A Brief History Of The Hakimi Family

Foreword:  In early 1980's or in and around the time of revolution in Iran,  I was about 20 years old and studying for a degree in England.  My best friend from high school in Teheran was also studying in England and from time to time I used to stay with him in London. He lived in a complex of apartments in the West End of London.  At the time, there were quite a number of other Iranians living there.  My friend had always been more impressed than I was with my mother's family pedigree.  Soon as he learnt there was a Hakimi living there, he made his acquaintance and eventually introduced us.  

I found Mr. Manouchehr Hakimi a slim, tall, white haired, elegant and very kind gentleman from Shiraz, the capital of the Pars (or Fars) Province in Iran.  Shiraz is one of the oldest, famous and beautiful cities in Iran.  A city where one of the main branches of Hakimi's established itself during the Qajar period owing to their association with the Prince Regent of the time, the infamous Mirza (Prince) Malek Mansour Shoja-ol-Saltaneh.  It was customary for the Qajar Prince Regents to be appointed as Governors of Fars and its capital Shiraz was an important seat of government.  Unknowingly M Hakimi started my interest in the family history by giving me a copy of a photo of Hakimis in attendance with the Qajar King Mozzafar-e-Din Shah during a state visit to England.  On its back, the names of some of the Persian courtiers and politicians were written. 

A few years later I was visiting Germany where my sister lives, my cousin from Norway happened to be visiting with his children, the fact that our children did not know each other, were missing the common thread that had bound our family together in Iran, was quite telling of life outside Iran.  The above experiences motivated me to try and put this site together.

Although this was not meant to be an exhaustive history through the very kind help of Thomas Rochford (creator of the fantastic Isfahan site),  Daee's old friend Mr. Karimzadeh Tabrizi who provided the material from Dr Honarfar's book (3), Auntie Fataneh, and Parviz Hakimi  gave me the clues to research the most exciting story of the beginning of family fortunes which I have tried to narrate below and pages linked.  I would have been completely stuck had it not been for Siamak Nikopoor's translation of the Arabic texts of the Hakim Mosque inscriptions.  Many thanks also to Massoud Gharajehedaghi whose enthusiasm and support has been tremendous. A number of the pages would simply have not been possible without his contribution and Massoud has checked and rechecked all the pages.  The work that we have put in this has been a labour of love and a pleasure. I have tried to design this pages with our children as the primary audience in mind.

 Hamid, 21st September 2000, London


The Hakim Mosque in Isfahan, IranWe can trace our ancestry back for at least 350 years. In addition to historical references and documents recording the contribution made by the more prominent members of the family to Persian society, there is in Iran a detailed very well documented family tree maintained by Parviz Hakimi. There is an abridged version of  the family tree and copies of some of the documents mentioned above available on this site.


To understand some aspects of our family history , let's start with the name, the word Hakim has two meanings, wise and physician or doctor. The ending i simply denotes belonging (in this instance a profession).  It was customary in Persia to use one's family profession as part of one's name similar to other societies such as Smiths and Archers in England.  Many generations of Hakimis were distinguished physicians and served in the courts of Persian kings.  They were honoured and given the title Hakim-el-Molk or literally physician to the land or king. 


In early twentieth century when western style surnames were adopted in Iran, they simply used their old family professional name Hakimi as a surname.  The maternal influence was very strong, so much so that a number of the children chose their mothers' family name (for example my great grandfather was not a Hakimi yet my grand father and his siblings chose to be callled Hakimi).


Chehel Sotoun painting, a banquet by Shah Abbas II for Nader Mohammad Khan Using the above family tree one can trace the Hakimis' beginning to a 17th century physician called Mohammad Davoud (David), his title was Hakim so as not to confuse him with other Mohammad Davouds.  He was physician to Shah (King) Safi I and Shah Abbas II of the Safavid dynasty, rulers of Iran in the seventeenth century.  He lived in Isfahan: the capital of  Iran at that time. The abridged tree starts with Mohammad Davoud and Mirza Hassan Hakim Bashi  (Mirza and Bashi are starting and ending titles, Mirza can mean both a Prince and Mister, his name in English would be written as Mr. Hassan, Chief Physician) under Hassan's name it is written that he was "fifth generation after Mohammad Davoud Hakim Physician to Shah Abbas II, and Founder Of the Hakim Mosque". The Hakim Mosque  exists today and appears in books about Persian monuments. For a  virtual tour of Isfahan and the Hakim Mosque visit the Isfahan website designed by Thomas C Rochford.   The information on the web page dedicated to the Hakim Mosque on the Isfahan site pointed the way to finding out what we now know about Mohammad Davoud.  


Aurengzib and his brothers. While living in India, Mohammad Davoud financed the building of the Hakim Mosque which was completed in 1662 on the site of an earlier 10th century mosque. Before going to India,  Mohammad Davoud Hakim was a prominent member of the Safavid court in Iran.  Mohammad Davoud  had to leave  the court of Shah Abbas II under mysterious circumstances and spent the rest of his life in India and in the court of the Truco-Persian rulers of India.  He is mentioned in the writings of 17th century European travelers of the time, namely Sir John (Jean) Chardin a French traveller in Iran, Francois Bernier a French physician who traveled in mid 17th century India, and Manucci a Venetian who traveled and lived in India 3, 4 & 5 & 10.    He became a  prominent member of the court of the Mongol Emperor of India, Shah Jahan who built the famous Taj Mahal as a mausoleum for his beloved wife and then his son Aurengzeb, which allowed him to send funds to his family in Isfahan to build the mosque and preserve their status in society.


Prior to the rise of the English in India, the Persians occupied very senior positions in the court of Indian rulers.   Persian was the official language of the court and Persians often served as physicians, lord chamberlins, administrators and chancellors.  The picture of Aurangzeb above is an Indian document currently in the British Museum (where else?) yet it is a Persian miniature and the text at the bottom is in Persian: "Shuja, Aurenzeb, and Murad Baksh" - Shuja and Murad Baksh were his brothers.  The nobles in the court were referred to as Omara meaning chieftans. Mohammad Davoud Hakim is listed in the books about nobility of India of this period. 


In later periods other descendants of Mohammad Davoud became physicians to the court and their role as physicians to the court of Qajar (1770-1925) is well recorded.  In those times it was quite usual for sons to follow in their fathers' footsteps and continue the family tradition. We have documented evidence of two Hakimi ancestors being given the title Hakim-el-Molk during the Qajar reign. They were Mirza Mahmoud Khan and Ebrahim Hakimi. They were uncle and nephew and since the both the same title this can cause confusion. Indeed Persian titles make study of history very confusing at times. Unlike Europe the noble families in the East, did not enjoy automatic hereditary rights as everything belonged to the king.  Although a title would often pass from father to son, it was not a given right. Indeed sometimes the kings would remove a person's title who had either died or fallen out of favour and grant it to someone unrelated.   


Mirza Mahmoud Khan Hakim al-Molk Grand VazirHakimis also beame involved in politics and held senior posts in various branches of government and the military. Notable examples were: Mirza Ali Naghi Hakim Bashi physician to Mozzafar-e-din Shah (ruled 1896-1907) when the latter was the crown prince,  Mirza Abolhassan Hakim Bashi physician to the court of Qajars, Mirza Mahmoud Khan Hakim-el-Molk (Ali Naghi's son) was physician to Mozzafar-e-Din Shah and Minister of the Imperial Court.  Mirza Mahmoud became one of the well known courtiers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. His nephew who everyone usually recognises as Hakim-el-Molk, Mirza Ebrahim (Abraham in English) Khan Hakim-el-Molk, or using his modern name Ebrahim Hakimi was one of the founding fathers of democracy in Iran as he became one of the leaders of the movement for constitutional monarchy in Iran.  Before he became one of the leaders of the 1906 revolution he worked behind the scenes to bring a peaceful end to the revolution.  


He made sure the Shah was aware of the aims and feelings of  people thereby preventing the reactionary members of the Qajar dynasty from tainting the Shah's view of the constitutional movement who believed wrongly that the ultimate aim of the revolution was to overthrow the Qajars. It is said that Ebrahim used to slip revolutionary material (shab nameh) intoEbrahim Hakimi Hakim al-Molk Mozzafar-e-din Shah's palace at night and place it under his pillow. Ebrahim was elected to the first parliament in 1907 and left the court after the death of Mozzafar-e-Din Shah as he found the political atmosphere in the Qajar Court stifling. He held numerous ministerial posts, some times at very crucial stages in the history of Iran. According to historians he was brave, honest and a hard working patriotic politician.  It is very hard for us to imagine the conditions of Iran in the late 19th and early 20th century  when corruption and colonial interference was tearing the country apart. 


In 1909 Ibrahim was one of the leaders of the committee responsible for restoration of constitutional monarchy and running of the country after Mohammad Ali Shah's dethronement and exile to Russia (1). Since he had an impeccable reputation as a man of integrity and honesty he was put in charge of reforming the court and riding the court of all the corrupt Qajar family courtiers. The young Shah was about 12 yearsSultan Ahmad Shah Qajar - Letter to Ebrahim Hakimi - Secretary of State for Education - Dated August 1915  old.  One of Ebrahim's first acts was to fire Sultan Ahmad Shah's Russian Tutor (Lieutenant Smirnoff) who was suspected of being a Russian spy (1 & 8). This seemingly trivial act was in fact a very courageous for its time, in those days Iran was centre stage for 'The Great Game' or the competition between two powerful colonial powers, Russian and Britain.  Iranian ruling class and government had become for the most part subservient to the two colonial powers and people in the government rarely acted without first consulting the representatives of the great powers. In fact the dimissal of Smirnoff caused a big diplomatic row with the Russian government.  The Russians insisted on Smirnoff's reinstatement, but the revolutionary leaders remained resolute and supported Ebrahim's decision.  He then established a school for the young Shah with Iranian tutors and schoolmates(7).  The tutors were prominent Iranian scholars such as Zoka-el-Molk (Foroughi) who later during Reza Shah rejuvenated the Persian language by reintroducing Persian vocabulary to replace Arabic vocabulary. 


General Mossa Hakimi Nazm al-SaltanehDuring the fight with Mohammad Ali Shah, Ebrahim's brother General Musa (Moses) Nazm-ol-Saltaneh also showed exceptional bravery.  He was one of the senior commanders in the Qajar military, yet during the 1906 revolution he joined the ranks of the freedom fighters defending the newly found democracy.  He was one of the military commanders of the freedom fighters who regained the control of Teheran and drove away the Russian led forces of Mohammad Ali Qajar who had tried to overturn constitutional monarchy by having the Russian led Persian Cossack Brigade bombarding the Parliament with their artillary.


Ebrahim held many senior ministerial positions during the Qajar period and later under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. He had withdrawn from politics during the reign of Reza Shah. Toward the end of the Second World War, Ebrahim became prime minister of Iran three times during crucial stages of Iranian history. He and his peers from 1906 played an intricate game of playing the now three super powers (America, Britain and Soviet Russia) to keep Iran's independence. The independence of the country was seriously under threat in 1945 (1324)  from the Russians. When he became prime minister, most of northern Iran was under Russian occupation and the Red Army  had dug in 5 miles outside Teheran's gates with no intention of leaving.  In contravention to the agreement made among the Allies, the Russians had illegally also occupied the North East and East of the country. He instructed the Foreign Minister in his cabinet - Anoshiravan Sepahbodi - to give written notice to the Allies to leave Iran as the Second World war had come to an end and there was no justification for the occupying troops to remain in Iran. His team brought one of the first complaints to the Security Council of the newly formed United Nations in London. This started a well recorded chapter in history of Iran (1).


Abdol Hamid HakimiMy grandfather who I was named after, Abdolhamid Hakimi served in variety of senior government positions and ministries as a career civil servant. But that is a poor description for someone with such a wide experience who occupied numerous roles all at the forefront of Iranian modernisation before and after the second world war. He either oversaw or Nossrat Taslimi (Hakimi) with other lady magistrates, audience with Mohammad Reza Shah and Queen Farah Pahlaviwas closely involved in bringing major reforms such as: introduction of standard Persian text books for schools in Iran, Project Manager for the first Medical faculty in Iran (Teheran University),  English replacing French as a second language in Iranian education system, and Land reform.  As a permanent undersecretary in Ministry of Agriculture implemented the plan to reform the feudal system of land ownership in Iran as decreed by  Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.  Reform of the ancient feudal structure was by far the biggest reform in Iranian society since it changed at a stroke thousands of years of feudal ownership of agricultural land.  The above reforms were opposed not only by the landowners but by the clergy as land bequeathed to the clergy for charity provided them with their financial base. The reform made the rift between the Pahlavi dynasty and the clergy ever wider. Abdolhamid held  liberal attitudes in all aspects of life. His first wife Nossrat Taslimi Moghadam, was among the first women to shed the veil long before women's liberation as a civil servant in the Ministry of Education and later became a magistrate. She was a member of the women's association.

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