This short article is taken from the full article which is available here as a PDF file
"Mamluk", in the words of Humphreys, means `one who is owned, hence a slave, but it is hardly ever used in its general sense, for which the usual word is 'abd. Instead, it functions as a technical term, referring to a soldier who had been enslaved as a youth, trained to the profession of arms (and converted to Islam) under the supervision of his master (who was either the ruler or a senior military officer), and registered as a member of the standing professional forces of the realm.' A Mamluk, once purchased, he was cut off from his land of origin, his country is Egypt; his father the master who purchased him; and his brothers: his companions in arms. These recruits came from every region bordering the Islamic world, most especially from the vast Turkic lands beyond the Oxus River, a major reservoir of military manpower for the Muslim rulers. The Turks were an esteemed military force for their toughness, their racial pride and sense of solidarity, and their uncanny skill in the art of mounted archery. In his book of government Nizam al-Mulk (the Seljuk Visier, founder of the Madrassa) singles out the Mamluks for being superior to any other form of military organisation, and so, for himself, he built a Mamluk army whose frugality; discipline; thorough training and skill, he lauds. The Mamluk great merit is also seen by Ibn khaldun who recognises that by the mid thirteenth, the Islamic state had fallen into decline and was unable to resist, and:
`It was by the grace of God glory be to Him, that He came to rescue the true faith by reviving its last breadth and restoring in Egypt the unity of the Muslims, guarding His order and defending His ramparts. This He did by sending to them, out of this Turkish people and out of its mighty and numerous tribes, guardian amirs and devoted defenders who are imported as slaves from the lands of heathendom to the lands of Islam.'
First slaves, the Mamluk assumed power themselves, in fact, as noted by Humphreys, from its first appearance in the mid ninth century, down to the end of Abbasid independence, the Turkish Mamluk generals were among the most visible and powerful figures at the Caliphal court. From Egypt, between the 13th and 19th centuries they ruled over territories in India, Iraq, Syria, Arabia, Libya, and even the Sudan. The Mamluks were an institution of one-generation nobility, though, which excluded their sons. The fear was that amidst power and wealth the children would be unable to preserve the military qualities of their parents, and the latter might intervene to promote their sons to power. As a result there had to be a constant supply of fresh recruits to replenish the system.
Many aspects of Mamluk art and history can be found in the Encyclopaedia of Islam. The two entries on the Mamluks in such Encyclopaedia provide excellent information, as well as a dynasty tree of Mamluk rulers from 1240- 1517. The term "dynasty", however, as Humphreys rightly notes, is actually a misnomer, for few of the major sultans in this long sequence were blood relatives. The leading emirs, he explains, from among whom the sultans were typically chosen, were almost always men who in their youth had been military slaves hence the name of the dynasty). Having been freed by some previous sultan on the completion of their training, they were then promoted by him to high military and executive office. In a real sense, therefore, the army was the state; soldiers determined policy and directed administration, while the senior officials of the realm retained not only military rank but also active field command. In the Mamluk state, civilian officials were mere functionaries, working under close military supervision and control. And Ibn Khaldun comments that the Mamluks could be appointed to high offices of state, and that
`Even sultans are chosen from those who direct the affairs of the Muslims, as has been ordained by the Providence of Almighty God and out of His benevolence to His creatures. Thus one group of Mamluks follows another and generation succeeds generation and Islam rejoices in the wealth. Which it acquired by eons of them and the boughs of the kingdom are luxuriant with the freshness and verdure of youth.'
This system, as recognised by Ayalon, even if it had its drawbacks and limitations, it was far superior to any other conceivable socio-military system and far more beneficial to Islam
The Mamluks were not just rulers and fighters, they were also masters of great art and civilisation. The Mamluks were renowned for their patronage of the arts. Atil provides an excellent summary of Maluk art, which continued to influence Islamic art up to the twentieth century. Hundreds of edifices were erected in Cairo, the capital, as well as in the provinces. The buildings were lavishly decorated with carved stone, stucco, and marble mosaics and panels, and had metal and wood furnishings, inlaid with precious materials. Some outstanding features of Mamluk architecture are soaring tiered minarets, massive carved domes and entrance portals, and marble mihrabs. The distinct Mamluk character is obvious in the elaborate floral and geometric patterns of carved stone-work. Mamluk patrons also donated Korans to religious establishments, with exquisite calligraphy and dazzling illuminations, bound in leather and with stamped, tooled, and filigreed decorations. Also celebrated in Mamluk art were brass bowls, basins, ewers, trays, and pen boxes inlaid with silver, gold, and copper. Artists also created remarkable mosque lamps, bottles, bowls, and goblets. Mamluk textiles and rugs were in great demand in the West, and wool carpets with geometric designs, dating from the end of the fifteenth century, are among the oldest extant rugs.
 R.S. Humphreys: The Mamluks; in Dictionary of the Middle Ages; Charles Scribners' Sons; New York; 1980; p.68.
 G.Hanotaux: Histoire; op cit; P. 52
 R.S. Humphreys: Mamluks; opc it; p. 68.
 N.Al-Mulk: Book of Government; trsltd by H.Darke; London; 1967.
 D.Ayalon: Aspects; op cit. at p. 216.
 Ibn Khladun: Kitab al-Ibar; v; Cairo: Dar al-Tab'a al-Amira; 1867-8; pp 379-72 (from D. Ayalon) Mamlukiyyat: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 1980; 340.
 R.S. Humphreys: Mamluks; op cit; p. 68.
 P.M. Holt : Mamluks: Encyclopaedia of Islam; Vol 6. 2nd edt; Leiden; Brill; pp 321-331; at pp 328-9.
 R.S. Humphreys: mamluks; op cit; p.70.
 In D.Ayalon: Mamlukiyyat; op cit; p. 346.
 D.Ayalon: Aspects; opc it; p. 196.
 E.Atil: Mamluk art; in Dictionary of Middle Ages; op citl p. 70.
by: FSTC Limited, Thu 17 June, 2004