Systems of the muslim society

CHAPTER ONE

Background

The subject of this current study is "Clients' and counselors' Attitudes toward Family Counselling Service in Saudi Arabia" This chapter will focus on these elements: A brief general view about Saudi Arabian history, changes in organization and institutions of its society, and counselling issues in Saudi Arabia.

A General Brief View about Saudi Arabia History

Saudi Arabia is one of The Arabian Peninsula countries. The Arabian Peninsula was the cradle of Islam where the Prophet Mohammed started his mission to Islam on 610AD in Mecca. The first Islamic Mosque built in Medina when the Prophet Mohammed migrated to Medina on 622AD. Arabs were strongly affiliated to tribes which are still preserved until present.

The history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia traced back to 1744 when Mohammed Bin Saud agreed with Mohammed Ibn Abdul Wahhab to call to Al-Tawheid i.e. (oneness of Allah/God). 1902 marked the history of the new Arabia. In 1904 King Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa'ud had recovered all the territory in Al- Najd, the central part of the country. In 1927 the British, who had established Arabia as protectorate since 1915, acknowledged the independence of the two Kingdoms of Al-Hijaz in the Western region under Al-Sharif Al-Hussein, and Al-Najd in the Central region under Abdul Aziz Ibn Sa'ud. In 1932, these two kingdoms were unified and named Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under King Abdul Aziz leadership. The population of Saudi Arabia is about 21,009.900 (including about seven million foreigners). 77% of the population is urban and 23% is rural. Riyadh is the capital, with 4,300,000 inhabitants.

The Ecological Features

Saudi Arabia consists mainly of deserts in the north and south and its surface is 2,149,690 sq. km. The highest mountains are along the length of the country's narrow Red Sea coastal plain. Temperatures are cooler during winter (between 14C and 23C), and extremely hot during summer (between 30C and 50C). Organization and Institutions of Society

Economic Organization

The ecological features of Saudi Arabia shaped specific traditional types of subsistence patterns until oil-production began in 1938. Saudi Arabia has the largest crude oil reserves, approximately 25%, in the world. Since 1970, planning for development was introduced as a modern way of organizing economic activities and changing the society. The traditional forms of subsistence patterns such as growing palms, vegetables besides camels and sheep pastoral have given way to increased oil-related businesses and industrialization. Despite industrialization development, oil and petroleum products still account for more than 90% of the income. Because of this economic development, most people in the country have become urban dwellers. About 79.2% of labor force is in the government sector. The private sector employment constitutes only 16% of the total work force. The labor force employment stands at 16% in agriculture, 20% in industry and at 74% in services.

Political Institutions and Legal System

Historically, the Bedouin tribes throughout the Arabia had a measure of self-governance. The head (Al-shaykh) of the tribe had absolute authority over the tribe (Al-Kabilah. Generally, the shaykh, who is usually a wise and old man, governs people who form clans and tribes on the basis of consensus (Ijma'a) in an informal council. The political system in the country is a monarchy and its legal system is based on "Shari'a" or "Islamic legislation."

The Educational System

According to Al-Saif (1997) the percentage of illiteracy among the population (above fifteen) was 48.9% in 1982, higher among females (69.2%) than among males (28.9%). However, the level of literacy is improving. According to 1999 statistics, about 4,5000,000 students were enrolled in educational institutions from kindergarten to higher education. The percentage of females attending elementary schools and universities is almost equal to that of males. Interestingly, the number of females (124,785 students) in higher education is higher than the number of males (114,795 students).

Religion

Saudi Arabia has a very prestigious religious status in the Muslim World because it houses the Muslims' two holy shrines: Al-Masjid Al-Haram (The holy mosque) in Mecca and the Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi (Prophet Mohammed's mosque) in Al-Medina. More than two million Muslims perform pilgrimages (Haj) to Mecca every year. Saudis are all Muslims. Islam plays a significant role in all Saudis' aspects of life. The mosque as a religious and a social system plays a significant role in satisfying the people's spiritual and psychosocial needs such as affiliation and socialization among people who live in the same neighbourhood (Khalifa 1990 in Al-Saif, 1997).

Bonds with Groups in the Immediate Community

The traditional social bonds in the Saudi society are based on blood relationship in the same tribe (Al-Kabilah). Traditionally, individuals' loyalty is mainly to the tribe and its leader. The tribe is the basis of the society. Social distinction is not made on the basis of wealth but on the basis of honour, generosity and trustworthiness (Al-Khariji, 1983). However, social distinction is made also on the basis of which tribe one belongs to.

Structurally, tribal groups are defined by common patrilineal descent that unites individuals in increasingly larger segments. Although tribes may differ in their status, all lineage of a given tribe are considered equal. Cole (1973) noted that four to six patrilineal related lineages are grouped together in a clan. The community bonds with groups in the immediate community of the traditional isolated communities and tribes were characterized by the power of in-group, composed not only of the members of the extended family, but of distant relatives and in-laws. Consequently, the ingroup within the Saudi tribes is essentially collectivistic in nature. However, this characteristic is moving more towards individualism in the large cities. The power of the traditional ingroup has lessened, and the individual is able to join a variety of ingroups, a characteristic of complex societies, such as associations, and clubs (Al-Saif, 1997).

Today, the traditional social bonds and social relationships are changing in the Saudi large cities because of urbanization and rapid economic development. They are, in fact, becoming weaker in kind and number (Al-Masa'ad, 1995 in Al-Saif, 1997). In remote areas, social bonds are stronger than in cities. Islamic jurisprudence and traditions are the basis of regulating social bonds such as marriage, divorce and inheritance.

The Family and Marriage

In regards to endogamy in the traditional family, marriage was restricted to potential spouses from the same tribe. However, some of these restrictions vary in different regions of the country. In the central part of the country, for example, these restrictions are more observed while they are less observed in the western region such as in Meccah and Jeddah. In regard to exogamy, the dominant marriage pattern is among first cousins, primarily to the sons and daughters of the uncle/father's brothers. Marriage with the sons and daughters of mother's sisters and brothers used to be in the second rank. Now, it is the opposite. The main reason for this new trend is the increasing influence of the mothers in the selection of their son's wives (Al-Saif, 1997). However, young and educated people tend to select their wives from different tribes, groups and clans. The groom or his family should present a dowry (bride-price), which usually consisted of jewellery or any valuable thing, to the bride. This is an obligatory duty upon the groom or his family towards the bride according to Islamic teachings. No marriage would be considered legal without this dowry, regardless of its value. The husband, according to Islamic teachings, is in charge of his family and must be the one who shoulders the family financial burdens even if his wife is working or rich unless she makes concessions.

The Divorce rate in Saudi Arabia is increasing. The total number of registered divorce cases in the Kingdom was 17,528 cases in 1998. This number represents 23% of the total marriages in the country in the same year. This percentage was 22% in 1989. The national rate of divorce was about 1.35% in 1999. The main causes of divorce according to Al-Saif (1997) are due to women working, polygamy, family pressures, family interference, and sexual maladjustment.

Polygamy is another phenomenon that is dramatically changing and decreasing because of urbanization, education, development, and cost of living. Generally, educated and employed women gain more independence and consequently reject polygamy. Some parents and young females put monogamy as a condition before marriage. Putting such conditions are acceptable by the Islamic teachings. Gharaib (1991) found that 86.8% of husbands in the Gulf (Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia) have only one wife, 9.6% have two wives, 1.1% has three wives and 0.33% only has four wives; 74.7% had married their relatives; and 25.5% live with their extended families. Al-Saif (1989) found that in Saudi Arabia, only 4.8% of parents approves of their daughters marrying a husband who has another wife. This rate is much lower than the previous rate of 14.5%.

In the traditional family, decisions to marry were made mainly by both families. Although, fathers are believed to play a major role in decision-making regarding this issue, mothers in reality play a greater role, more hidden but more influential, in this decision. Married women in Saudi Arabia as the case in all Muslim countries preserve the names of fathers' families and tribes as a part of their identity, according to Islamic teachings.

Family Structure

The traditional Saudi extended family structure could be described as tribal and patrilineal in terms of lineal descent, in which kin of both sexes were related through the men only. It can also be described as patriarchal in that the father or the grandfather had the legal power and social norms, which supported his authority. The characteristic type of family in Saudi large cities is moving towards nuclear, although relatives tend to live near each other even in large cities that are expanding horizontally more than vertically. Therefore, interaction among relatives can be achieved more easily. The extended family includes usually three generations, grandparents, sons/fathers, daughters/mothers, and children, in which grandfather was the head of the family in terms of authority structure, and with collateral kin (cousins, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews), and with affinal relationships (parents-in-law, children-in-law, and siblings-in-law).

Residence after marriage was patrilocal, in that the married sons resided in or near the fathers' residence. The married daughter is traditionally supposed to live in or near the house of the father-in-law. The mother-in-law has authority over the daughter-in-law. Even in large cities one might notice that married children are supposed to live near to their parents if not in the same house. The trend among educated married spouses is to be independent from the parents even if they are supposed to live near to them as a social obligation.

Family Roles and Functions

Traditionally, the father in the Saudi family is the breadwinner and the mother is the home keeper. The grandparents are highly respected and play a great role in deciding about many family issues. Women are not expected in traditional families to work outside the house, family property and in-group boundaries. Consequently, the rate of Saudi women in labour force is still minimal (about 6%). However, rapid economic change has influenced the family functions in Saudi Arabia. After 1970, almost all young females go to school. Consequently, marriage is delayed and the percentage of non-married girls is increasing. Al-Khariji (1983) argued that the higher the female education, the lower her chance of marriage unless she married before finishing her studies. On the other hand, Al-Saif (1997) stressed that a new trend is developing. Saudi families, in general, do support women working outside the family, on condition of respect for Islamic traditions and not mixing with men. He reported that 52% of Saudi women are inclined to work outside the family for financial reasons, and 50% are motivated to work in order to achieve self-actualization and gain a social role and status. He maintained that the spouses do support their wives working, despite the associated shortcomings of being outside the home. Al-Saif (1997) also mentioned that the social and economic changes in Saudi Arabia since 1970 created changes in some roles and social status of many individuals and functions in the society. He maintained, however, that the relationship between the roles and the status is not always positive. For example, the role of women in society is changing positively but their status is still traditional. In case of family conflicts, parents and grandparents play a significant role in resolving conflicts. Female children are expected to help their mothers while male children are expected to help their fathers. Female children should also help and serve their fathers and brothers at home. However, maids in Saudi rich and middle-class families are taking over most of the mothers' functions such as caring for children, cooking, and cleaning.

Changes in the Family

Demographics

The Government "Chart" states in article 9 that: "The family is the nucleus of the Saudi society." Some sociologists such as Al-Saif (1997) think that this new organization of society is positive because it stresses the importance of the family rather than the tribe or the individual. The marriage age is, for example, an indicator of the impact of urbanization on the Saudi family. Females used to marry at a very early age: between 13-16 years old. This tradition is changing. The age of marriage among females is now between 20 and 25 years of age. Males used to marry between 15 and 18. At present, the majority of young males prefer to delay their marriage. About 60% of Saudi youth do not prefer to get married early because of the expenses of marriage (Al-Saif, 1997). Late marriage of both males and females might be attributed to several factors such as increasing years of schooling for both sexes, high expenses of marriage especially the cost of the dowry (bride-price), desire to live independently, and the desire to select freely the spouse (Al-Badran & Al-Rwished 1987). The birth rate in Saudi Arabia, however, is one of the highest rates in the world (3.5%).

Family values

Al-Saif (1997) stated that about 80% of the households in Riyadh were originally Bedouins. The majority of the inhabitants live in neighborhoods with people with whom they share mainly the same values, traditions and blood relationship. However, the social relationships in the Saudi large cities are changing. The social bonds are becoming weaker in kind and number (Al-Masa'ad, 1995 in Al-Saif, 1997). This leaves a room for the emergence of more pragmatic relationships.

Unfortunately, there are no available studies about changes in different values. However, sociological studies regarding marriage, values, social bonds and social change show in general, as indicated above, that family values are changing especially in large cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam because of urbanization, industrialization and education. Nevertheless, the practices of veiling and gender separation, and the values related to these practices have not changed. There is little expressed desire for such change because these practices were grounded in fundamental tribal-familial values, sanctioned and institutionalized by the Ulama (religious scholars) and the central government.

Significance of Marriage and Family Counselling

Counselling development kept up with the development of psychology. It has become an independent speciality being a branch of applied psychology. Identification of counselling conception as set by psychologists varies. One such example is the one introduced by the British Association for Counselling (BACP): `The term `counselling' includes work with individuals and with relationships which may be developmental, crisis support, psychotherapeutic, guiding or problem solving. The main role of counselling is to give the `client' an opportunity to explore, discover, and clarifying ways to living more satisfied and resourceful" (McLeod, 1998). The American Psychological Association (APA) defines counselling as "a service that is presented by a specialist in counselling according to principles and methods of studying human behaviour during the individual's different stages of development so as to secure positive sides in the client's personality and investing this to achieve harmony and acquire new skills that help him fulfil demands of development and to acquire the ability for decision making" (Abu Aeta, 1998,). Counselling is done for individuals in different stages of their lives and in all domains such as family, school and work". On the Arabic level, the Arab Education Bureau for Gulf Cupertino Council has identification for counselling as "a human relation between two individuals, one of whom is specialised and qualified, the other one asks for help so as to solve his own personal, social, professional or emotional problems. It also gives the client an opportunity to take the appropriate decisions that go well with his own abilities and interests (Arab Education Bureau for GCC countries, 1990). In a recent study by Al-Rashidi and Al-Sahel (2000) counselling has been identified as: "specialised professional practice that includes application of principals and theories of psychology to modify clients' behaviours so as to help them solve the problems and ensure maximum possible satisfaction and fulfilment of their needs according to the acceptable criteria".

These are examples of definitions of counselling. Based on the above definitions, counselling is directed as an educational process that is conducted between a counsellor and a client. It aims at helping the client to learn and acquire the best ways to satisfy his needs and secure his personal and social adjustment. Effectiveness of counselling depends on the client's compliance and response on one hand and knowledge and skills of the counsellor on the other. Psychologists assert that counselling has remedied preventive and developmental aims: it deals with normal and abnormal people (Al-Shennawy, 1994). It also tackles all personality dimensions.

From this perspective, counselling is very significant for human beings, in the course of their lives through phases of childhood, adolescence, youth, maturity and senility. In each of these phases one becomes vulnerable to some changes, and consequently needs guidance and help. Examples of this are the child first joining school, getting a job after being a student or changing professions, and getting married. Conflicts, frustration, depression and anxiety cannot determine may face these changing periods. This requires that the individual should be prepared before these periods of changes, so as to get adapted with the new experiences (H. Zahran, 1980).

Here counselling significance and necessity comes to light. The need for counselling has become more necessary in the light of social changes witnessed by modern societies. Presently, life has become too fast and more complicated than before when it was simple and the scientific and technological revolution had not yet taken place. The more complicated is life, the higher the level of stress. Some scientists dub it as the age of anxiety (Askar, 1998).

Regarding marriage and family, counselling has become more necessary than before in the light of social changes, including changes of social relation's structure on levels of both family and society. With an industrial and technological society, type of nuclear family prevailed whereas the extended family almost disappeared. The relationship among family members decreased. Children nowadays live with only their parents and not with their grandparents, as it was in the past. No sooner do children get older and reach the age of marriage they become independent, with new families of their own, leaving their parents alone. Consequently, generations continue and become successively weak through social relationships. This situation triggered various difficulties and problems most important of which is the separation or the conflict among generations in the family. To confront these difficulties, "generative counselling" a new speciality in counselling appeared, which aims at achieving connections among generations in the same family, bolstering morals and commitment among generations, developing abilities to advance, facilitating and making possibilities for better choices and fostering spiritual values (Dollahite et al, 1998). On the other hand, family problems increased due to circumstances and changes in the society. Age of marriage rose, spinsterhood mounted and population increased, in addition to women's work outside the home, problems of accommodation, materialistic pressures, divorces and refraining from marriage, etc. As for society, social relationships changed and become associated with benefits and interests. These relationships became subject to change and alteration. New values replaced old ones. The relationships are linked now to rapidity of life's rhythm with the appearance of machine and technology. Cultural awareness increased as a result of the information and communication revolution. Consequently, warm relationships among individuals and organisation lessened and dropped and stress soared. Moreover, various patterns of contradiction and conflict among generations emerged and levels of ambition and aspiration mounted. All these changes, despite inclusion of some positive elements, are concomitant with (or triggered) by stress and anxiety that are reflected on the social systems, particularly family systems. Saudi society has witnessed economic and social changes since the beginning of the oil era in the late 40's, when the State of Saudi started to export oil to foreign markets. Emergence of oil has become a decisive factor of the rapidity of occurrence of social and cultural changes in the Saudi society. Huge financial revenues resulted in increase of investments and attempts to set up national industries and developmental projects. Interest in education quality mounted, helped by the availability of financial potency. In this framework, a number of schools were erected and the King Saud University was inaugurated in 1957. Consequently social and specialisation preferences have increased, with the development of subsequent and woman's education soared. Woman left their homes to seek employment in different fields and sought the assistance of foreign domestic labour to look after their children and homes. Hence the style of living and nature of social relationships were modified (Al- Juwair, 1996).

Generally speaking, alteration of the Saudi society from Bedouin and rural economy that depended mainly on the desert or the villages, to oil economy was associated with many changes in the society from traditionalism to modernity, regardless of its depth and level. Income levels increased and education flourished and disseminated. Openness in the world rose and the society began to employ and benefit from modern technology; radical changes in professions and jobs occurred, modern urban society emerged and a consuming style of life prevailed. A symposium about changes in the Saudi society in the 20th century tackled the social dimensions of such changes and their aspects (Al Khurygi, 1989), where the roles of network have changed, and the social relationships and patterns of interaction of groups in society varied. The family, as a social system, witnessed changes in structure, jobs, authority and social interaction. One of the most outstanding aspects of these changes that the families in the Saudi society witnessed is the dysfunction of traditional fundamentals of marriage choice. A big amount of freedom to choose the marriage mate (or spouse) had emerged and the nuclear family developed the family's upbringing role, and the traditional roles inside the family changed.

The standard of living soared and the Saudi families' aspects of luxury increased. But this took place in the framework of a modern society with its challenges and opportunities in addition to its complexities, pressures and generations' conflicts including socio-psychological problems. A recent study (Baqader, 1999) revealed that cultural system in the Saudi society failed to adapt with requirements of social and economic changes. As divorce constitutes the pathological side of marriage, the average of divorces among the people of Saudi Arabia, rose from 2.51 per thousand in 1990 to 3.71 in 1999. At the same time, the number of marriages dropped from 8.6 to 7.4 per thousand, for the same period. This indicates weakness of family formations (Baqader,1999). Because divorce is the final phase when the family destruction comes to its peak, it often generates serious social and psychological impacts on both husbands and wives' personalities and the personalities of children, in case they exist. However, divorce is not the sole aspect of family devastation. Marriage and family life may persist and continue, but may be prevailed by mal adaptation, dysfunction of relationship, bad interaction and presence of stress, quarrels and altercations. Here the family actually exists but constitutes weak dysfunctional social systems, which has its extreme negative impacts on its members and on the society in general. Here again, it is necessary that tracks or means be solicited to protect the family system against disunion and dissociations. This system is to be treated from weakness and dysfunction, and it is to be developed in such ways so as to satisfy its members, and the society as a whole. This is the aim of counselling and its application in marriage and family domains. It should be noted that marriage and family counselling is helpful but is not a magic tool to overcome marital and family problems. Its effectiveness depends on many factors related to the abilities of the Counsellor, aptitude of the client, environmental conditions, type of problem, etc.

Study Significance

As the study topic is "Clients' Attitudes towards Family Counselling Services in Saudi Arabia", it is significant to my own academic and professional experience. I worked as a counsellor in Ben Baz Counselling Centre in Riyadh from 2004 to 2006. I am a volunteer online counsellor for "Almostshar Website", that related to "Developmental Familial Centre in Alehsaa City". In my experience, I found that it was easier to get couples and families involved in therapy through their children. It was easier for the parents to say that they were going to deal with their child's problem rather than that they themselves had problems. In these experiences, I noticed that the attitudes - regarding accepting or refusing - affect not only the actions but also ideas and image about topics, persons, and things. This idea was asserted regarding counselling depending on my experience of work with Saudi citizens. The Ministry of Social affairs which is concerned with social welfare and services may introduce good quality products but do not give attention to the client's behaviour which is affected by his attitudes. Regarding the modern life stresses and the need for psychological services, it is important to identify the public's attitudes towards these services. Besides the significance of the current study to my own experience, it also has significance to the academic and the professional perspectives in general as follows:

The current study fills a gap and covers a shortage in the academic sociological studies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as there are no preceding studies that dealt with the topic of Clients' Attitudes towards Marriage and Family Counselling Services in Saudi Arabia.

Identification of clients' attitudes toward marriage and family counselling is one of the principle requirements for planning programs of social entertainment or luxury. These programs should focus on the awareness of reality and state of affairs of the targeted public including its attitudes toward services.

Identification of the Saudi Clients' attitudes toward marriage and family counselling will make available deeper explanations and reliable information that can benefit in supporting present psychological services. This might require planning and arranging these services and methods of performing them in a certain way so as to achieve better interest in these services by the public.

Saudi society witnessed changes that were reflected on marriage and family. These changes made the urgency for counselling more impelling than before, that abnormal or bad attitudes could hinder purposeful behaviour from fulfilling this need. Therefore it becomes more significant to identify and know the attitudes of the citizens toward counselling so as to diagnose the acceptable ones to support them and the bad abnormal ones to attempt changing them via the various communication channels.

Saudi citizen, as citizens in any other modern society, live the modern life with all its complexities, challenges, opportunities, luxuries and rapid rhythm. Such kind of life is not void of stress and psychological problems that individuals may suffer and are reflected in his family life. No doubt counselling, in general, and marriage and family counselling in particular can contribute to decrease and lessen stress and psychological problems. However, interest in counselling services is affected by the attitudes of the beneficiaries; it is necessary to identify these attitudes and employ them in the dissemination of psychological culture and acquainting citizens with counselling services and their significance.

Being a Muslim society, Saudis consider the family as their main base. Its strength depends on the family's strength, and its weaknesses are a reflection of the family's weaknesses. The government is concerned with securing the safety of the family and the psychological services are presumed to be one of the approaches in achieving this. To render these services effective and fruitful, performing them should not contradict culture. To avoid this contradiction, it is necessary to identify the prevailing dominant attitudes concerning psychological services in general, and administer them in marriage and family domains in particular, in addition to employing this knowledge in family education, securing family reunion and guiding its members to sound interaction.

Limitations of the Study

The current study tackles "Saudi Clients' Attitudes towards Family Counselling Services in Saudi Arabia" within the following limitations:

Regarding the subject matter or topic of the study, it dealt with the attitudes toward marriage and family concerning seven principle dimensions:

  • Benefits and importance of counselling, in general.
  • The Counsellor
  • Challenges that face counselling
  • Significance of counselling for family education
  • Significance of counselling before marriage
  • Significance of counselling during marriage period
  • Significance of counselling after termination of marriage. In addition to the total of these dimensions, the study is limited only to these dimensions.

The current study will conducted on Saudi clients citizens aged 24 years and more; consequently it doesn't include expatriates (non-Saudis). The study doesn't include also those who are less than 24 years of age. As a result, the findings apply only to Saudi citizens aged 24 years and more and not to all the Saudi people or expatriates living in Saudi Arabia.

Concerning the time, the study will tackle attitudes toward marriage and family counselling during the year 2010.

The selected interviewees are only Saudis.

Conclusions

Since 1972, the family in Saudi Arabia has been undergoing changes in structure, functions, roles and status. This change might be attributed to factors such as urbanization, industrialization, education, telecommunication and mass media. The family is becoming nuclear in large cities although most relatives leave near each other in the same neighborhood. This phenomenon explains partially the tremendous horizontal expansion of large cities in Saudi Arabia. The social bonds among relatives and people who belong to the same tribe are still strong. Family members' contacts during religious holidays and special events such as marriage are clearly observed. Modern communication technology makes it easier to get in touch with relatives regardless of their location. Social change because of industrialization, urbanization and education is clearly observed especially in large cities. In addition the attitudes and values that are related to female education and women work outside home or family property are becoming more positive and supportive.

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