The early Fatimid army were composed of Berbers, native people of North Africa. Following the conquest of Egypt, the Berbers started to settle down as the members of Egypt's ruling elite. To maintain the supply of military force, the Fatimids bolstered their armies with Black infantry units(mostly Sudanese) while the cavalry were usually composed of Free Berber and Mamluk slaves(of Turkik origin) who were not Muslim which qualifies them to be slaves according to Muslim traditions. The mamluk was an "owned slave", distinguished from the ghulam, or household slave.;
Mamluks had formed a part of the state or military apparatus in Syria and Egypt since at least the 9th century. Mamluk regiments constituted the backbone of Egypt's military under Ayyubid rule in the late 12th and early 13th centuries, beginning with Sultan Saladin (r. 1174–1193) who replaced the Fatimids' black African infantry with mamluks.