Persian Voices: Law and More Law

By what law have the people of Iran died that the government is auctioning away their inheritance?

Dear Merchant,

The government has mistaken our inaction for our death. It is time for the mujtaheds and other knowledgeable persons to arise and save the people of Iran. We propose two simple remedies to save Iran: law and more law. You may well ask, “where will this law come from?” the answer is again simple: the shah should call at once one hundred mujtaheds and other learned persons of the country into a national consultative assembly (majles-i shawra-yi melli); and this assembly should have full authority to formable laws that would initiate social progress.

—Malkum Khan, A Letter from Qazvin, Qanun, No. 6 (July 1890)


Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran between two revolutions. Princeton University Press, 1982. Qanun No.6 (July 1890) “A Letter from Qazvin” Malkum Khan page 69


Editor’s Note: Malkum Khan was one of the foremost proponents of constitutional government, but his old age prevented him from actively participating in revolution. He died in Europe a few days after the outbreak of the civil war in Iran in 1908. During his life-time, he published the newspaper called, Qanun (Law).

Persian Voices: Tobacco Protest

It is clear enough that the concessionaire will commence the work with a small capital and will purchase the tobacco from the cultivators and sell it to the merchants and manufacturers for higher prices, and all the profits will remain in the pursue of the English. As the Persian merchants have no right to export tobacco from Persia, those who were formerly engaged in this trade will be obliged to give up their business and find some other work. The concessionaire does not take into consideration how many merchants who were engaged in this business will be left without employment and will suffer loss in finding other occupations.

Akhtar (Star) Newspaper


Abrahamian, Ervand. Iran between two revolutions. Princeton Univ. Pr., 1983. Page 73

Religion and Rebellion in Iran: the Tobacco Protest Of 1891-1892 (London 1966), p.49 Nikki Keddie – Routledge – 2016


Editor’s Note: Akhtar (Star), a liberal Persian paper published in Istanbul expressed the general concern of Iranian merchants after a fifty-year monopoly over the exportation of tobacco. The arrival of company agents in April 1891 was met with a shutdown of the bazaar in Shiraz.

Persian Voices: By What Law

God has blessed Iran. Unfortunately, His blessing has been negated by the lack of laws. No one in Iran feels secure because no one in Iran is safeguarded by laws. The appointment of governors is carried out without laws. The dismissal of officers is done without laws. The monopolies are sold without any laws. The estate finances are squandered without laws. The stomachs of innocent citizens are cut open without laws. Even the servants of God are deported without laws.


Everyone in India, Paris, Tiflis, Egypt, Istanbul, and even among the Turkoman tribes, knows his rights and duties. But no one in Iran knows his rights and duties.


By what law was this mujtahed deported?

By what law was that officer cut into pieces?

By what law was this minister dismissed?

By what law was that idiot given a robe of honor?


The servants of foreign diplomats have more security than the noble princes of Iran. Even the brothers and sons of the shah do not know what tomorrow will bring – whether exile to Iraq or flight for dear life to Russia.

—Malkum Khan, 1890


Ervand, Abrahamian. “Qanun No.1 (February 1890)” God Has Blessed Iran” Malkum Khan.” Iran Between Two revolutions”. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1982. Page 68. Print.

Persian Voices: Humanity and Science

Religions, by whatever names they are called, all resemble each other. No agreement and no reconciliation are possible between these religions and philosophy. Religion imposes on man its faith and its belief, where area philosophy frees him of it totally or in part. How could one therefore hope that they would agree with each other?

As long as humanity exists, the struggle will not cease between dogma and free investigation, between religion and philosophy, a desperate struggle in which, I fear, the triumph will not be for free throughout, because the masses dislike reason and its teachings are only understood by some intelligences of the elite, and because, also, science, however beautiful it is, does not completely satisfy humanity, which thirsts for the ideal and which likes to exist in dark and distant regions philosophers and scholars can neither perceive nor explore.

—Seyyed Jamal al Din Asadabadi (Afghani)


Janet Afary. The Iranian Constitutional Revolution 1906-1911: Grassroots Democracy, Social Democracy, and the Origins and Feminism page 27-28. Print.


Editor’s Note: In 1883, Ernest Renan published, Islam and Science in Journal des Debats, asserting that the Muslim religion was hostile to scientific pursuits. Two years later Asadabadi responded to Renan.


The science of history is the first of sciences,

Perhaps today it is the best of sciences.

The man who knows history does not err,

He does not make brainless statements.

That which is remembered in the world is history [yadegar tarikh ast],

That which is useful is history.


Farzin, Vejdani Making History in Iran: Education, Nationalism, and Print Culture. Chapter 2. Ashraf Al-Din Husayni Nasim Shumal. “Nasim Shumal.Tarikh Muqqadamati-ye Iran Manzumeh-i Ashraf.” Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015. Page 51. Print.