4. Very large monuments are not built by one dynasty alone.
The reason for this is the afore-mentioned need for cooperation and multiplication of human strength in any building activity. Sometimes buildings are so large that they are too much for (human) strength, whether it is on its own or multiplied by machines, as we have (just) stated. Therefore, the repeated application of similar strength is required over successive periods, until (the building) materializes. One (ruler) starts the construction. He is followed by another and (the second by) a third. Each of them does all he can to bring workers together in a common effort. Finally, (the building) materializes, as it was planned, and then stands before our eyes. Those who live at a later period and see the building think that it was built by (but) a single dynasty.
In this connection one should compare what the historians report about the construction of the Dam of Ma'rib. Its construction was (started by) Saba' b. Yashjub.18 He caused seventy rivers to flow into it. Death prevented him from completing it, and it was then completed by the Himyarite rulers who succeeded him.
Something similar has been reported with regard to the construction of Carthage, its aqueduct, and the 'Adite arches 19 supporting it. And the same is the case with most great buildings. This is confirmed by the great buildings of our own time. We find one ruler starting by laying out their foundations. Then, if the rulers who succeed him do not follow in his steps and complete (the building), it remains as it is, and is not completed as planned.
Another confirmation of our theory is the fact that we find that (later) dynasties are unable to tear down and destroy many great architectural monuments, even though destruction is much easier than construction, because destruction is return to the origin, which is non-existence, while construction is the opposite of that.20 Thus, when we find a building that our human strength is too weak to tear down, even though it is easy to tear something down, we realize that the strength used in starting such a monument must have been immense and that the building could not be the monument of a single dynasty.
This is what happened to the Arabs with regard to the Reception Hall of Khosraw (Iwan Kisra). Ar-Rashid had the intention of tearing it down. He sent to Yahya b. Khalid, who was in prison, and asked him for advice. Yahya said: "O Commander of the Faithful, do not do it! Leave it standing! It shows the extent of the royal authority of your fore-fathers, who were able to take away the royal authority from the people who built such a monument." Ar-Rashid, however, mistrusted Yahyi's advice. He said that Yahya was motivated by his affection for the non-Arabs and that he (ar-Rashid) would indeed bring it down. He started to tear it down and made a concerted effort to this effect. He had pickaxes applied to it, and he had it heated by setting fire to it, and he had vinegar poured upon it. Still, after all these (efforts), he was unable (to tear it down). Fearful of the disgrace (involved in his inability to demolish the monument), he sent again to Yahya and asked him for advice, whether he should give up his efforts to tear it down. Yahya replied: "Do not do that! Get on with it, so that it may not be said that the Commander of the Faithful and ruler of the Arabs was not able to tear down something that non-Arabs had built." Thus, ar-Rashid recognized (his disgrace) and was unable to tear it down.21
The same happened to al-Ma'mun in (his attempt) to tear down the pyramids in Egypt. He assembled workers to tear them down, but he did not have much success. The workers began by boring a hole into the pyramids, and they came to an interior chamber between the outer wall and walls farther inside. That was as far as they got in their attempt to tear (the pyramid) down. Their efforts are said to show to this day in the form of a visible hole. Some think that al-Ma'mun found a buried treasure between the walls.22 And God knows better.
The same applies to the arches of the Malga (at Carthage, which are still standing) at this time. The people of Tunis need stones for their buildings, and the craftsmen like the quality of the stones of the arches (of the aqueduct). For a long time, they have attempted to tear them down. However, even the smallest (part) of the walls comes down only after the greatest efforts. Parties assemble for the purpose. (They are) a well-known (custom), and I have seen many of them in the days of my youth.
"God has power over everything." 23