American and Muslim Slave Trade

By far the two most talked about slave trades include the Atlantic slave trade to the Americas and the one in the Muslim world. Though they are both popular and well known today, they were extremely different in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

For example, in the Americas most slaves worked on sugar, coffee, tobacco, and other plantations; the slaves were there for cheap labor. In the Islamic world, however, slaves were captured so that they might become Muslims as well. While the American slaves were busy getting their feet cut off or their backs whipped raw, the Muslims who starved their slaves were punished. Slavery also lasted almost a century longer in the Islamic world than in the Americas. The differences between the two slave trades are simple to explain. The opposite way that the slaves were treated can be explained by stating the purpose of the slave trade, and the quality of the treatment can explain the different dates of the end of each slave trade.

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In the Americas, slaves were bought just to get as much work done as fast as possible, and so they were treated like filthy machines; in the Islamic world, slaves were taken because they were not Muslims and in the hope that they would convert, and since the non-slaves were religious, they treated the slaves with love and respect. The first major difference between the slave trade networks in America and the Islamic world is the purpose of the slaves. America, the new world, was full of fertile land and crops but had little workers that were able to work hard, long hours in the tropic climates. This caused slaves to be brought by the hundreds to plantations that produced sugar and coffee. In Cuba in just 1825, fifty thousand slaves were used in sugar plantations and another fifty thousand for coffee plantations. All together, 183,992 slaves were used in Cuba in 1825 for rural purposes.

Muslims spread around the world and took more land in order to spread their religion. The natives who weren’t Muslim were taken captive and sold into slavery. If a slave is found to be in fact a Muslim or come from a Muslim country, then he would be set free immediately. This way, Islam slaves aren’t used to make cheap labor; they are taken in order to be converted. The way slaves were treated and the way they fit into society differs between the two influential slave trades because of the reason the slaves were needed.

In America, slaves were used for cheap labor in order to work the plantations. The slave and plantation owners wanted to get as much work done as fast as possible, so they forced the slaves to work long, hard, and physical hours in the horrid heat. The planter did not care if the slaves died off because those who didn’t die off earned him a lot of profit, and those who did could easily and cheaply be replaced. The planter only had to force the slaves to work and yet he made a considerable amount of money. The American slaves were treated horribly- taken away from their families and overly punished.

Common punishments include cutting off one’s foot, whipping the back until it’s raw, and even burning the slave to death. The slaves weren’t allowed to be taught and couldn’t even read the Bible. The blacks were seen as the lesser race, almost subhumans; they were just machines. In the Islamic world, slaves were just people who didn’t worship Allah and Allah alone. They didn’t belong into a lesser caste or deserve to be starved. The Muslims believed that if one had slaves, then that person was required to treat them right and make sure they were well cared for.

It was unlawful to starve or harm a slave. The slaves had close relationships with their masters. In fact, it is said that it was difficult to find a Muslim family that didn’t have some slave blood. This shared respect between slaves and masters within the Islamic world is due to the fact that the slaves were only slaves because of their religion. Muslims truly seemed to believe that they were helping to convert the unbelievers. Slavery in the Americas ended almost a full century before it was abolished in the Islamic world.

The earliest end of slavery in the Americas was in Haiti in 1794; the latest was 1888 in Brazil. The earliest end in Islam was in Algeria starting at 1830; the latest was Mauretania in 1980. This can be compared to the amount of cruelty to the slaves and the way they were treated. In the Americas, it’s already been established that slaves were treated barbarically and were worked to the very death. For someone who does not receive such great profits, such as someone from a city, it was easy to see how slaves were mistreated. This sparked antislavery rebellions, movements, and eventually laws.

However, in the Islamic world, slaves were treated just fine. It was against the law to harm or starve them; they had to be cared for. They also weren’t just used in the fields; they were spread throughout society. Because of this, the Islamic world had to have outside help in order to see that slavery should be abolished. After all, the slaves were part of Muslim families. With the exception of turkey (1857), all of the Islamic nations who ended slavery in the late 1800s ended as a result of European colonial occupation or action.

The European colonies in America had long abolished slavery, and so they decided to do the same in the Islamic World, starting with Algeria. In order to confirm such theories, however, a document written by a Muslim slave is needed. Islamic slave holders and visitors witness to the statement that Islamic slaves were treated as part of the family and wouldn’t be harmed. However, there is no proof. A slave wouldn’t lie and say that he was treated well if he wasn’t.

Just a slave’s simple statement saying that J.F. Keane and Alfred von Kremer were right could provide the necessary voice for this theory. The two most influential and well known slave trades- the Atlantic slave trade and the slave trade in the Muslim world -are complete opposites in the way the slaves were treated and fit into the world, the time slavery was abolished, and the purpose the slaves had for being in the nations. However, these differences can easily be explained and organized.

The purpose for the slaves differed so greatly due to the reason for the colonies, and the purpose for the slaves can in turn explain the way slaves fit into society and the way society treated the slaves. Finally, this explains the reason for the different dates when it comes to the abolishment of slavery.