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Muhammad-Taqi Wakil al-Dawla Shirazi

by Soli Shahvar

published in Encyclopaedia Iranica
New York: Columbia University, 2016
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). 

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