MOḤAMMAD-TAQI WAKIL-AL-DAWLA ŠIRĀZI, Ḥāji Mirzā Sayyed (1830- 30 August 1911), prominent Iranian Bahai merchant from Shiraz.  He was the son of Ḥājia Bibi Fāṭema-Sāḥeb and Ḥāji Mirzā Sayyed Moḥammad (1798-1876), the great maternal uncle (ḵāl-e akbar) of Sayyed ʿAli-Moḥammad Širāzi, the Bāb (1819-50).

Ḥāji Mirzā Sayyed Moḥammad and his two brothers, Ḥāji Mirzā Sayyed ʿAli (ḵāl-e aʿẓam) and Ḥāji Mirzā Ḥasan-ʿAli (ḵāl-e aṣḡar), ran a trading house (later known as the Afnan Trading House) in which they and their sons conducted commercial activities dealing in various goods.  Each of the three brothers established himself in a different commercial center in Iran, with Moḥammad, the eldest, based in Bushehr, ʿAlī in Shiraz, and Ḥasan-ʿAli, the youngest, in Yazd (Ḥ. Afnān, pp. 307-8).  They seem to have adopted a system in which each of the three brothers gradually developed his own businesses, some in partnership between themselves and some with others, mainly members of the extended Shirazi family; but they helped each other in various ways, such as in administrative work, shipment of goods and their release from customs, and training their nephews in business affairs after the completion of their studies.  This cooperation made them grow from a nationwide trading house into an international one, operating in such commercial centers as Hong Kong, Bombay (Mumbai), and Ashkhabad (Ešqābād; Yazd dar asnād, pp. 245-46).

Thus, in 1845, at the age of 15, and after having completed his studies, Moḥammad-Taqi was sent to Bushehr to work alongside his father in the family's firm there. His cousin, the Bab, had terminated his business there by 1841 and gone to visit the shrines of the Atabat, before returning home to Shiraz in 1842 (Amanat, pp. 136-46; Ḥ. Afnān, p. 316).

In 1854, at the age of 24, Moḥammad-Taqi moved to Yazd, where he married Bibi Zahrā Bagom, but later took a second wife (Ḥ. Afnān, p. 316).  In 1859 he traveled to Baghdad, where he met Bahāʾ-Allāh.  This meeting made a great impression on him, and he became a believer (Ḥ. Afnān, p. 319). In Yazd the Shirazis operated their various commercial activities from Ḵˇāja Caravansary, where they had rented some “six-seven large commercial offices” (ḥojra; Yazd dar asnād, p. 106).

The Shirazis were engaged in commercial activities, ranging from trade in traditional commodities to that of newly introduced items, such as opium (taryāk).   It was Ḥāji Mirzā Moḥammad-ʿAli (1824-96), Moḥammad-Taqi’s eldest brother, who was mostly involved in the opium trade with his younger brother, Ḥāji Mirzā Bozorg, at least until the consumption of, and trade in, opium was banned by Bahāʾ-Allāh (item 155; Ganjina-ye ḥodud, pp. 428-29; E. Afnan, p. 17 of draft article).  However, as far as Moḥammad-Taqi is concerned, while it is possible that he or other members of the Shirazi clan either helped Moḥammad-ʿAli in the opium trade or even partnered with him (as long as it was not forbidden to do so by Bahāʾ-Allāh), the available sources indicate that Moḥammad-Taqi’s main commercial activity was elsewhere.  These included, among others, real estate (mainly land purchase, rent, or lease); agriculture and cultivation; trade in a range of commodities (e.g., gum tragacanth, sugar, cubic sugar, rice, silk), as well as farming of official offices, such as the entire customs of Yazd for the year of Tushqanʾil 1270s (corresponding to 21 March 1891 until 19 March 1892) for 40,000 tomans (Āqā Ḥaydar-ʿAli to Amin-al-Żarb, as quoted in Mahdavi, pp. 83-84; Moḥammad-Taqi to Amin-al-Żarb, in Yazd dar asnād, pp. 283, 427, 465; ‘Ali-Naqi Aštari to Amin-al-Żarb, in Yazd dar asnād, pp. 331-32; Mālmiri, p. 67). 

Concurrent to his own family’s commercial activities, Moḥammad-Taqi became heavily involved in matters related to the merchant (tojjār) community, and specifically in their relations with the local and central governments in Iran.  In this regard he was actively and heavily involved in promoting reform in these relations, efforts which in 1884 resulted in the establishment of the Councils of Representatives of the Merchants (Majles-e wokalā-ye tojjār), which dismantled a year later (e.g., see Moḥammad-Taqi to Amin-al-Żarb, in Yazd dar asnād, pp. 239-40 and also pp. 132, 337-40; Gilbar, pp. 639-74).

In Yazd the Shirazis enjoyed much respect and honor, in spite of the fact that everyone in that city knew that they were Babi-Bahais.  According to Mālmiri, a Bahai merchant who worked with the Shirazis, this was a direct result of a number of reasons, such as their status as sayyeds (descendants of Prophet Moḥammad); the fact that they were big wholesalers with considerable wealth; their pleasant and kind character; and their pious behavior, chastity, faithfulness, and wisdom.  Such characteristics were enough to draw many of the locals towards the Bahai faith (Mālmiri, pp. 59-61), to protect the Shirazis during fanatical persecutions, and to gain the respect of officials and dignitaries

Among the Shirazis of Yazd, it was Moḥammad-Taqi who enjoyed a special status.  This was not only the result of the good reputation of the Shirazis, but also specifically due to his own righteous, humble, and trustworthy character (Ṭāherzāda, I, p. 199; ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ, p. 127); his position as a prominent merchant in Yazd; his close association and friendship with Aqā Moḥammad-Ḥasan Eṣfahāni (also known as Amīn-al-Żarb), probably the richest and most influential merchant in late 19th-century Iran (Yazd dar Asnad, p. 106); and his activities in relation to representing the merchant class (see above).

Thus, given all his qualities and prominence in Yazd, Moḥammad-Taqi seemed the right choice when Tsarist Russia decided to appoint a Russian commercial agent in Yazd.  He was offered this position in 1889, which he readily accepted (Russian embassy to Ḥāji Mirzā Sayyed Moḥammad-Taqi, 23 April 1889, p. 1; Moḥammad-Taqi Širāzi to Russian embassy, 30 April 1889; Tumanski, “Report”).  The requirements of the post were to represent and assist Russian subjects, especially merchants, in Iran (Russian embassy to Ḥāji Mirzā Sayyed Moḥammad-Taqi, 23 April 1889, p. 1).

The post came with the title of Wakil-al-Dawla-ye Rus (representative of the Russian government), a special and large golden emblem of the Russian government, and a Russian flag that was fixed over Moḥammad-Taqi’s house. Furthermore, as Russian representative, he enjoyed all the benefits that came with such a post, for instance, immunity from legal and religious persecution as well as 24-hour guarded protection for him and his family (Mālmiri, pp. 60-61).  In this post, which he held for over a decade, Moḥammad-Taqi not only fulfilled his duties, but also used it to protect and facilitate his and his family's business in Iran and in the new Russian Transcaspian territories, where he set up new branches of his business in localities such as Ashkhabad and Bukhara, places to which Bahais from Iran gradually began to immigrate from Iran during the mid-1880s (Moḥammad-Taqi to the Russian ambassador in Tehran, 12 October 1889, p. 4; Moḥammad-Taqi Širāzi to ʿArab Ṣāḥeb, 12 October 1889, p. 5).

Since Moḥammad-Taqi filled his post to the full satisfaction of the Russian government, on 7 January 1902 he was awarded a golden medal from the Order of Saint Stanislav (Russian consulate, Isfahan to the Russian ambassador, Tehran, 11 November 1901, pp. 29a-29b; Russian ambassador in Tehran to the First Dept., Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 15 November 1901, pp. 30a-30b; First Dept., Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Russian Mission in Tehran, 20 November 1901, p. 31; Director, the First Dept., Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Kimon Manuilovich Argiropulo, 19 February 1902, pp. 33a-33b).

By the end of the 1890s, Moḥammad-Taqi was recognized as “the leader and the headman” of the Shirazis (Yazd dar asnād, p. 106).  By then he was also preparing himself to retire from business activity and to devote himself entirely to serving his religion.  One of the landed properties, which his brother, Moḥammad-ʿAli, had bought in 1887 in Ashkhabad, had been dedicated by Bahāʾ-Allāh for the building of a Mašreq al-Aḏkār, a Bahai house of worship, with other properties to be endowed to support it (Ḥ. Afnān, p. 319).  Thus, when ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ asked Moḥammad-Taqi to superintend the construction of the Mašreq al-Aḏkār, he closed his business in Yazd and set out for Ashkhabad (4 April 1900).  The construction began in late 1902 (Armstrong-Ingram, p. 11) and was completed in 1906, with interior and exterior decoration completed in 1919 (Fayżi, pp. 102-4; Balyuzi, p. 110; Raʾfati, p. 8; Momen, 1991, p. 285; Hassall, p. 49; Lee, 11).

After completing the challenging task of building the Mašreq al-Aḏkār, Moḥammad-Taqi retired to Haifa, where he spent the last two years of his life.  He passed away on 30 August, 1911, at the age of eighty-one, and was the first to be buried in the Baha'i cemetery in Haifa (Ḥ. Afnān, pp. 318-19).

Moḥammad-Taqi’s rich business experience, various activities, and strong devotion to his Bahai faith won him many titles.  These included titles in relation to his activities for the merchant class (Malek-al-Tojjār, Wakil-al-Tojjār), for representing Russian interests in Yazd (Wakil-al-Dawla-ye Rus), for his devotion and services he rendered to his faith (Wakil-al-Ḥaqq), and for his delightful character (Afnān-e Maliḥ) (RSHA, “Mission in Persia,” 528/1/1889-1904/1596, p. 1; ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ, p. 126; Ḥ. Afnān, p. 316; E. Afnan, p. 19). He also received the title of “Afnān” (twigs, branches), which was given by Bahāʾ-Allāh to the siblings of Faṭema Begom and Ḵadija Begom, the Bāb’s mother and wife, respectively.


ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ, Memorials of the Faithful, tr. Marzieh Gail, Wilmette, Ill., 1971; available online at Elham Afnan, “The Goodly Gifts: A Brief History of the Afnan Family,” to be published in The Haifa University Lectures in Bahaʾi Studies, ed. Soli Shahvar, Waterloo.

Mirzā Ḥabib-Allāh Afnān, The Genesis of the Bābī-Bahāʾī Faiths in Shīrāz and Fārs, tr. and annotated Ahang Rabbani, Leiden and Boston, 2008.

Abbas Amanat, Resurrection and Renewal. The Making of the Babai Movement in Iran, 1844-1850, Ithaca and London, 1989.

R. Jackson Armstrong-Ingram, Music, Devotions, and Mashriqu’l-Adhkār, Studies in Babi and Bahaʾi History IV, Los Angeles, 1987. 

Bahāʾ-Allāh, The Ketāb-e aqdas, 1873, at 

H. M. Balyuzi, ʿAbdu’l-Bahá: The Centre of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, London, 1972. 

Ḥāji Mīrzā Ḥasan Ḥosayni Fasāʾi, Fārs-nāma-ye nāṣeri, ed. Manṣur Rastegār Fasāʾi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1988. 

Moḥammad-ʿAli Fayżi, Ketāb-e ḵāndān-e Afnān sadra-ye raḥmān, Tehran, 1971.

Ganjina-ye ḥodud wa aḥkām esteḵrāj az alwāḥ wa āṯār-e mobāraka dar bāra-ye aḥkām-e diānat-e moqaddas-e Bahāʾi, ed. ʿAbd-al-Hamīd Ešrāq Ḵāvari, New Delh, 1972. 

Gad G. Gilbar, “The Rise and Fall of the Tujjār Councils of Representatives in Iran, 1884-85,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 51, 2008, pp. 639-74. 

Graham Hassall, “Notes on the Babi and Bahaʾi Religions in Russia and Its Territories,” Journal of Bahaʾi Studies 5/3, 1993, pp. 41-86. 

A. A. Lee, “The Rise of the Bahaʾi Community of ʿIshqabad,” Bahaʾi Studies 5, 1979, pp. 1-13.

Shireen Mahdavi, For God, Mammon, and Country: A Nineteenth-Century Persian Merchant, Haj Hassan Amin al-Zarb (1834-1898), Boulder, Col., 1999.

Ḥāji Moḥammad Ṭāher Mālmiri, Ḵāṭerāt-e Malmiri: Waqāyeʿ dar ʿaṣr-e rasuli wa āḡāz-e ʿṣr-e takwin, ed. Adib Ṭāherzāda Mālmiri, Langenhein, 1992.

Moojan Momen, The Bábi and Baháʾí Religions 1844-1944: Some Contemporary Western Acounts, Oxford, 1981, p. 514. 

Idem, “The Bahaʾi Community of Ashkhabad; Its Social Basis and Importance in Bahaʾi History,” in Shirin Akiner, ed., Cultural Change and Continuity in Central Asia, London and New York, 1991, pp. 278-305. 

Waḥid Raʾfati, “Diānat-e Bahāʾi dar Rusiya,” Pažuheš-nāma 1/2, 1997, pp. 3-57. 

Rossiiskiĭ gosudarstvennyi istoricheskiĭ arkhiv (S-Peterburg) [Russian State Historical Archive (St Petersburg)] (RSHA), fond (series; collection of documents) “Missiya v Persiĭ” [Mission in Persia], opis (inventory of the fond) 528/1, god (year) 1889-1904, delo (file) 1596 (RSHA 528/1/1889-1904/1596):

The Director of the First Dept. at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Kimon Manuilovich Argiropulo, n.p. (St. Petersburg), 19 February 1902 (6 February 1902), no. 623 in RSHA, “Mission in Persia,” 528/1/1889-1904/1596, pp. 33a-33b;

The First Dept. of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Russian Imperial Mission in Tehran, n.p. (St Petersburg), 20 November 1901 (7 November 1901 Julian), no. 1035 in RSHA, “Mission in Persia,” 528/1/1889-1904/1596, p. 31;

Moḥammad-Taqi Širāzi to ʿArab Ṣāḥeb (the Persian dragoman of the Russian embassy in Tehran), Yazd, 16 Ṣafar 1307/12 October 1889, RSHA, “Mission in Persia,” 528/1/1889-1904/1596, p. 5 (copy);

Moḥammad-Taqi Širāzi to the Russian ambassador in Tehran, Yazd, 16 Ṣafar 1307/12 October 1889, RSHA, “Mission in Persia,” 528/1/1889-1904/1596, p. 4 [received 21 October 1889 (9 October, 1889 Julian)] (copy);

Moḥammad-Taqi Širāzi to Russian embassy (telegram), Yazd, 29 Šaʿbān 1306/30 April 1889 (18 April 1889 Julian);

Russian ambassador in Iran to the First Dept. at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tehran, 15 November 1901 (2 November 1901 Julian), no. 677 in RSHA, “Mission in Persia,” 528/1/1889-1904/1596;

Russian embassy in Tehran to Ḥāji Mirzā Sayyed Moḥammad-Taqi Wakil-al-Tojjār, Tehran, 22 Šaʿbān 1306/23 April 1889 (10 April 1889 in Julian calendar);

Russian Imperial Consulate in Isfahan to the Russian ambassador in Tehran, Isfahan, 11 November 1901 (29 October 1901 Julian), no. 915 in RSHA, “Mission in Persia,” 528/1/1889-1904/1596.

A. Tumanski, “Report of the Staff-Captain A. Tumanski, Subordinate to the Commander of the Troops of the Transcaspian Region Regarding His Journey to Persia (18 March to 15 November 1894),” (secret), n.p. (probably Ashkhabad), n.d. (probably end of November-beginning of December 1894), Rossiiskiĭ gosudarstvennyi voenno, istoricheskiĭ arkhiv [Russian State Military, Historical Archive], Moscow, fond 1396, opis 2, delo 1856. 

Adib Ṭāherzāda, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, 4 vols., Oxford, 1974-77.

Yazd dar asnād-e Amin-al-Żarb (sālhā-ye 1288-1330 qamari), ed. Aṣḡar Mahdawi and Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 2001.

(Soli Shahvar)

Originally Published: June 10, 2016

Last Updated: June 10, 2016

Cite this entry:

Soli Shahvar, “MOḤAMMAD-TAQI WAKIL-AL-DAWLA ŠIRĀZI,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2016, available at (accessed on 19 May 2016).