39. The. ruler and his entourage are wealthy only
in the middle (period) of the dynasty.
The reason for this is that at the beginning of the dynasty, the revenues are distributed among the tribe 659 and the people who share in the ruler's group feeling, in accordance with their usefulness and group feeling and because they are needed to establish the dynasty, as we have stated before. 660 Under these circumstances, their leader refrains in their favor from (claiming) the revenues which they would like to have. He feels compensated for (his restraint) by the control over them that he hopes to establish. They can put pressure on him, and he needs them. His share of the revenues is restricted to the very small (amounts) he needs. Consequently, the members of his entourage and company, his wazirs, secretaries, and clients, usually can be observed to be destitute. Their position is restricted, because it depends on the position of their master, and the authority of (his position) is narrowed down by the competition of the people who share in his group feeling.
Then, when royal authority has come into its own and the ruler has obtained control over his people, he prevents them from getting (any part of) the revenues, beyond their official shares. Their portions shrink, because their usefulness to the dynasty has diminished. Their influence has been checked, and clients and followers have come to share with them in the support of the dynasty and the establishment of its power. At this time, the ruler disposes alone of the whole income from taxes, or the greater part of it. He keeps this money, and holds it for spending on important projects. His wealth grows. His treasuries are filled. The authority of his position expands, and he dominates all his people. As a consequence, the men of his entourage and retinue, the wazir, the secretary, the doorkeeper (hajib), the client, and the policeman, all become more important, and their positions expand. They acquire property and enrich themselves.
Then, when the dynasty starts to become senile, as the result of the dissolution of group feeling and the disappearance of the tribe that founded it, the ruler needs supporters and helpers, because there are then many seceders, rivals, and rebels, and there is the fear of (complete) destruction. His revenues then go to his allies and supporters, military men who have their own group feelings. He spends his treasures and revenues on attempts to restore (the power of) the dynasty 661 Moreover, the revenue from taxes decreases, as we have stated before 662 because there are many allowances to be paid and expenditures to be made. The revenues from the land tax decrease. The dynasty's need for money becomes more urgent. The intimates, the doorkeepers (hajib), and the secretaries no longer live under the shadow of prosperity and luxury, as their positions lose importance and the authority of the ruler's (position) shrinks.
The ruler's need for money at this time becomes even more urgent. The new generation within his inner circle and entourage spend the money with which their fathers had enriched themselves, for a purpose for which it was not intended, namely, that of helping the ruler. They begin to be no longer as sincerely loyal as their fathers and ancestors had been. The ruler, in turn, becomes of the opinion that he is more entitled than they to the wealth that was acquired (by their fathers) during the reign of his predecessors and with the help of their position. He takes it and appropriates it for himself, gradually (and) according to their ranks. (As a result,) the dynasty becomes detestable 663 to them, and, in turn, it is the dynasty that suffers therefrom. It loses its entourage and great personalities and its rich and wealthy intimates. A great part of the edifice of glory crumbles, after having been supported and built up to a great height by those who shared in it.
One may compare what happened in this regard to the 'Abbasid wazirs, such as the Banu Qahtabah, the Barmecides, the Banu Sahl, the Banu Tahir, and others. One may further (compare) what happened at the time of the dissolution of the Umayyad dynasty in Spain in the days of the reyes de taifas, to the Banu Shuhayd, the Banu Abi 'Abdah, the Banu Hudayr, the Banu Burd, and others. The same is happening in the dynasty we have lived to see in our own time. "This is how God proceeds. . . . And verily, you will not be able to change God's way." 664
Anticipating such dangerous situations, most of the people in the dynasty try to avoid holding any government position. They try to escape from government control and go to some other region with the government property they have acquired. They are of the opinion that (to do) this will be more wholesome for them and give them the opportunity to spend and enjoy (their money) in greater safety. This assumption is a great mistake and a self-deception that will ruin them materially.
It should be known that it is difficult and impossible to escape (from official life) after having once been in it. When the person who has such intentions is the ruler himself, his subjects and the people who share in his group feeling and crowd around him will not for a moment permit him to escape. If any such (intention) on his part becomes visible, it means the destruction of his realm and the ruin of himself. (This would be) the usual result in such a case, for it is difficult to escape from the servitude of royal authority, especially when the dynasty has reached its peak and its authority is shrinking, and it is becoming more remote from glory and good qualities, and acquiring bad qualities.
If the person who intends to escape is one of the ruler's inner circle and entourage or one of the dignitaries in his dynasty, he rarely is given the opportunity to do so. The reason is, in the first place, that rulers consider their people and entourage and, indeed, all their subjects as slaves familiar with their thoughts and sentiments. Therefore, they are not disposed to loosen the bonds of servitude binding the person (who may have the desire to escape). They want to avoid the chance that someone (outside) might come to know (their secrets) and their circumstances (through that person), and they are averse to letting him become the servant of others.
The Spanish Umayyads thus prevented their people from going abroad to fulfill the duty of the pilgrimage. They were afraid they might fall into the hands of the 'Abbasids. During all their days, none of their people made the pilgrimage. The pilgrimage was (again) permitted to (Spaniards) who belonged to the (various) dynasties in Spain, only after the Umayyad rule had come to an end and (Spain) had reverted to control of the reyes de ta'ifas.
In the second place, even if rulers were kind enough to loosen the bonds (of a person who intended to escape from their control), their kindness would not extend to leaving his property alone. They consider it part of their own wealth in the same way that its owner has been part of their dynasty in as much as it was obtained only through the dynasty and under the shadow of its authority. Therefore, they are most eager to take his property and to let it remain as it is, as something belonging to the dynasty that they (are entitled to) use.
Furthermore, assuming that he gets away with his property to some other region, which happens in very rare cases, (he is not safe there either, because) the eyes of the rulers in that region fall on him, and they deprive him of (his property) by indirect threats and intimidation or by open force. They consider (his property) as revenue or as government property, which should be spent in the public interest. If the eyes of (rulers) can fall upon rich and wealthy people who have acquired their money in the exercise of a profession, as we have mentioned,665 it is all the more understandable that their eyes can fall upon tax monies and government property, to which they have access by law and custom.
One may compare what happened to the Judge of Jabalah.666 He had revolted against Ibn 'Ammar, the master of Tripoli. The European Christians took Jabalah away from him. He fled to Damascus and then to Baghdad, which was under the rule of Sultan Barkiyaruq b. Malikshah. That was at the end of the fifth [eleventh] century. The wazir of the Sultan went to the Judge of Jabalah and borrowed most of his money from him. Then, they cleaned him out completely. It was an inestimable amount.
Sultan Abu Yahya Zakariya' b. Ahmad al-Lihyani, the ninth or the tenth of the Hafsid rulers in Ifrigiyah,667 intended to get away from the responsibility of royal authority and to go to Egypt. He wanted to escape the ruler of the western border regions when (the latter) prepared for a raid on Tunis. (Ibn) al-Lihyani, therefore, pretended to make a trip to the border region of Tripoli, in order to conceal the preparations (for his escape). There, he boarded ship and escaped to Alexandria. He had taken with him all the property and treasures he found in the treasury, and he had sold all the furniture, real property, and jewelry in the Hafsid treasuries, even including the books. He took all that along with him to Egypt. He took up residence with al-Malik an-Nasir Muhammad b. Qala'un in the year 719 .668 (Al-Malik an-Nasir) treated him hospitably and gave him a place of honor. But he did not cease to deprive him of his treasure, gradually, by indirect demands, until he had gotten it all. The only livelihood remaining to Ibn al-Lihyani was the salary that alMalik an-Nasir granted him until his death in 728 [1327/28], as we shall mention in his history.669
This and similar things belong among the delusions to which the people of dynasties fall prey, when they suspect that the ruler is a danger to them. They may indeed escape with their lives, if they succeed in escaping. But to imagine that it is a necessity is an erroneous and baseless assumption. The renown they obtain in government service suffices for them to find livelihoods for themselves, either in the form of a salary paid by a ruler or in the form of a position in the profitable exercise of commerce and agriculture. Dynasties are (inter) related,670 but The soul is ambitious, if it is given the opportunity. 671 But if it is reduced to little, it is satisfied.
God "gives sustenance. He is strong and solid." 672