HEDĀYAT, REŻĀQOLI KHAN, Persian literary historian, administrator, and poet of the Qajar period (b. Tehran, 15 Moḥarram 1215/8 June 1800; d. Tehran, 10 Rabiʿ II 1288/29 June 1871). He came from a prominent family which traced its lineage back to Kemāl-e Ḵojandi, the well-known lyric poet of the 8th/14th century. His father, Moḥammad-Hādi Khan, served in the retinue of Qajar tribal leaders in Māzandarān, hence his son’s full appellation as Hedāyat Māzan-darāni, Ṭabari, or Ṭabarestāni in his autobiographical notices (Storey, I/2, p. 906) and in other anthologies. At the court of Āqā Moḥammad Shah, Reżāqoli’s father became head of the household staff and finances, and following Fatḥ-ʿAli Khan’s accession, was posted to Khorasan and later to Shiraz as a provincial administrator. He died in 1218/1803 while serving as treasurer under Prince Ḥosayn-ʿAli Mirzā Farmānfarmā (q.v.). After his father’s death, the young Reżāqoli moved with his mother first to Tehran and later to her family home in Bārforuš (now Bābol). Returning to Shiraz, his mother embarked on the pilgrimage to Mecca, where she died. The boy was raised and educated by his stepfather Moḥammad-Mahdi Khan, who wrote poetry under the pen name “Šaḥna.” Hedayat began his long career in administration in the province of Fārs, under Ḥosayn-ʿAli Mirzā. His first poems appeared under the pen name “Čākar,” which he soon changed to “Hedāyat.” During his visit to Shiraz in 1245/1829, Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah bestowed on him the title amir-al-šoʿarāʾ and was willing to name him malek-al-šoʿarāʾ to replace his recently deceased poet laureate, Ṣabā (d. 1238/1822-23). However, Hedayat fell ill and was unable to travel to Tehran to take up the post. After the death of Fatḥ-ʿAli Shah in 1250/1834, he continued to work in the provincial administration under a quick succession of governors (see FĀRS iv.).

Hedayat was summoned to Tehran by Moḥammad Shah in 1254/1838 and took up residence with the grand vizier, Ḥāji Mirzā Āqāsi (q.v.), a sign of his already high status in the upper echelon of the Qajar court. He became one of the Shah’s close attendants and was entrusted with the education of his favorite son, ʿAbbās Mirzā (later entitled Molkārā), thus earning the title of “Lala-bāši.” About this time, he broadened the scope of his literary activities and began to write the first of his prose works on religious lore and literary history, the Riāż al-ʿārefin. In the political upheaval following the death of Moḥammad Shah in 1264/1848, Hedayat retired temporarily from public life when his patron and former pupil ʿAbbās Mirzā was exiled. In 1268/1851, he was persuaded to enter the service of Nāṣer-al-Din Shah by the Amir-(e) Kabir Mirzā Taqi Khan (q.v.) and was appointed to lead a diplomatic mission to the court of Moḥammad-Amin Khan in Khiva (Eqbāl, pp. 9-14). On his return to Tehran, Hedayat became the deputy director (nāẓem) of the newly established Dār al-Fonun (q.v.) and was instrumental in designing its curriculum (Hedayat, p. 84). During this time, he also began composing the two massive prose works for which he is perhaps best known, Rawżat al-ṣafā-ye nāṣeri and Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥā. Hedayat spent most of the latter years of his life in Tabriz, where he once again acted as royal tutor, this time to the heir designate Moẓaffar-al-Din Mirzā. He continued to be a productive writer and editor, preparing a number of works designed for educational use. He finally returned to Tehran, where he lived in seclusion until his death.

Most of his vast literary output remains unpublished, especially his poetry. Hedayat compiled two divāns. The first, devoted to qaṣidas, contains panegyrics composed for court occasions during over half a century of service to the Qajars; examples of these abound in the autobiographical entry in Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥā (VI, pp. 1211-1332). The second, less substantial divān, consisting of his ḡazals, tarjiʿ-bands, robāʿiyāts, and other verse forms, is scarcely represented in Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥā (see Rieu, suppl., pp. 227-28).

Hedayat was also prolific in the maṯnawi genre, and six such works of his were collected together under the title Setta-ye żaruriya “The essential six”: Anwār al-welāya describes the lives and adventures of the twelve Shiʿite Imams; Golestān-e Eram or Bektāš-nāma tells the story of the poetess Rābeʿa bt. Kaʿb of Balḵ and her love for Bektāš, a servant in the court of her brother King Hāreṯ; Baḥr al-ḥaqāyeq contains didactic reflections interspersed with admonitory anecdotes; Anis al-ʿāšeqin consists of stories about Sufi saints; Ḵorram behešt recounts the battles of ʿAli b. Abi Ṭāleb; and Hedāyat-nāma is modeled on Mawlānā’s Maṯnawi-ye maʿnawi (Divān Beygi, III, pp. 2071-72; Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥāʾ, pp. kāf-gāf). Not included in the Setta-ye żaruriya are a seventh maṯnawi, Menhaj al-hedāya, and a short Sāqi-nāma (Golčin-e Maʿāni, 1368 Š./1987, pp. 577-82).

Hedayat was even more productive as a literary scholar. Drawing heavily on earlier examples of the genre, two of his works in this field represent a final summation of the classical tradition of literary biographical dictionaries. Riāż al-ʿārefin contains the biographies of 354 Sufi poets and was dedicated to Moḥammad Shah. Completed near the end of Hedayat’s life in 1288/1871, Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥā is a massive compendium of the biographies of 867 poets. The classical traditions of rhetoric and lexicography are also represented by two works: Madārej al-balāḡa is a short treatise on rhetorical terms and poetic devices, while Farhang-e anjomanārā-ye nāṣeri was perhaps the final product of Hedayat’s long career and was published by his son shortly after his death. To these works should be added Hedayat’s activity as a commentator and editor. Meftāḥ al-konuz is an unpublished commentary on problematic verses from the works of Ḵāqāni. Hedayat also edited early publications of the divāns of Manučehri (see Storey, I, p. 912) and Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow, as well as the Qābus-nāma and a popular anthology of selections from Mawlānā’s Divān-e Šams Tabrizi, entitled Šams al-ḥaqāyeq.

Hedayat also wrote widely on Sufism and Shiʿite religious lore. Golčin-e Maʿāni (1368 Š./1987, p. 576) describes the unpublished Sufi treatise Oṣul al-foṣul fi ḥoṣul al-woṣul as “the most important” of Hedayat’s works. Other such works include Laṭāyef al-maʿāref, Jāmeʿ al-asrār, and Majmaʿ al-asrār fi eṣṭelāhāt ʿorafāʾ. Hedayat also wrote a devotional history of the Shiʿite Imams entitled Maẓāher al-anwār fi manāqeb aʾemma al-aṭhār.

As an historian, Hedayat’s most famous work was his edition and supplement to Mirḵᵛānd’s Rawżat al-ṣafā, entitled Rawżat al-ṣafā-ye nāṣeri. Commissioned by Nāṣer-al-Din Shah, the final three supplementary volumes (described by Bahār, III, p. 368) are an important and often first-hand account of Qajar history. The chronologies contained in Ajmal al-tawāriḵ and Fehrest al-tawārik¨ seem designed to serve primarily as textbooks. Nežād-nāma-ye pādšāhān-e Irān-nežād is described in Storey (I, p. 239) as “a history of those dynasties in Persia and elsewhere who traced their origin to the ancient kings of Persia, written in 1274/1857-58 at the request of Māṇehji Linji Hušang Hātaryā.” Sefārat-nāma-ye Ḵᵛārazm is a first-person account of the author’s ambassadorial mission to Khiva in 1268/1851. Finally, Golčin-e Maʿāni mentions a work not cited elsewhere: Dalil al-ṭālebin fi ḏekr al-ʿārefin dar aḥwāl-e Ḥājj Zayn-al-ʿĀbedin Širvāni wa Kawṯar-ʿAlišāh, which appears to be a biography of two contemporary leaders of the Neʿmat-Allāhi Sufi order.

Hedayat’s character and demeanor have been consistently praised. The French diplomat and social theorist Gobineau, for example, relished “les façons légères et vivantes” of Hedayat, and described him as “un des hommes les plus spirituels et les plus aimables que j’aie rencontrés dans aucune partie du monde” (pp. 454-55). He was also widely admired for his work at the Dār al-fonun (q.v.) and its publishing house (Āryanpur, I, pp. 263-64; Rypka, pp. 339-41). His reputation as a poet and scholar, however, has not fared as well. While Bahār (III, p. 348) lists Hedayat among the poets who “refined” the poetic style of Ṣabā to bring it closer to that of classical masters such as ʿOnṣori, Manučehri, and Ḵāqāni, Browne (IV, pp. 224-25), Rypka (p. 340), and Āryanpur (I, pp. 263) consider his poetry imitative and undistinguished, placing him among the second-rank Qajar poets. Any final evaluation must await a full and detailed study of his poetic works. Hedayat’s writings as both a political and literary historian have also come under sharp criticism from Browne (IV, p. 7) and Golčin-e Maʿāni (1348-50 Š./1969-71, I, pp. 667-70 and II, pp. 147-48), especially for his often cavalier attitude toward his Safavid sources. In all this, he was representative of the bāzgašt-e adabi (q.v.), “literary return movement,” which imitated the style of earlier periods in order to purify Persian poetry of the perceived decadence and foreign influences which emerged in the Timurid and Safavid periods. Hedayat’s blanket condemnation of the so-called “Indian style” (see Yarshater, p. 224) remained largely unquestioned until recent years (Losensky, pp. 2-3). He remains a crucial source for the literary and political history of the Qajar period. His prose style is generally simple and elegant, and his efforts as a writer and publisher remain an essential link between modern scholarship and the classical tradition of poetry and historiography. Hedayat’s literary and administrative legacy was carried on by his many illustrious descendants, culminating in the monumental achievements of his great-great-grandson Ṣādeq Hedāyat (q.v.; Kamshad, pp. 138-39).



Although much of Hedayat’s voluminous output in poetry and religious lore exists only in manuscript, many of his most important works on lexicography, rhetoric, and literary and political history have been published in both lithograph and print editions: Ajmal al-tawāriḵ, Tabriz, 1283/1866; Farhang-e anjomanārā-ye nāṣeri, Tehran, 1288/1871, and reprinted 1336 Š./1957; Golestān-e Eram, Bektāš-nāma, Tehran, 1270/1853-54; Madārej al-balāḡa, Shiraz, 1331/1913 and 2535=1355 Š./1977; Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥā, 2 vols., Tehran, 1295/1878; ed. Maẓāher Moṣaffā, 6 vols., Tehran, 1336-40 Š./1957-61; Maẓāher al-anwār fi manāqeb aʾemma al-aṭhār, Tabriz, 1280/1863; Rawżat al-ṣafā-ye nāṣeri, 10 vols., Tehran, 1270-74/1853-56 (the first seven volumes constitute a revised edition of Mirḵᵛānd’s Rawżat al-ṣafāʾ); Riāż al-ʿārefin, Tehran, 1305/1888, 1316 Š./1937; Riāż al-moḥebbin dar aḵlāq, Tehran, 1297/1880; and Sefārat-nāma-ye Ḵᵛārazm,ed.and tr. Charles Schefer as Relation de l’ambassade au Kharezm (Khiva) de Riza Qouly Khan, Paris, 1876-79. Several of Hedayat’s editions of texts from the classical tradition were also published during his lifetime: Divān-e Nāṣer-e Ḵosrow, Tabriz, 1280/1863-64; Qābus-nāma, Tehran, 1285/1868; and Šams al-ḥaqāyeq, Tabriz, 1280/1863-64 (selections from Mawlānā’s Divān-e Šams Tabrizi). Storey (I/2, p.912) also mentions an early edition of Divān-e Manučehri.

The most important contemporary sources on Hedayat’s life and works are undoubtedly the autobiographical entry in Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥā (1957-61, VI, pp. 1209-11) and the introduction to Farhang-e anjomanārā-ye nāṣeri. Other taḏkera sources are listed in Sayyed Aḥmad Divānbeygi Širāzi, Ḥadiqat al-šoʿarāʾ, ed. ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Navāʾi, Tehran, 1364-66 Š./1985-87,III, pp. 2071-72.Among modern scholarly works, special mention should be made of Storey, I/2, pp. 151-52, 224, 239, 342-43, 906-13; Bāmdād, Rejāl II, pp. 39-42; and Maẓāher Moṣaffā’s introduction to Majmaʿ al-foṣaḥā (1336-40 Š./1957-61) I, pp. ḡayn-gāf.

Studies. Abbas Amanat, Pivot of the Universe: Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy, 1831-1896, Berkeley, 1997.

Āryanpur, Az Ṣabā tā Nimā I, pp. 261-64.

Peter Avery, “Printing, the Press and Literature in Modern Iran,” Camb. Hist. Iran VII, pp. 815-69.

Moḥammad-Taqi Bahār, Sabk-šenāsi III, pp. 348, 367-70.

Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia IV, passim. Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau, Trois ans en Asie, Paris, 1859, pp. 454-61.

ʿAbbās Eqbāl Āštiāni, “Amir(-e) Kabir wa marḥum-e Hedāyat,” Yādegār 4/4, 1948, pp. 9-14.

Aḥmad Golčin-e Maʿāni, Taḏkera-ye peymāna, Tehran, 1368 Š./1989, pp. 577-82.

Idem, Tāriḵ-e taḏkerahā-ye fārsi, 1348-1350 Š./1969-1971, I, pp. 666-71; II, pp. 144-53, pp. 637-38.

Mahdiqoli Khan Hedāyat, Ḵāṭerāt wa ḵāṭarāt, Tehran, 1950, passim.

Hossein Kamshad, Modern Persian Prose Literature, Cambridge, 1966, pp. 138-39.

Paul Losensky, Welcoming Fighāni: Imitation and Poetic Individuality in the Safavid-Mughal Ghazal, Costa Mesa, Calif., 1998, pp. 1–5, 50–54.

Henri Massé, “Riḍū KÂulī Khan,” in EI2 VIII, pp. 510–11.

Rieu, Persianū Manuscripts, Supplement, pp. 227-28. Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit, pp. 339-41.

Ehsan Yarshater, “Safavid Literature: Progress or Decline,” Iranian Studies 7, pp. 217-70.

(Paul E. Losensky)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 20, 2012

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