18. Sedentary culture is the goal of civilization.
It means the end of its life span and brings
about its corruption.
We have explained before 141 that royal authority and (the foundation of) dynasties are the goal of group feeling, and that sedentary culture is the goal of Bedouin life, and that any civilization, be it a Bedouin civilization or sedentary culture, whether it concerns ruler or commoner,142 has a physical 143 life, just as any individual created (being) has a physical life.
Reason and tradition make it clear that (the age of) forty years means the end of the increase of an individual's powers and growth. When a man has reached the age of forty, nature stops growing for a while, then starts to decline. It should be known that the same is the case with sedentary culture in civilization, because there is a limit that cannot be overstepped. When luxury and prosperity come to civilized people, it naturally causes them to follow the ways of sedentary culture and adopt its customs. As one knows, sedentary culture is the adoption of diversified luxuries, the cultivation of the things that go with them, and addiction to the crafts that give elegance to all the various kinds of (luxury), such as the crafts of cooking, dressmaking, building, and (making) carpets, vessels, and all other parts of (domestic) economy. For the elegant execution of all these things, there exist many crafts not needed in desert life with its lack of elegance. When elegance in (domestic) economy has reached the limit, it is followed by subservience to desires. From all these customs, the human soul receives a multiple coloring that undermines its religion and worldly (well-being). (It cannot preserve) its religion, because it has now been firmly colored by customs (of luxury), and it is difficult to discard such coloring. (It cannot preserve) its worldly (well-being), because the customs (of luxury) demand a great many things and (entail) many requirements for which (a man's) income is not sufficient.
This 144 is explained by the fact that the expenditures of the inhabitants of a city mount with the diversification of sedentary culture. Sedentary culture differs according to the differences in civilization. When a civilization grows, sedentary culture becomes more perfect. We have stated before 145 that a city with a large civilization (population) is characterized by high prices in business and high prices for its needs. (The prices) are then raised still higher through customs duties; for sedentary culture reaches perfection at the time when the dynasty has reached its greatest flourishing, and that is the time when the dynasty levies customs duties because then it has large expenditures, as has been stated before. 146 The 147 customs duties raise the sales (prices), because small businessmen and merchants include all their expenses, even their personal requirements, in the price of their stock and merchandise. Thus, customs duties enter into the sales price. The expenditures of sedentary people, therefore, grow and are no longer reasonable but extravagant. The people cannot escape this (development) because they are dominated by and subservient to their customs. All their profits go into (their) expenditures. One person after another becomes reduced in circumstances and indigent. Poverty takes hold of them. Few persons bid for the available goods. Business decreases, and the situation of the town deteriorates.
All this is caused by excessive sedentary culture and luxury. They corrupt the city generally in respect to business and civilization. Corruption of the individual inhabitants is the result of painful and trying efforts to satisfy the needs caused by their (luxury) customs; (the result) of the bad qualities they have acquired in the process of obtaining (those needs); and of the damage the soul suffers after it has obtained them, through acquiring (still) another (bad luxury) quality.148 Immorality, wrongdoing, insincerity, and trickery, for the purposes of making a living in a proper or an improper manner, increase among them. The soul comes to think about (making a living), to study it, and to use all possible trickery for the purpose. People are now devoted to lying, gambling, cheating, fraud, theft, perjury, and usury. Because of the many desires and pleasures resulting from luxury, they are found to know everything about the ways and means of immorality, they talk openly about it and its causes, and give up all restraint in discussing it, even among relatives and close female relations, where the Bedouin attitude requires modesty (and avoidance of) obscenities. They also know everything about fraud and deceit, which they employ to defend themselves against the possible use of force against them and against the punishment expected for their evil deeds. Eventually, this becomes a custom and trait of character with most of them, except those whom God protects.
The city, then, teems with low people of blameworthy character. They encounter competition from many members of the younger generation of the dynasty, whose education has been neglected and whom the dynasty has neglected to accept. They, therefore, adopt the qualities of their environment and company,149 even though they may be people of noble descent and ancestry. Men are human beings and as such resemble one another. They differ in merit and are distinguished by their character, by their acquisition of virtues and avoidance of vices. The person who is strongly colored by any kind of vice and whose good character is corrupted, is not helped by his good descent and fine origin. Thus, one finds that many descendants of great families, men of a highly esteemed origin, members of the dynasty, get into deep water and adopt low occupations in order to make a living, because their character is corrupt and they are colored by wrongdoing and insincerity. If this (situation) spreads in a town or nation, God permits it to be ruined and destroyed. This is the meaning of the word of God: "When we want to destroy a village, we order those of its inhabitants who live in luxury to act wickedly therein. Thus, the word becomes true for it, and we do destroy it." 150
A possible explanation of this (situation) is that the profits (the people) make do not pay for their needs, because of the great number of (luxury) customs and the desire of the soul to satisfy them. Thus, the affairs of the people are in disorder, and if the affairs of individuals one by one deteriorate, the town becomes disorganized and falls into ruins.
This is the meaning of the statement by certain knowing people,151 that if orange trees are much grown in a town, the town invites its own ruin. Many common people avoided the growing of orange trees around (their) houses on account of this ominous (statement).152 But this is not what is meant, nor is it meant that orange trees are a bad omen 153 (and cause the ruin of a city). What is meant is that gardens and irrigation are the results of sedentary culture. Orange trees, lime trees, cypresses, and similar plants having no edible fruits 154 and being of no use, are the ultimate in sedentary culture, since they are planted in gardens only for the sake of their appearance, and they are planted only after the ways of luxury have become diversified. (Now,) this is the stage in which one must fear the destruction and ruin of a city, as we have stated. The same has been said with regard to oleander, which is in the same category. Its only purpose is to give color to gardens with its red and white flowers. That is a luxury.
Among the things that corrupt sedentary culture, there is the disposition toward pleasures and indulgence in them, because of the great luxury (that prevails). It leads to diversification of the desires of the belly for pleasurable food and drink.155 This is followed by diversification of the pleasures of sex through various ways of sexual intercourse, such as adultery and homosexuality. This leads to destruction of the (human) species. It may come about indirectly, through the confusion concerning one's descent caused by adultery. Nobody knows his own son, since he is illegitimate and since the sperm (of different men) got mixed up in the womb.156 The natural compassion a man feels for his children and his feeling of responsibility for them is lost. Thus, they perish, and this leads to the end of the (human) species. Or, the destruction of the (human) species may come about directly, as is the case with homosexuality, which leads directly to the non-existence of offspring. It contributes more to the destruction of the (human) species (than adultery), since it leads to (the result) that no human beings are brought into existence, while adultery only leads to the (social) non-existence of those who are in existence. Therefore, the school of Malik 157 is more explicit and correct with regard to homosexuality than the other schools. This shows that it understands the intentions of the religious law and their bearing upon the (public) interest better (than the other legal schools).
This should be understood. It shows that the goal of civilization is sedentary culture and luxury. When civilization reaches that goal, it turns toward corruption and starts being senile, as happens in the natural life of living beings. Indeed, we may say that the qualities of character resulting from sedentary culture and luxury are identical with corruption. Man is a man only in as much as he is able to procure for himself useful things and to repel harmful things, and in as much as his character is suited to making efforts to this effect. The sedentary person cannot take care of his needs personally. He may be too weak, because of the tranquility he enjoys. Or he may be too proud, because he was brought up in prosperity and luxury. Both things are blameworthy. He also is not able to repel harmful things,158 because he has no courage as the result of (his life in) luxury and his upbringing under the (tyrannical) impact of education and instruction.159 He thus becomes dependent upon a protective force to defend him.
He then usually becomes corrupt with regard to his religion, also. The (luxury) customs and his subservience to them have corrupted him, and his soul has been colored by (luxury) habits,160 as we have stated. There are only very rare exceptions. When the strength of a man and then 161 his character and religion are corrupted, his humanity is corrupted, and he becomes, in effect, transformed (into an animal).
It is in this sense that those government soldiers who are close to Bedouin life and (Bedouin) toughness are more useful than those who have grown up in a sedentary culture and have adopted the character qualities of (sedentary culture). This can be found (to be the case) in every dynasty. It has thus become clear that the stage of sedentary culture is the stopping point in the life of civilization and dynasties.
"God is one and powerful." 162