Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
These questions were developed for readers of The Shadow of God
by the author.
- In 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain expelled the Jews from their country, as did the King of Portugal four years later. Many of the Jews migrated to North Africa and made their way east, ultimately seeking refuge in Turkey under the rule of the Ottoman Sultan, SelimSuleimans father. Do you see any similarities between Suleimans era and todays Middle East situation? How do you think the political climate of the sixteenth century differed from the current Middle Eastern turmoil, and what were the specific similarities and differences between then and now?
- Why would Selim and Suleiman offer refuge to the Jews? Consider the role of Dr. Hamon in particular. What was Suleimans relationship with Dr. Hamon? What did Hamon hope to achieve for his people using his daily contact with the Sultan?
- Considering the different personalities of Mehmet, Selim and Suleiman. Can you see interesting familial traits and differences? How did Suleiman differ from his father? From his great-grandfather? How do you think these differences affected the lives of the Turkish people?
- Do you think that the relatively harmonious relationship between the Jews and the Muslims of Suleimans era could be attained today? Given the power, what would you do to resolve the impasse that exists in the Middle East now?
- Under the Ottomans, women were second-class citizens at best. Considering the important roles of several women in Suleimans life (especially Hafiza and Gülbehar), how did the women wield their power, and could they have done more to influence Suleiman?
- Why do you think the Christians generally refused the sanctuary offered to dhimmis (The Protected Ones) as People of the Book? How do you think the Crusades played a part in the Christian refusal of sanctuary under the Muslim Ottomans?
- Do you think that Philippe could have made other choices in responding to the demands of Suleiman and the Ottoman Empire? Was there ever a chance that these two leaders could have lived in peace? Could their people have successfully assimilated?
- Discuss the special skills of Suleiman the Magnificent (or Kanuni, The Lawgiver) that allowed him to bring the Ottoman Empire to its apogee under his rule.
- Discuss the Ottoman institution of the Devshirmé, the tribute levy of Christian children from which the Ottomans conscripted young boys to serve in their armies and as the empires administrators. How well do you think these Christians, forcibly converted to Islam, served their masters? What were the strengths and weaknesses of this ultimate true meritocracy? Are there any similar examples in history? In the present?
- Melina and Jean were legendary characters whose story has been handed down orally for five centuries. Put yourself in Melinas place. How would you have handled yourself? What actions would you have taken in the same setting, particularly with regard to your children? Your husband?
- Compare the common military and social practices of the leaders and the armies of the sixteenth century with those of today. What were their efficiencies? How were they inefficient? Was discipline different from todays standards?
- Consider the daily lives of the people during this time, both Christian and Muslim. If you were sent back in a time machine to this era, what role would you most like to assume? Least like to assume? Would you like being a Vizier? A Knight of St. John (before the siege)? A Janissary?
- How did Grand Master Philippe Villiers de LIsle Adam personify the qualities of a leader of the knights? What were the influences in his own history that shaped his leadership and his decisions?
- How do you feel about Suleimans decision at the end of the book? What would you have done in that situation? Given the clarity of hindsight, what other course of action could he have taken to assure the dominance of the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean?
These questions were developed for readers of The Shadow of God by the author.
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