were reduced to slavery. War was no doubt the chief source of supply for the slave market. It was provided that one in five of the captives should go to the government while the soldiers divided among themselves the remainder.
Later the Caliphs of Egypt and the Sultans of the Turks, finding their thrones in a precarious position, resorted to the use of splendidly trained bands of slaves, bought by traders or acquired by brigands, to maintain their position. This was the origin of an annual tribute of children [as slaves].
Still another source of the slave supply was a result of the misery of the time in which the people were living. Parents sold children, especially girls, to save themselves from starvation. Christians and heathen at war, and heathen at war with heathen, sold their captives into slavery among the Moslems. With the growth in the demand for slaves, avaricious Christian and Jewish merchants also helped to supply the Moslem slave markets.
The slave policy of the Mohammedans is well illustrated in the conquest of North Africa. This began in 647 and was virtually accomplished in 673. Ackbar was the leader of the Moslems. He is said to have taken eighty thousand captives in this invasion, and as the poverty of the country made possible no tribute in gold or silver, “the richest spoil came from the booty of female captives,” some of whom were afterwards sold for a thousand pieces of gold. Captives continued to be collected before and after much persecution and proselytizing, in 743, Abd-el-Rahman reported to the Caliph, that he could send no more Christian slaves because all Africa had become Mohammedan.
The conquerors of the North extended Islam into the interior of Africa. The converted tribes, inspired by the new faith and under tutelage of the Arabs, made war on the heathen African, and the captives of these incessant tribal wars became a most important supply of the northern markets. Jenne on the Niger was a large market. Timbuktu, the capital of Songhay Kano, and Kasena, were other points at which Negro captives were collected to fill the Arab caravans on the march to the north, where they were sold and distributed throughout Moslem territory and into Europe.
Another source of Egyptian slave supply was the country north and south of the Black Sea. The region of the Circassus became a favorite source of supply for the harem and from the far north Slavs and other people of present-day Russia and people living east and south of the Baltic Sea and those living in the valley of rivers flowing into the North Sea, were brought down to the Volga River, and collected on the Black Sea. Still other slaves were obtained by Moslem brigands coming from Spain. In the Ninth Century the Saracens were quick to take advantage of the helpless condition of Italy. At this time Pope John the VII wrote to Charles the Bald, “If all the trees of the forests became tongues, they could not describe the ravages of the impious pagans; the devoted people of God are destroyed by continuous slaughter: he who escapes the sword is taken into slavery. Cities, castles, and villages are wasted and without a single soul….”
(The Mohammedan Slave Trade, J.H. Johnston, The Journal of Negro History, Cater G. Woodson, editor, Vol. XIII, No. 4, October, 1928, pp. 479-482)