Chapter IV




1. Dynasties are prior to towns and cities.

Towns and cities are secondary (products)

of royal authority.



THE EXPLANATION FOR THIS IS that building and city planning are features of sedentary culture brought about by luxury and tranquility, as we have mentioned before 2 Such (features of sedentary culture) come after Bedouin life and the features that go with it.

Furthermore, towns and cities with their monuments,3 vast constructions, and large buildings, are set up for the masses and not for the few. Therefore, united effort and much co-operation are needed for them. They are not among the things that are necessary matters of general concern to human beings, in the sense that all human beings desire them or feel compelled to have them. As a matter of fact, (human beings) must be forced and driven to (build cities). The stick of royal authority is what compels them, or they may be stimulated by promise of reward and compensation. (Such reward) amounts to so large a sum that only royal authority and a dynasty can pay for it. Thus, dynasties and royal authority are absolutely necessary for the building of cities and the planning of towns.

Then, when the town has been built and is all finished, as the builder saw fit and as the climatic and geographical conditions required, the life of the dynasty is the life of the town. If the dynasty is of short duration, life in the town will stop at the end of the dynasty. Its civilization will recede, and the town will fall into ruins. On the other hand, if the dynasty is of long duration and lasts a long time, new constructions will always go up in the town, the number of large mansions will increase, and the walls 4 of the town will extend farther and farther. Eventually, the layout of the town will cover a wide area, and the town will extend so far and so wide as to be (almost) beyond measurement. This happened in Baghdad and similar (cities).

The Khatib mentioned in his History that in the time of al-Ma'min, the number of public baths in Baghdad reached 65,000. 5 (Baghdad) included over forty of the adjacent neighboring towns and cities. It was not just one town sur­rounded by one wall. Its population was much too large for that. The same was the case with al-Qayrawan, Cordoba, and al-Mahdiyah in Islamic times. It is the case with Egypt and Cairo at this time, so we are told.

The dynasty that has built a certain town may be destroyed. Now, the mountainous and flat areas surrounding the city are a desert 5a that constantly provides for (an influx of) civilization (population). This (fact), then, will preserve the existence of (the town), and (the town) will continue to live after the dynasty is dead. (This situation) can be observed in Fez and Bougie in the West, and in the non-Arab 'Iraq in the East, which get their civilization (population) from the mountains. When the conditions of the inhabitants of the desert reach the utmost ease and (become most) profitable, (the situation thus created causes the inhabitants of the desert to) look for the tranquility and quiet that human beings (desire) by nature. Therefore, they settle in towns and cities and form an (urban) population.

Or, it may happen that a town founded (by a dynasty now destroyed) has no opportunity to replenish its civilization (population) by a constant influx of settlers from a desert near the town. In this case, the destruction of the dynasty will leave it unprotected. It cannot be maintained. Its civilization will gradually decay, until its population is dispersed and gone. This happened in Baghdad, Egypt,6 and al-Kufah in the East, and in al-Qayrawan, al-Mahdiyah, and Qal'at Bani Hammad 7 in the West, as well as in other cities. This should be understood.

Frequently it happens that after the destruction of the original builders of (a town, that town) is used by another realm and dynasty as its capital and residence. This then makes it unnecessary for (the new dynasty) to build (another) town for itself as a settlement. In this case, the (new) dynasty will protect the town. Its buildings and constructions will increase in proportion to the improved circumstances and the luxury of the new dynasty. The life (of the new dynasty) gives (the town) another life. This has happened in contemporary Fez and Cairo.

This should be considered, and God's secret (plans) for His creation should be understood.