pl. mamalik. “A slave.” A term used in Muslim law for a bond-slave, the word ‘abd signifying both “slave” and “a servant of God.” It occurs only once in the Qur’an, Surah xvi. 77: “God propounds a comparison between a slave (mamluk) and the property of his master.”
This word has become historic in the Malmuks, or that military body of slaves who for a long time ruled Egypt. These military slaves were first organized by Malik as-Salih who purchased many thousands of slaves in the markets of Asia, and brought them to Egypt in the 13th century. They were by him embodied into a corps of 12,000 men, but in A.D. 1254, they revolted, and killed Turan Shah, the last prince of the Aiyub dynasty. They then raised to the throne of Egypt al-Mu’izz, who was himself a Turkoman slave. The Mamlukes continued the ruling power in Egypt till A.D. 1517, when Salim I. defeated them and put to death Tumaun Bey, the last of the Mamluke dynasty. They were, however, maintained in Egypt as a military aristocracy, and were a powerful body at the time of the French invasion. Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha of Egypt destroyed their power and influence by murdering many of them in A.D. 1811.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam