Who were the Mamluks?

The Mamluks (MAHM-looks) are named from an Arabic word for “slave.”

The Mamluks began as young slave-soldiers, captured during the spread of Islam in the 800s CE, converted to Islam, and trained as army recruits.

In time, the Mamluks used their position to claim political power for themselves. While still considered slaves, the Mamluks became known as the “true guardians of Islam,” earning wealth, political authority, and religious honors.

Pictured: an Egyptian Mamluk in full armor and armed with lance, shield, sabre and pistols, 1878, from Pictureseque Egypt, volume II by Georg Moritz Ebers (1837-1898).