Turning point

«…sedentary life constitutes the last stage of civilization and the point where it begins to decay. (…) Sedentary culture is the goal of civilization. It means the end of its life span and brings about its corruption. (…)

… gardens and irrigation are the results of sedentary culture. Orange trees, lime trees, cypresses, and plants having no edible fruits and being of no use, are the ultimate in sedentary culture, since they are planted in gardens only for the sake of their appearance (…).

…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, because he has no courage as the result of (his life in) luxury and his upbringing under the (tyrannical) impact of education and instruction. He thus becomes dependent upon a protective force to defend him. (…)

Sedentary culture depends upon an abundant civilization (population), as we have said before. (…)

The crafts are perfected only if there exists a large and perfect sedentary civilization. The reason for this is that, as long as sedentary civilization is not complete and the city not fully organized, people are concerned only with the necessities of life, that is, with the obtaining of food, such as wheat and other things. Then, when the city is organized and the (available) labor increases and pays for the necessities and is more than enough (for the inhabitants), the surplus is spent on luxuries. (…)

Agriculture is the oldest of all crafts, in as much as it provides the food that is the main factor in perfecting human life, since man can exist without anything else but not without food. Therefore, this craft has existed especially in the desert, since, as we have stated before, it is prior to and older than sedentary life. Thus, it became a Bedouin craft which is not practiced or known by sedentary people (…).

All this is left to (the attention of) the physician. The incidence of illnesses is more frequent among the inhabitants of sedentary areas and cities (than elsewhere), because they live a life of. plenty. They eat a great deal and rarely restrict themselves to one particular kind of food. They lack caution in taking food, and they prepare their food, when they cook it, with the admixture of a good many things, such as spices, herbs, and fruits, (both) fresh and dry. They do not restrict themselves in this respect to one or even a few kinds. We have on occasion counted forty different kinds of vegetables and meats in a single cooked dish. This gives the nourishment a strange temper and often does not agree with the body and its parts. Furthermore, the air in cities becomes corrupt through admixture of putrid vapors because of the great number of superfluities (in cities). It is the air that gives energy to the spirit and thus strengthens the influence of the natural heat upon digestion. Furthermore, the inhabitants of cities lack exercise. As a rule, they rest and remain quiet. Exercise has no part in their (life) and has no influence upon them. Thus, the incidence of illness is great in towns and cities, and the inhabitants’ need for medicine is correspondingly great. (…)

Perfect sedentary culture provides intelligence, because it is a conglomerate of crafts characterized by concern for the (domestic) economy, contact with one’s fellow men, attainment of education through mixing with (one’s fellow men), and also administration of religious matters and understanding the ways and conditions governing them. All these (factors) are norms (of how to do things) which, properly arranged, constitute scientific disciplines. Thus, an increase inintelligence results from them. (…) The sciences are numerous only where civilization is large and sedentary culture highly developed. (…)

A characteristic feature of the language of present-day Arab (Bedouins), wherever they may live, is the pronunciation of q. They do not pronounce it as the urban population pronounces it and as it is indicated in works on Arabic philology, namely, where the hindmost part of the tongue meets the soft palate above it. Neither is it pronounced as k is pronounced, even though k is articulated in a place below that where q is articulated in the vicinity of the soft palate, as it is (when properly articulated). It is pronounced somewhere between k and q. This is the case with all Arab Bedouins, wherever they are, in the West or the East. It has eventually become their distinguishing mark among the nations and races. It is a characteristic of theirs that no one else shares with them. This goes so far that those who want to Arabicize themselves and to affiliate themselves with the Arabs imitate the Arab pronunciation of (q). (Arabs) think that a pure Arab can be distinguished from Arabicized and sedentary people by this pronunciation of q. (…) The place (where the sound) of q may be produced is wide, ranging from the soft palate to the place next to where k is articulated. The velar pronunciation is the urban one. The pronunciation close to k is that of (present-day) Arab Bedouins. (…) However, our aforementioned statement that it is (all) one sound with a wide (range of) articulation is more appropriate.»

– Ibn Khaldun, “Muqaddimah”


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