14. Differences with regard to prosperity and poverty
are the same in countries as in cities.
It should be known that the condition of the inhabitants in regions that have an abundant civilization and contain numerous nations and many inhabitants is favorable. They have much property and many cities. Their dynasties and realms are large. The reason for all this is the aforementioned great amount of (available) labor and the fact, which we shall mention later on, that it brings wealth. A great surplus of products remains after the necessities of the inhabitants have been satisfied. (This surplus) provides for a population far beyond the size and extent of the (actual one), and comes back to the people as profit that they can accumulate, as we shall mention in the chapter on (the ways of) making a living and the explanation of sustenance and profit.118 Prosperity, thus, increases, and conditions become favorable. There is luxury and wealth. The tax revenues of the ruling dynasty increase on account of business prosperity. Its property increases, and its authority grows. It comes to use fortresses and castles, to found towns, and to construct cities.
This 119 may be exemplified by the eastern regions, such as Egypt, Syria, the non-Arab 'Iraq, India, China, and the whole northern region, beyond the Mediterranean. When their civilization increased, the property of the inhabitants increased, and their dynasties became great. Their towns and settlements became numerous, and their commerce and conditions improved.
At this time, we can observe the condition of the merchants of the Christian nations who come to the Muslims in the Maghrib. Their prosperity and affluence cannot be fully described because it is so great. The same applies to the merchants from the East and what we hear about their conditions, and even more so to the Far Eastern merchants from the countries of the non-Arab 'Iraq, India, and China. We hear remarkable stories reported by travelers about their wealth and prosperity. These stories are usually received with skepticism. The common people who hear them think that the prosperity of these peoples is the result of the greater amount of property owned by them,120 or of the existence of gold and silver mines in their country in larger number (than elsewhere), or of the fact that they, to the exclusion of others; appropriated the gold of the ancient nations. This is not so. The only gold mine about whose existence in these regions we have information, lies in the Sudan country, which is nearer to the Maghrib (than to any other country). Furthermore, all the merchandise that is in their country is exported by them for commerce. If they possessed ready property in abundance, they would not export their merchandise in search of money, and they would have altogether no need of other people's property.
Astrologers have noticed this and been amazed by the favorable conditions and abundance of property in the East. They came and said that the gifts of the stars and the shares (of good fortune) were larger in the nativities of the East than in the nativities of the West. This is correct from the point of view of the correspondence between astrological judgments and terrestrial conditions, as we have stated.121 But astrologers give us only the astrological reason. They ought also to give us the terrestrial reason. The (terrestrial reason) is the large extent and concentration of civilization in the eastern regions, as we have mentioned. A large civilization yields large profits because of the large amount of (available) labor, which is the cause of (profit). Therefore, the East enjoys more prosperity than all other regions. This is not exclusively the result of the influence of the stars. Our previous indications have made it clear that the influence of the stars cannot produce such a result all by itself. The (existence of a) correspondence between astrological judgments and terrestrial civilization and nature is something inevitable.
The relationship between prosperity and civilization may be exemplified by the regions of Ifriqiyah and Barca (Barqah). When their population decreased and their civilization shrank, the condition of their inhabitants decayed. They became poor and indigent. The tax revenues from (the region) decreased. The property of the dynasties that ruled there became small. Formerly, the Shi'ah (Fatimid) and Sinhajah (Zirid) dynasties had enjoyed a well-known prosperity and large tax revenues. They had been able to spend a great deal and pay large allowances. This went so far that, most of the time, money was brought from al-Qayrawan to the ruler of Egypt for his needs and important business. The property of the dynasty was so extensive that Jawhar al-Katib carried with him, on his expedition to conquer Egypt, one thousand loads of money from which he paid the salaries and allowances of the soldiers and the expenditures of the raiders.122
The region of the Maghrib was inferior to Ifriqiyah in ancient times. Still, it had no little (wealth). During the Almohad dynasty, its condition was favorable and its revenues abundant. At this time, the Maghrib has gone down in this respect because of the decrease and shrinkage of civilization there. Most of the Berber civilization (population) there is gone, and has obviously and palpably become inferior to what it used to be. Its condition has almost become similar to that of Ifriqiyah. Formerly, its civilization had extended from the Mediterranean to the Sudan country between the longitude(s) of as-Sus in the far West 123 (in Morocco) and Barca (Barqah). Today, all or most of it is a waste, empty, and desert area, except for the coastal regions or the hills near it.
God inherits the earth and whomever is upon it. He is the best heir.