In Iran, family names became obligatory only in 1925 being part of the introduction of a civil registration. With exception of very few families, before, there was neither need nor tradition to use hereditary surnames in the formal meaning of today. Instead, individuals were distinguished by characteristic surnames. As in Europe before adoption of hereditary family names, these surnames refered to - taking now examples out of the family history - either to the origin of individuals such as 'Mazandarani', 'Tabarestani', 'Pazevari', 'Tajrishi' or to an alledged ancestor such as 'Kamal' (-> Kamal Khojandi) , 'Malek' (-> Malek Ashtar), to a job or office such as 'Shahneh', which in that special case also served as pen-name ('takhallus') or to honorific titles ('laqabs') such as 'Mokhber-ol Douleh', 'Mokhber-ol Saltaneh', 'Nayer-ol Molk', etc.

When it came in 1925 to choose a name, many of those families, who had one or several titled members, choose a family name, that was taken from the first part of their former 'laqab', such as for example 'Adib-ol Douleh' became the family name 'Adib'. Mossadegh-ol Saltaneh became 'Mossadegh' and Amin-ol Douleh became 'Amini'.

In case of our family however, the overwhelming majority of Mirza Reza Gholi Khan's descendants adopted the name 'Hedayat' to perpetuate the memory of our ancestor. Only two sons of Mokhber-ol Douleh II., Fahim-ol Douleh and Nasr-ol Molk, choose the name 'Kamal-Hedayat' for themselves and their descendants. They followed thus the family tradition, considering them descendants of Kamal Khojandi.

The noun 'hidayat' itself, is an Arab loan word in modern Persian language, meaning 'guidance' with a religious-spiritual connotation.

Hence it occurs as surname throughout the islamic world - in and outside Iran - by different families, who are not related.

In our family, it was Mirza Reza Gholi Khan, who first used that name as pen name and introduced it thus into the family in the 1820s.

The fact, that the name has a spiritual meaning, corresponds well with the circumstance, that Mirza Reza Gholi Khan took a deep interest in Sufism. His Sufi Master was the eminent and highly erudited Zeyn-ol Abedin Shirvani (Mast Ali Shah), who was by far the most influential nineteenth century Nematollahi Master. "Rida Quli-Khan 'Hidayat', who was a devoted disciple of Shirvani, relates how his Murshed bestowed on him the takhallus 'Hidayat' during a visionary experience, vouch-safing him the same name upon waking."  6

It may be mentioned here, that Shirvani was, as can be seen from his numerous writings, "a warm personality with universal concerns and broadminded cosmopolitan humour" 6, features, which we find again in his disciple and the ancestor of the Hedayat-family, Mirza Reza Gholi Khan.

6 - Leonard Lewisohn: An introduction to the history of modern Persian Sufism:
     Part I: The Ni'matullahi order: persecution, revival and schism, Bulletin of the School of Oriental
  African Studies, Oxford 1998, Vol. 61, Part 3, pp. 437-464