33. The different importance of the ranks of "the sword"
and "the pen" in the (various) dynasties.
It 542 should be known that both "the sword" and "the pen" are instruments for the ruler to use in his affairs. However, at the beginning of the dynasty, so long as its people are occupied in establishing power, the need for "the sword" is greater than that for "the pen." In that situation, "the pen" is merely a servant and agent of the ruler's authority, whereas "the sword" contributes active assistance.
The same is the case at the end of the dynasty when its group feeling weakens, as we have mentioned, and its people decrease in number under the influence of senility, as we have stated before.543 The dynasty then needs the support of the military. The dynasty's need of the military for the purpose of protection and defense is as strong then as it was at the beginning of (the dynasty) for the purpose of getting established. In these two situations, "the sword," thus, has the advantage over "the pen." At that time, the military have the higher rank. They enjoy more benefits and more splendid fiefs.
In mid-term of the dynasty, the ruler can to some degree dispense with "the sword." His power is firmly established. His only remaining desire is to obtain the fruits of royal authority, such as collecting taxes, holding (property), excelling other dynasties, and enforcing the law. "The pen" is helpful for (all) that. Therefore, the need for using it increases. The swords stay unused in their scabbards, unless something happens and they are called upon to repair a breach. For (purposes) other than that, (swords) are not needed. In this situation, the men of the pen have more authority. They occupy a higher rank. They enjoy more benefits and greater wealth and have a closer and more frequent and intimate contact with the ruler. At such times, (the pen) is the instrument the ruler uses to obtain the fruits of his royal authority. He uses it to supervise and administer his realm and to display its (excellent) condition. At such a time, the wazirs and the military can be dispensed with. They are kept away from the intimate circle of the ruler and have to beware of his moods.
It is in this sense that Abu Muslim wrote the following reply to al-Mansur when he ordered him to come (to him): "And now: We remember the following admonition of the Persians: 'The most fear-ridden thing there is, is the wazirs when the mob has calmed down.' " 544
This is how God proceeds with his servants.