19. Cities that are the seats of royal authority fall into
ruins when the ruling dynasty falls
into ruins and crumbles.163
We have found out with regard to civilization that, when a dynasty disintegrates and crumbles, the civilization of the city that is the seat of the ruler of (that dynasty) also crumbles and in this process often suffers complete ruin. There hardly ever is any delay. The reasons for it are several:
First: At the beginning of the dynasty, its necessary Bedouin outlook requires it not to take away people's property and to eschew (too great) cleverness.164 This causes the taxes and imposts, which provide the dynasty with its substance, to be kept low. The expenditures are small, and there is little luxury. When a city that had been a royal capital comes into the possession of a new dynasty that knows little of luxury, luxury decreases among the inhabitants of that city controlled by it, because the subjects follow the dynasty. They revert to the character of the dynasty, either voluntarily, because it is human nature to follow the tradition of their masters, or involuntarily, because the character of the dynasty calls for abstention from luxury in all situations and allows little profit, which is what constitutes the material for (the formation of luxury) customs. As a result, the sedentary culture of the city decreases, and many luxury customs disappear from it. That is what we mean when we speak about the ruin of a city.
Second: Royal authority and power are obtained by a dynasty only through superiority, which comes only after hostilities and wars. Hostility requires incompatibility between the people of the two dynasties and mutual disapproval 165 with regard to (luxury) customs and conditions. The victory of one of the two rivals causes the disappearance of the other. Thus, the conditions of the previous dynasty, especially the conditions of luxury, are disapproved of and considered detestable and evil by the people of the new dynasty. They disappear among them, because the (new) dynasty disapproves of them. Eventually, however, new luxury customs gradually originate among them. They produce a new sedentary culture. The period in between sees a dwindling and decrease of the first sedentary culture. This is what is meant by disintegration of civilization in a city.
Third: Each nation must have a home, (a place) where it grows up and from which the realm took its origin. When (its members) take possession of another home, 166 (the latter) is ranked second to the first (home), and the (latter's) cities are ranked second to the cities of the first. When the realm expands and its influence grows, it is inevitable that the seat of government be amidst the provinces belonging to the dynasty, because it is a sort of center for the whole area. Thus, the (new seat of government) is remote from the site of the former seat of government. The hearts of the people are attracted to the (new seat of government), because the dynasty and government (are there). Civilization (the population) moves there and disappears slowly from the city that was the former seat of government. Sedentary culture depends upon an abundant civilization (population), as we have said before.167 (With the transfer of the population,) the sedentary and urban culture (of the former seat of government) decreases. This is what is meant by its disintegration.
This happened to the Saljugs when they moved their seat of government from Baghdad to Isfahan; to the Arabs before them when they moved from al-Mada'in to al-Kufah and alBasrah; to the `Abbasids when they moved from Damascus to Baghdad; and to the Merinids in the Maghrib when they moved from Marrakech to Fez. In general, when a dynasty chooses a city for its seat of government, it causes disintegration of the civilization in the former seat of government.
Fourth: When the new dynasty achieves superiority over the previous dynasty, it must attempt to transfer the people and partisans of the previous dynasty to another region where it can be sure that it will not be secretly attacked by them. Most of the inhabitants of a capital city are partisans of the (ruling) dynasty. They belong either to the militia who settled there at the beginning of the dynasty, or they are the dignitaries of the city. All their various classes and types have, as a rule, some contact with the dynasty. Most of them have grown up in the dynasty and are partisans of it. Even though they may not be (connected with the dynasty) through power and group feelings, they are (connected with it) through inclination, love, and faith. It is the nature of a new dynasty to wipe out all the traces of the previous dynasty. Therefore, it transfers (the population) from the capital city (of the old dynasty) to its own home, which is firmly in its possession. Some are brought there as exiles and prisoners, others as honored and well-treated guests, so that no antagonism can arise. Eventually, the capital city (of the previous dynasty) holds only salesmen, itinerant farm workers, hoodlums, and the great mass of common people. The place of the (transferred population) is taken by the militia and partisans of (the new dynasty). They will be sufficient to fill the city. When the various classes of dignitaries have left the city, its inhabitants decrease. This is what is meant by disintegration of the civilization of (the capital city).
Then, (the former capital city) must produce a new civilization under the shadow of the new dynasty. Another sedentary culture corresponding to the importance of the dynasty, arises in it. This may be compared to a person who has a house the interior of which is dilapidated. Most of the installations and conveniences of the rooms do not agree with his plans. He has the power to change these installations and to rebuild them according to his wishes and plans. Thus, he will tear down the house and build it up again.168 Much the same sort of thing happens in cities that once were seats of government. We have personally seen it and know it. God determines night and day.169
In 170 sum, the primary natural reason for this (situation) is the fact that dynasty and royal authority have the same relationship to civilization as form has to matter.171 (The form) is the shape that preserves the existence of (matter) through the (particular) kind (of phenomenon) it represents. It has been established in philosophy that the one cannot be separated from the other. One cannot imagine a dynasty without civilization, while a civilization without dynasty and royal authority is impossible, because human beings must by nature co-operate,172 and that calls for a restraining influence. Political leadership, based either on religious or royal authority, is obligatory as (such a restraining influence). This is what is meant by dynasty. Since the two cannot be separated, the disintegration of one of them must influence the other, just as its non-existence would entail the non-existence of the other.
A great disintegration results only from the disintegration of the entire dynasty. This happened to the dynasties of the Persians, the Byzantines, and the Arabs, (that is, the Arabs) in general as well as the Umayyads and the 'Abbasids. An individual reign, such as those of Anosharwan, Heraclius, 'Abd-al-Malik b. Marwan, or ar-Rashid, cannot exercise a sweeping disintegrating influence. Individuals follow upon each other and take over the (existing) civilization. They preserve its existence and duration, and they are very similar to each other. The real dynasty, the one that acts upon the matter of civilization, belongs to group feeling and power. These remain with the individual members of the dynasty. But when the group feeling is lost and replaced by another group feeling that influences the (existing) civilization and when all powerful members (of the dynasty) are wiped out, a great disintegration sets in, as we have established.
God has power to do what He wishes. "If He wants them to disappear, He causes them to do so, and brings forth a new creation. That is not difficult for God." 173