Monsieur Ibrahim (Movie Recommendation)

May I recommend the 2003 film: Monsieur Ibrahim [ and the Flowers of the Qu’ran]

I am not usually fond of most French films, but I loved this one and watched it a second time so I could introduce a few of you to it. The story is of a Turkish Sufi who befriends a Jewish boy in Paris in the 1960’s.

The film starts with and ends with the song, “Why Can’t We Live Together” (1972) by Timmy Thomas: “No Matter, no Matter what color, you are still my brother.
Tell me why, tell me why, why can’t we live together?”

And here are some quotes from the film:

Ibrahim:  You can find beauty where ever you look. That is what my Koran says.
Momo:  Should I read your Koran?
Ibrahim: If God wants to reveal life to you, he won’t need a book.

Sufism: Opposed to legalism, it stresses Inner Religion

Momo: How do you manage to be happy?
Ibrahim: I know what is in my Koran.

Ibrahim:  I am not scared.  I know what is in my Koran.

The way I understand his use of the phrase “My Koran” is to mean “My Heart, My Divine Heart”.  Tell me what you think?

Last quote:

Ibrahim (in bath house addressing Momo unfaithful lover issue:)
What you give, Momo, is yours for good.
What you keep is lost forever.

Marcu Valerius Martialis (38-102 AD) wrote an epigram similar to this:
“Extra fortunam est quidquid donatur amicis. Quas dederis, solas semper habebis opes.”
“What you give your friends is immune to misfortune; only what you give
is always yours.”

I wonder if the script writers borrowed this or if there is a similar Sufi saying?  Anyone know?


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

19 responses to “Monsieur Ibrahim (Movie Recommendation)

  1. aly

    I haven’t seen the movie, it looks good! No one will ever be able to read another person’s koran (heart, understanding) … and also, maybe we’re all reading the same koran? Is that a koran koan? ; )

  2. Sabio, thank you for your movie recommendations. So far you’re batting 1000 as far as movie recommendations go in my book anyway. I’ll put this one in my Queue. “What you give is yours for good. What you keep is lost forever.” Great quote.

  3. Sabio Lantz

    @ Aly: LOL: “Koran Koan”

    @ Dan: Thank you. Glad you enjoy. I am a sucker for films with redemptive themes.

  4. @ Dan
    PS, you inspired me to update my list of “reviewed” movies. The link is in my table of contents, or you can click here to see it.

  5. Sounds like an amazing find, S. Thank you, it’s definitely on the list.

    Ibrahim’s “I know what is in my Koran” response reminds me of a story that uses a very similar line. An elder is asked again and again by his students what has made him so pious, so gracious, so filled with wisdom. His response is always “I know what is in my Koran.”

    When the elder died, his students looked in his Koran and found notes written on every page, two pressed flowers and an old letter from a friend.

    I think your understanding of “My Koran” is bang on.

  6. @ Andrew
    Where does your story come from?

  7. I got the story from a Joan Chittister book (Welcome to the Wisdom of the World). The book has now moved on to its next reader. I don’t know where Chittister got it but most of the stories she used in the book were quite old. The section of her book on Islam concentrated on Sufism.

  8. Interesting? Shhhhh…. (that is how the movie ended)
    The movie is taken from a play by the French author:
    Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt
    “World religions play an important role in Schmitt’s writing. In “Le Cycle de l’Invisible”, Schmitt attempts a harmonization of religions and cultures.” (wiki).

    Maybe he borrowed from all over the place. I’d love to find out.
    As I state at the end of the post, he seems to have borrowed from the Latin writer — or did the Martial borrow from Sufi. Gee, maybe Andrew G will find Schmitt so interesting that he will research that for me. 🙂

  9. Ack! Delete my comments! Delete my comments! I didn’t mean to drop a spoiler! 🙂 Or change the text color to white, please! I still would like to see the film, but I feel a little embarrassed now with my bumbling.

    Chittister’s book came out in 2007. It is very possible she was ‘inspired’ by the Schmitt play. I have submitted a query on her site asking for the source. If I get something back, I will follow up here.

    According to Schmitt’s website Monsieur Ibrahim was written and first performed in 1998-1999. Schmitt explains his inspiration came from a visit with a friend that had just been to Turkey, visiting Sufi monasteries. The two were talking about Rumi, humility, and some personal memories of their loving grandfathers. Schmitt wrote M I in a matter of days, apparently.
    [see comments]

    No connection found yet regarding Martial and the Sufi. Although, if your dates for Martial are correct, I will be very impressed if he used a Sufi source!

    Here’s to hoping more info surfaces so as to clear my penitence…

  10. I couldn’t find it in my cursory scan of my two Rumi books. If it was in there, it certainly wasn’t a paraphrase of one that I highlighted, but may have been a variation on some other saying. It sure *sounds* like something he would’ve said. I found reference on the net to “What you retain is lost forever” being an “Armenian proverb”, but I wouldn’t put much stock in that, since it looks like they all copied from a single source, and saying that something is “Armenian proverb” is kind of like saying that Ben Franklin said it.

  11. update:
    According to Chittister’s office, she got the story from a book by Idries Shah (“Wisdom of the the Idiots” 1991 {I think my embarrassment is getting deeper…}]. Shah’s book is a collection of Sufi teaching-stories and parables.

    Also, Chittister’s office was delighted to hear there is a movie.

    Still no line found between Martial and the Sufis.

    Schmitt seems extremely well-read and well-versed. Since both the Martial and Sufi material appear to be well within ye olde public or common domain, this may be a further demonstration of just how good a writer he is [in that he knows who and where to borrow from…]

  12. Wow, good work Andrew. I will have to try and organize this later. Nice job!
    Hope it did not ruin the film for you.

  13. @ JS Allen
    Thanx for looking.

  14. @ JS & Andrew,
    Movies are very powerful — they put out ideas into the public. They are far more influential than 10,000 blogs. I love that the ideas of this movie permeated our cultures.

  15. M Singh

    “I know what is in my Koran.”

    Thank you for writing this article. This movie was amazing and actually helped me finalize or define my religion. I will be exploring your blog later.\.

    I use this quote so much. To me it means that Ibrahim knew his purpose and the way he wanted to live his life, and the spiritual side as well. He was one of the most content characters i have seen and i will him forever.

  16. @ M Singh,
    Thank you for your thoughts. I loved this movie too and won’t forget it.
    Though Ibrahim uses religion to describe his mind, I look as “my Koran” as being “my Heart” and thus he learned to follow his heart and his deep values — so I can look at this in a secular way, but with very deep meaning.

  17. M Singh

    Thank you for replying. Yes, i look at “my Koran” the same way as you expressed. I was initially interpreting “my heart” in a different way but it is clear now.

    This view became more apparent to me when sufism was mentioned. By the way, Have you seen this movie “Bab’Aziz” ?

  18. @ M Singh,
    Ah, thanks. No, I have not heard of that movie, but I just ordered it and will be watching it in the coming weeks. Thank you so much !!

  19. M Singh

    Awesome! I know you will love this movie. It is a visual poetry and a fairytale-esuqe movie for people who study religion. Although after reading internet reviews, i got the impression that most western viewers couldn’t relate to this movie.

    And I am enjoying your blog.

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