Superphysics Superphysics
Part 1

Monuments and Infrastructure

by Ibn Khaldun Icon
6 minutes  • 1099 words
Table of contents

1. Dynasties are prior to towns and cities

Towns and cities are secondary products of royal authority because building and city planning are features of sedentary culture arising from luxury and tranquility.

The towns and cities, with their vast constructions, are set up for the masses and not for the few. Thus, a 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 40 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.

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 isdead. (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.

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.

2. Royal authority calls for urban settlement

This is because, when royal authority is obtained by tribes and groups, (the tribes and groups) are forced to take possession of cities for two reasons.

One of them is that royal authority causes (the people) to seek tranquility, restfulness, and relaxation, and to try to provide the aspects of civilization that were lacking in the desert.

The second (reason) is that rivals and enemies can be expected to attack the realm, and one must defend oneself against them.

A city situated in a district where (rivals of the dynasty) are found, may often become a place of refuge for a person who wants to attack (the tribes and groups in authority) and revolt against them and deprive them of the royal authority to which they have aspired. 8

He fortifies himself in the city and fights them (from there). Now, it is very difficult and troublesome to overpower a city.9 A city is worth a great number of soldiers, in that it offers protection from behind the walls and makes attacks difficult, and no great numbers or much power are needed.

Power and group support are needed in war only for the sake of the steadfastness provided by the mutual affection (tribesmen) show each other in battle. The steadfastness of (people in a city) is assured by the walls of the city. Therefore, they do not need much group support or great numbers (for defense).

The existence of a city and of rivals who fortify themselves in it thus eats into the strength of a nation desiring to gain control and breaks the impetus of its efforts in this respect.

Therefore, if there are cities in the tribal territory of (a dynasty, the dynasty) will bring them under its control, in order to be safe from any weakening (of its power, should the cities fall under control of its rivals).

If there are no cities, the dynasty will have to build a new (city) in order to:

  1. Complete the civilization of its realm and to be able to lessen its efforts
  2. Use the city as a threat against those parties and groups within the dynasty that might desire power and might wish to resist.

Thus, royal authority calls for urban settlement and control of the cities.

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