I was at the seaside in the weekend and I threw away in my luggage some books I have found in my home for not to let the weekend pass without a book.
And I choose three books, among which was “Mr. Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran” by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt.
Interesting fact about the book, it was inspired from the life of Schmitt’s friend, Bruno Abraham Kremer. It tells the story of an 11 year old boy who lives the struggles of a life with a disinterested father and a mother who abandoned him, living in medium poverty and finding ways to gather some money for himself.
After he had raised enough money, he goes and searches for women in order “to become a man” and succeeds. When he comes back he makes a habit from shoplifting from the shop of Mr. Ibrahim, a Turkish man having a grocery store next to his house.
As the following events make the life of Momo harder and harder, he and Mr. Ibrahim become friends, and the latter teaches Momo how to raise money and how to smile. The boy discovers that smile is the one who can get him out of trouble many times, so he starts using it more often. He starts seeing him more as a father than his own biological father.
The book itself does not have as a main subject religion, although some referrals are made to it. The author wants to just tell the story of the boy and to reflect his feelings, or maybe to reflect the feelings of a young boy with a similar life. As I said before, some referrals are made to religion, like the name of Mr. Ibrahim or the young boy: Momo – a nickname for Muhammad – as he was called by Mr. Ibrahim and Moses, as it was it’s real name. Also Mr. Ibrahim always mentions the fact that he “knows what is in his Quran.” The book is also about tolerance, as two people from totally different religions – islam and jewish, are becoming friends beyond the cultural differences or the age barrier. It is about the power of overcoming the pain of the death of a father and the abandon of a mother, the power to overcome raising in the shadow of a bigger, more perfect brother, Popol. It is about love and understanding.
What is interesting about the plot, the biological father of Momo talks about being Jewish as just having a memory, a bad memory. For his father religion means nothing, meanwhile for Mr. Ibrahim religion is everything, it is what gives him peace and the purpose in life. At first, Momo believes that his religion, Sufism, is some kind of disease, but then he learns that is actually the faith of the old man. The two approaches of the religion are in some manner in antitheses. Maybe the author wanted to reflect the difference between the life that Momo was leaving and the life he led after meeting Mr. Ibrahim.
My sincere hope is that this book will be a lesson for everybody, as we have much to learn in this life from the life of Momo. Although it wasn’t written recently (originally published on the 13th of June 2001), it still has success all over the world, maybe because many people still feel that they resonate with the story.