WAKIL-al-RAʿĀYĀ, Ḥāji Shaikh (Moḥammad) Taqi Irāni (b. ca. 1285/1868, d. 1318 Š./1939), a prominent merchant and the Majles deputy of Hamadān, who, in October 1906, was the first provincial deputy (wakil-e majles) to take his place in the First Majles (parliament) to be established after the Constitutional Revolution (Browne, p. 131). Wakil-al-raʿāyā (lit. deputy of the subjects), a title which first appears in documents of the later Safavid period, referred to a provincial magistrate appointed by the shah to investigate administrative malfeasance or injustice and promote harmony among the governing, commercial, and working classes of society (see Perry, 1978). By the later Qajar period, the title appears to have been devalued to one of the many honorifics for public figures. It was bestowed on Ḥāji Shaikh Taqi by the anjoman of Hamadān (called majles-e fawāʾed-e ʿomumi), to which he was elected in 1906, in recognition of his services to the Constitutional movement (Aḏkāʾi, p. 439).
During his first term, Ḥāji Shaikh Taqi solicited charitable donations for various humanitarian causes, and feuded with a more established and conservative delegate, Āqā Aḥmad Moʿin-al-Tojjār (see, e.g., “Moḏākarāt,” in Irān-e now, Year 1, no. 197, May 7, 1910); in March 1908, supported by Sayyed Ḥasan Taqizāda, he successfully supported the right of political assembly (anjoman) for women (Moḏākarāt, 1, p. 474). Re-elected to the Second Majles (1909-11), he again spoke up for the rights of women. When the new electoral law (as drafted by a commission chaired by Moḥammad-ʿAli Foruḡi Ḏokāʾ-al-Molk was submitted to the Majles on 4 August, 1911, women were listed among those classes ineligible to vote. Ḥāji Shaikh Taqi, alone among the deputies, protested that women, too, were God’s creatures, and demanded on what grounds they were disenfranchised. Foruḡi, supported by the more “rational” people’s representatives (the Wakil-al-Raʿāyā of Hamadān had already gained a reputation as an eccentric), explained that there was no objection in principle, but women in Iran were not yet ready for the vote (Moḏākarāt, 2, p. 1531). This clash gained some international notice, and has even entered the mythopoea of feminism: legend has it that Ḥāji Shaikh Taqi was ejected from the parliament by a prominent cleric for his protest (The Times, London, 1911, 22 August, p. 3; 28 August, p. 3; repr. in Bayat-Philipp, p. 301; Bāmdād, Rejāl III, pp. 325-26 [which differs most noticeably from the official record]; Afary, pp. 73, 76-7). Had the Wakil-al-Raʿāyā’s view prevailed, Iran would have been years ahead of Britain and nearly all other parliamentary democracies of that time in respect of women’s franchise; only four countries permitted women to vote in 1911.
The reputation of Wakil-al-Raʿāyā is tarnished, ironically, by accusations of nepotism and peculation from the treasury (e.g., see “Moḏākarāt,” Year 3, no. 7, April 2, 1911; no. 19, April 17, 1911; no. 36, May 7, 1911; no. 73, June 21, 1911; Aḏkāʾi, pp. 447-48). Upon the dissolution of the Second Majles at the end of 1911, he retired to Hamadān, where he remained active in charitable and educational affairs. In later years he evinced increased signs of eccentricity and dementia. He left five sons, four of whom distinguished themselves in public life (Malekzāda, IV-V, pp. 1040-41).
Faridun Ādamiyat, Ideʾoloži-e nahżat-e mašruṭiyat-e Irān, 2 vols., Tehran, n.d.
Parviz Aḏkāʾi, “Ḥāj Šayk Taqi (Wakil-e Raʿāyā) Hamadāni,” Āyanda 12/7-8, 1986, pp. 438-48 (a comprehensive biography).
Janet Afary, “On the Origins of Feminism in Early Twentieth-Century Iran,” Journal ofWomen’s History 1/2, 1989, pp. 65-87.
Mangol Bayat-Philipp, “Women and Revolution in Iran, 1905–1911,” in Lois Beck and Nikki Keddie, eds., Women in theMuslim World, Cambridge, Mass., 1978, pp. 295-308.
Edward G. Browne, The Persian Revolution of 1905-1909, Cambridge, 1910.
Mahdi Malekzāda, Tāriḵ-e enqelāb-e mašruṭiyat-e Irān, 7 vols. in 3, Tehran, 1984.
“Mozākarāt-e Majles,” in Irān-e now, Tehran, approx. three times weekly, Aug. 24, 1909–Dec. 20, 1911 (usually on pp. 2-3; for parliamentary activities of Ḥāji Shaikh Taqi, see esp. Year 1, through June 1909 and Year 3, through July 1911).
Moḏākarāt-e Majles, Legislative Sessions 1 and 2, Tehran, 1946.
John R. Perry, “Justice for the Underprivileged: The Ombudsman Tradition of Iran,” JNES 37/3, 1978, pp. 203-15.
Idem, “The Vakil al-Raʿâyâ: A Pre-modern Iranian Ombudsman,” in Birgitt Hoffmann, Ralph Kauz and Markus Ritter, eds., Iran und iranischgeprägte Kulturen: Studien zu Ehren von Bert G. Fragner; überreicht an seinem 65. Geburtstag, Beiträge zur Iranistik, Wiesbaden, 2007, pp. 41-50.
(John R. Perry)
Originally Published: October 1, 2010
Last Updated: October 1, 2010