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Jordan - SOCIETY

Jordan - The Society


WHEN THE AMIRATE of Transjordan was created by the British in 1921, the vast majority of the people consisted of an assortment of tribally organized and tribally oriented groups, some of whom were sedentary cultivators and some nomadic or seminomadic. The total population was fewer than 400,000 people. By 1988 nearly 3,000,000 people, more than half of whom were Palestinians, inhabited the region east of the Jordan River-Dead Sea-Gulf of Aqaba line, referred to as the East Bank. The term Palestinians refers narrowly to citizens of the British mandated territory of Palestine (1922-48). In general usage, however, the term has come to refer to Muslims or Christians indigenous to the region between the Egyptian Sinai and Lebanon and west of the Jordan River-Dead Sea-Gulf of Aqaba line who identify themselves primarily as Palestinians. Narrowly defined, the term Transjordanian referred to a citizen of the Amirate of Transjordan (1921-46). Generally speaking, however, a Transjordanian was considered a Muslim or Christian indigenous to the East Bank region, which was within the approximate boundaries of the contemporary state of Jordan. The formerly rural society of Jordan had been transformed since independence into an increasingly urban one; by 1985 nearly 70 percent of the population resided in urban centers that were growing at an annual rate of between 4 and 5 percent.

In the late 1980s, class polarization was increasingly evident. Nonetheless, a variety of social forces (such as national identity and regional or tribal affiliation) continued to cut across class lines. The uprooting of so many East Bank citizens from their places of origin contributed to social fragmentation. In addition to the Palestinians, who retained a strong sense of national identity and outrage at the loss of their homeland, many Transjordanians had migrated from their rural and or desert villages to urban centers in search of work for themselves and education for their children. Many Transjordanians thus shared a sense of loss and rootlessness.

Probably the most important force supporting cohesion and integration was the Arab-Islamic cultural tradition common to all but a few members of the society. Arabic, a potent force for unity throughout the Middle East, was the mother tongue of the overwhelming majority of residents. Also, more than 90 percent of the population adhered to Sunni Islam. These commonalities, although important, have been insufficient to forge an integrated society.

Every year since the late 1950s, increasing numbers of Jordan's youth have received formal training in the country's rapidly expanding education system. By the late 1980s, all children aged six years to twelve years were attending free and compulsory primary schools. Nearly 80 percent of children between the ages of thirteen and fifteen attended three-year preparatory schools, also free and compulsory. But possession of an education, once a near certain vehicle for upward mobility, no longer guaranteed employment. Unemployment was probably one of the most critical issues facing Jordan in the late 1980s. It was accompanied by growing political frustration and radicalization over the Palestinian uprising (intifadah) in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.


Jordan - Population


Official Jordanian statistics gave a 1987 population figure of 2,896,800 for the East Bank. A 1982 population of 2,399,300 thus indicated an annual growth rate of between 3.6 and 4 percent. United Nations statistics projected a peak in the annual growth rate at 4.11 percent in the period from 1990 to 1995, followed by a steady decline to 2.88 percent in 2020.

Rapid development in the provision of health care services during the 1970s and 1980s led to a decline in the crude death rate from 17 per 1,000 population in 1965 to 7 per 1,000 population by 1986. During the same period, the infant mortality rate, a major indicator of a country's development and health status, dropped from 115 to 46 per 1,000 live births. In 1986 life expectancy at birth was sixty-five years (sixty-three for males and sixty-seven for females). The lowered death rate, a high birth rate, and lowered infant mortality rate combined to generate a major demographic problem in the late 1980s. At the end of the decade, more than half Jordan's population was below fifteen years of age. This situation strained the country's already limited resources, and employment for the burgeoning group of young people became increasingly difficult to provide.

Accurate demographic figures were difficult to compile because of the substantial number of Jordanians residing and working abroad and the continuous flow of West bank Palestinians with Jordanian passports back and forth between the East and West banks. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, about 224,000 people were admitted to UNRWA refugee camps in the East Bank immediately after the June 1967 War. In 1986 UNRWA cited 826,128 registered refugees living on the East Bank, of whom about 205,000 were living in refugee camps.

The exact number of Palestinians living on the East Bank was unknown. Estimates usually ranged from 60 to 70 percent of the total population. Official government statistics did not distinguish between East Bank and West Bank Jordanians.

The government did not have an officially articulated population policy or birth control program. Rather, in 1979 it adopted a "child spacing program" that was designed to improve the health of mother and child, and not specifically to lower the fertility rate. This noninterventionist approach considered family planning to be one component of an integrated maternal-child health and primary health care program. Government clinics and private medical services delivered family planning services upon request and contraceptives were widely available at low cost. In 1987 there were 116 maternal-child health care centers--up from 93 in 1983-- providing prenatal and postnatal care and a wide range of birth control information.

Jordan's high population growth can be attributed primarily to high fertility rates. In 1986 the World Bank calculated this rate as 6.0 births for each woman over the span of her reproductive years, one of the highest fertility rates in the region. This rate was projected to decline to 4.2 births by the year 2000. The fertility rate varied, however, between women residing in rural and urban areas and according to educational attainment. Educated women tended to marry at a slightly older age than uneducated women, and this delay contributed to a lower fertility rate. Urban women achieved lower fertility rates through modern methods of contraception, particularly the pill. Fertility rates were lowest in Amman, higher in smaller urban areas such as Irbid and Az Zarqa, and highest in rural areas. In rural areas modern contraceptive usage was lower, although breast-feeding, which serves to delay the return of fertility, was extended for a longer period than in the cities. World Bank data indicated that 27 percent of married women of child-bearing age were using contraception in the 1980s.

A woman was expected to have to bear five children, including at least two sons, in fairly rapid succession. Women gained status and security in their marital household by bearing children. According to a study conducted in the early 1980s by Jordanian anthropologists Seteney Shami and Lucine Taminian in a poor, squatter area in Amman, reproductive behavior was subject to several factors. If a woman had given birth to two or more sons, she might begin to space her pregnancies or stop bearing children for a while. Household structure--nuclear, extended, or multiple family--also appeared to be a crucial factor in determining fertility. The presence of other women in a household encouraged women to bear more children to improve their relative position in the household.

The overall population density for the East Bank in 1987 was established at about thirty persons per square kilometer. There was wide regional variation and the rate of urbanization was high. East of Al Mafraq, in an area encompassing almost two-thirds of the country, no towns had a population of more than 10,000. The bulk of Jordan's population was centered in the governorate of Amman and the smaller urban areas of Irbid, As Salt, and Az Zarqa. The 1987 population totals of the eight governorates ranged from 1,203,000 in Amman to 101,000 in the Maan Governorate. According to World Bank figures, about 70 percent of the population lived in urban areas. The nation's capital, Amman, accounted for more than one- third of the total population. Rapid urbanization appeared to be the result of a high fertility rate and rural-urban migration. If urbanization continued at the high annual rate of 4 to 5 percent, it was estimated that by the year 2000, nearly three-fourths of the population could be living in Amman, Az Zarqa, Irbid, As Salt, and Ar Ramtha.

The remainder of the population resided in villages scattered in an uneven pattern throughout Jordan. The nomadic and seminomadic population was very small, at most 2 to 3 percent of the population. The clearest concentrations of villages were in the fertile northwest corner and the Jordan Valley. Village size varied markedly from region to region. At one time, size related to the productive capacity of the surrounding farmland. Larger villages were located in the more fertile, generally irrigated regions where family members could reach their fields with relative ease. While village populations continued to grow, rural-urban migration drained off a steady stream of young men and sometimes whole families. Villages provided little employment for their residents, and agriculture as a way of life had declined precipitously since the 1950s.

Camps of nomadic and seminomadic beduins still existed in the late 1980s. Nomadic tribes were found mainly in the desert area east of a line from Al Mafraq to Maan. The area, about 400 kilometers long and 250 kilometers wide, is known as the badiya (pl., bawaadi, meaning desert or semidesert). Seminomadic beduins were located in the Al Ghawr and near Irbid. These seminomads descended to the Jordan Valley in the winter because of its warm climate and grazing ground for their herds. Traditionally, many of these seminomads also farmed plots of land in the valley. In the summer, they moved their herds up into the hills to avoid the intense heat.

The native inhabitants of the Jordan Valley are known as Al Ghawarna, or people of Al Ghawr. Prior to the June 1967 War, the valley was home to about 60,000 people engaged in agriculture and pastoralism. In 1971 the population had declined to 5,000 as a result of the June 1967 War and the 1970-71 conflict between the Palestinian guerrillas and the Jordanian armed forces. By 1979, however, the population had reached 85,000 as a result of government development efforts designed to attract people to settle in this area.

Refugee camps emerged in the wake of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. The original refugee settlements were tent camps, but in most places tents were replaced by rows of galvanized steel, aluminum, and asbestos shelters. There were initially five refugee camps-- Irbid, Az Zarqa, Amman New (Al Wahdat), Al Karamah (later dismantled), and Jabal al Hussein-- but six additional emergency camps were established for refugees from the June 1967 War--Al Hisn, Suf, Jarash, Baqah, Talbiyah, and Marka. Most of the camps were located near major cities in the northwest.


Updated population figures for Jordan.




In the pre-1948 East Bank, the dominant sociopolitical order was tribalism. Tribalism was characteristic not only of the beduin nomads and seminomads upon whom the Hashimite (also seen as Hashemite) rulers relied for support, but also of many of the village people and even those who were technically urban. After 1948 this sociocultural system was inundated by masses of Palestinians, largely sedentary village and town dwellers, many of them literate and well educated. The sheer numbers of Palestinians who came to the East Bank after 1948 and the comparatively simple economy and society of the indigenous Transjordanians made the assimilation of the Palestinians to the local patterns improbable. Indeed, some analysts have argued that by the early 1970s Palestinians had established a cultural dominance in the East Bank. In any case, by the late 1980s, Palestinians had considerable economic and cultural influence.

Jordanians responded in part to the development of Palestinian economic and cultural elites by upgrading education. By the late 1980s, the gap between Transjordanian and Palestinian educational achievements had narrowed considerably. Jordan's position also was changing in the global political economy. Agriculture and nomadism had gradually given way to more viable livelihoods based on skilled labor, secular education, and increasing levels of literacy. Labor migration, particularly of the skilled and educated, was a key factor in social mobility in the 1970s and 1980s. A concomitant shift in values was apparent: prestige was increasingly associated with modern occupations, and education came to be seen as the key to social mobility.

Aside from the fundamental distinction between Jordanians of East Bank origin and those of Palestinian origin, other sociocultural distinctions or affiliations were evident in Jordanian society, including ethnic and regional origins, gender, class, tribe, religion, and life-style (e.g., nomadic, village, or urban). These various patterns of affiliations structured the ways in which Jordanians related to one another and gave rise to different sorts of individual identity. For example, most Christian Jordanians were Arabs and shared many cultural habits and values with Muslim Jordanians. Their sense of identity, however, was based less on Islamic influences than that of Muslim Jordanians. Christians interacted daily with Muslims, working, studying, and socializing together. But intermarriage between Muslims and Christians remained infrequent in the late 1980s. Little information was available on the extent to which these social interactions contributed to conflict or tension. The most that observers could conclude was that religious differences carried a potential for conflict.

Class structure in Jordan was exceedingly difficult to assess. Many social divisions, such as East Bank or Palestinian origins and identity, tribal affiliation, ethnicity, and rural or urban lifestyle, cut across class divisions. The forces of the political economy in the late 1970s and 1980s were forging embryonic classes; however, it was debatable to what extent they were self-conscious and cohesive.

Class structure in Jordan resembled a pyramid. At the top was a small, wealthy group comprising large landowners, industrialists, leading financial figures, and members of their families. The oil boom of the 1970s and early 1980s also had created a new class of wealthy Jordanians who made large amounts of money abroad, which was displayed by conspicuous consumption at home in Jordan. Just below this group were professionals, army officers, and government officials who lived a somewhat less grand but still comfortable life. White-collar workers, schoolteachers, and returning migrants struggled to retain a style of life that separated them socially from the small shopkeepers and artisans below them. At the bottom of the pyramid, a large lower class included increasing numbers of the unemployed. The system of family support tended to cushion unemployed university graduates and professionals from falling into the ranks of the poor.

<>Ethnicity and Language
<>Tribes and Tribalism
<>Urban Areas and Urbanization



Jordan - Ethnicity and Language


In the late 1980s, several ethnic and religious groups coexisted on the East Bank. Roughly 5 to 8 percent of the total population were Christians. Of these, most were Arabs, including a small number--unique among Christians in the Middle East--who recently had been pastoral nomads. The largest group of non-Arab Christians were the Armenians, perhaps 1 percent of the population, who resided primarily in Irbid and Amman.

The Circassians, a Sunni Muslim community of approximately 25,000 people, were descendants of families brought from the region of the Caucasus Mountains when Caucasian territory was ceded to Russia in the 1880s. By encouraging the Circassians to settle in northern Jordan, the Ottomans sought to provide an element loyal to the sultan that could counterbalance the beduins. Circassians originally settled in Amman and the then-abandoned city of Jarash. Despite their small numbers, they have long been important in government, business, and the military and security forces. In 1938, for example, Circassians constituted 7.3 percent of the nonBritish government officials in Transjordan. Twenty-six of the thirty-three cabinets between 1947 and 1965 included one or more Circassians. Circassian families included prominent landowners and leaders in commerce and industry. Peter Gubser, a United States authority on Jordan, contended in 1983 that the Circassians were not "politically assertive as a group," although they were known for "their loyalty to the Hashemites." It is likely, however, that their relative cultural and economic importance diminished with the increasing predominance of the Palestinians on the one hand, and the improved education level of the Jordanians on the other. The Circassians remained heavily represented in senior military ranks, however, which caused some resentment among other Jordanians. All Circassians spoke Arabic and the rate of intermarriage between Arab Jordanians and Circassians was high.

Another, much smaller group originating in the Caucasus was the Shishans (also seen as Chechens), whose roughly 2,000 members were Shia Muslims, the only representatives of this branch of Islam in Jordan. Another religious minority were a small numbers of Arabic-speaking Druze villagers. A few Arabic-speaking Kurds lived in several northern villages.

A category of immigrants different from the Palestinian refugees may be noted. Between the early 1920s and the late 1940s, some hundreds of families, perhaps more, settled in Transjordan, having left Palestine, Syria, and the Hijaz region in Saudi Arabia. Arabs, and usually Sunni Muslims, they were nevertheless only partially integrated into the local communities in which they lived. This incomplete assimilation occurred in part because they were foreigners in the context of the tribal structure of such communities, and in part because, as merchants, most were looked at askance by tribally oriented groups. Generally, they tended to marry among themselves or with persons of similar origin. In the 1980s, however, most of these families had lived in the East Bank for nearly three generations, and the tribal system that had excluded them had become less significant within the society.

All Jordanians, regardless of ethnicity or religion, speak Arabic, the official language of Jordan. Throughout the Arab world, the language exists in three forms: the classical Arabic of the Quran, the literary language developed from the classical and known as Modern Standard Arabic, and the local form of the spoken language. Modern Standard Arabic has virtually the same structure wherever it is used, although its pronunciation and lexicon may vary locally. Educated Arabs tend to know two forms of Arabic-- Modern Standard Arabic and their own dialect of spoken Arabic. Even uneducated Arabic speakers usually can comprehend the general meaning of something said in Modern Standard Arabic although they cannot speak it themselves and often have difficulty understanding specific expressions. Classical Arabic is known chiefly to scholars; many people have memorized Quranic phrases by rote but cannot speak the classic form.

Dialects of spoken Arabic vary greatly throughout the Arab world. Most Jordanians speak a dialect common to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and parts of Iraq and, like people speaking other dialects, they proudly regard theirs as the best. (Small numbers of nomads traversing Jordan from Saudi Arabia may speak a dialect akin to one used in that country.) Few people believe that their dialect is actually good Arabic in the sense of conforming to the ideal. Although they converse in colloquial Arabic, they generally agree that the written form of Modern Standard Arabic is superior to the spoken form because it is closer to the perfection of the Quranic language. Arabs generally believe that the speech of the beduins resembles the purer classical form most closely and that the local dialects used by the settled villagers and townspeople are unfortunate corruptions.

Within a given region, slight differences in speech distinguish a city dweller from a villager and more significant ones distinguish either of these from a nomad. Even within the villages, various quarters often display unique pronunciations, idioms, and vocabulary specialized to particular lifestyles. Grammatical structure may differ as well.

Arabic is a Semitic language related to Aramaic, Hebrew, various Ethiopic languages, and others. Rich in synonyms, rhythmic, highly expressive and poetic, Arabic can have a strong emotional effect on its speakers and listeners. As the language of the Quran, believed by Muslims to be the literal word of God, it has been the vehicle for recounting of the historic glories of Islamic civilization. Arabic speakers are more emotionally attached to their language than are most peoples to their native tongues. Poetic eloquence was one of the most admired cultural attainments and signs of cultivation in the Arab world; among rural people, sedentary and nomadic, as well as among literate city dwellers, Arabic speakers long have striven to display an extensive command of traditional phrases and locutions. Beauty of expression was highly valued, and the speaker and writer traditionally sought an elaboration and circumlocution in both spoken and written forms that Westerners might find flowery or verbose.


Jordan - Tribes and Tribalism


Before the events of the post-World War II period thrust it onto the center stage of international affairs, the territory that is now the East Bank was first a provincial backwater of the Ottoman Empire and later a small and weak desert amirate. Straddling the transitional area between the "desert and the sown," it participated only marginally in the social and intellectual changes that began sweeping the Arab world during the nineteenth century. Although ringed by the hinterlands of such major cities as Jerusalem and Damascus, Jordan lacked a significant urban center of its own until the late 1940s; consequently it did not display artistically, intellectually, commercially, or governmentally the sophisticated form of Arab culture characteristic of urban life. The basic form of social organization in Transjordan was tribal, and the social relations among the various nomadic and seminomadic tribes and between them and villagers (many of whom were also tribally organized), were based on trade and the exchange of tribute for protection.

In 1983 Gubser classified Jordanians along a continuum: nomadic, seminomadic, semisedentary, and sedentary. Nomads, or beduins, were a fully nomadic group whose livelihood was based on camel herding. Tribes and animals existed in a symbiotic relationship; the camels supplied much of the food and other needs of the beduins, while the tribespeople assured the animals' survival by locating and guiding them to adequate pasturage. This fine adaptation to an extremely demanding ecological niche required a versatile, portable technology that was, in its way, extremely sophisticated. It also required a high degree of specialized knowledge and a flexible social structure that could be expanded and contracted according to need. The beduins, however, were also dependent upon settled communities--villages, towns, and cities-- for trading animals and their products for goods they did not produce.

Tribal social structure, as described by tribal members, was based on the ramification of patrilineal ties among men. In reality, matrilineal ties also were significant in providing access to material and social resources. The ideological dimension to patrilineality became more apparent when endogamy, or marriage within the group, was considered. The preference for endogamy-- historically prevalent in the Middle East, especially for paternal cousin marriage in the first instance and then in descending levels of relatedness--gives rise to a network of kin relations that are both maternal and paternal at the same time. Ultimately, the kinship system takes on many characteristics of a bilateral system. Descent and inheritance, however, are traced in a patrilineal fashion.

Tribes in Jordan were groups of related families claiming descent from a supposed founding ancestor. Within this overall loyalty, however, descent from intermediate ancestors defined several levels of smaller groups within each tribe. Tribespeople described their system as segmentary; that is, the tribe resembled a pyramid composed of ascending segments, or levels, each of which was both a political and a social group. At some point, each unit automatically contained within it all units of the lower level. Ideally, in the event of conflict, segments would unite in an orderly fashion from the lowest level to the highest as conflict escalated. In reality, the system was not so orderly; tribal segments underwent fission, and in the event of conflict, fusion did not necessarily follow the ideal pattern. The pattern of unity was much more varied and complex.

Beduins traditionally have placed great importance on the concept of honor (ird). Slight or injury to a member of a tribal group was an injury to all members of that group; likewise, all members were responsible for the actions of a fellow tribal member. Honor inhered in the family or tribe and in the individual as the representative of the family or tribe. Slights were to be erased by appropriate revenge or through mediation to reach reconciliation based on adequate recompense.

Beduins had specific areas for winter and summer camping that were known to be the territory of a specific tribe. Seminomadic groups raised sheep and goats and moved much shorter, well-defined distances; they also practiced some agriculture. But the semisedentary groups were more involved in agriculture than either nomads or seminomadic peoples. Parts of a semisedentary group moved during different seasons, while others in the group remained in permanent abodes.

By the 1980s, these differences among beduin groups were minimal. Substantial numbers of nomads and seminomads had increasingly adopted a sedentary way of life. In his 1981 study of one section of the Bani Sakhar tribe, Joseph Hiatt noted that settlement began in the post-World War I period and expanded rapidly after the mid-1950s. In this case and many others, sedentarization was neither completely voluntary nor a result of an official settlement policy. Rather, it appeared to be a natural response to changing political and economic circumstances, particularly the formation and consolidation of the state. In some cases, the administrative policies of the state disrupted the nomads' traditional pastoral economy. For example, national borders separated the nomads from grazing lands and permanent wells. The creation of a standing army that recruited nomads diluted labor once available for herding. Education had a similar effect. As the nomads took up agriculture and as private titles to land were granted, the nomads' traditional relationship to tribal territory decreased. Faced with these obstacles to a pastoral way of life, nomads increasingly chose alternative occupations, particularly in the military, and the sedentarization process accelerated.

Government policies encouraged settlement by providing schooling, medical services, and the development of water resources. The decrease in the number of nomads continued despite the influx of pastoralists from the Negev Desert after the founding of Israel. By the early 1970s, the beduin tribes constituted no more than 5 percent of Jordan's population. That proportion had dwindled to less than 3 percent by the late 1970s. Their small numbers, however, did not correspond to their cultural and political importance in Jordan.

Despite the near-disappearance of the nomadic way of life, tribal social structure and organization have not necessarily been transformed as drastically. Hiatt contended that tribal organization actually was reinforced during the initial process of sedentarization because the tribe itself was the basis for allocation of land. Leadership patterns have changed significantly, however, as government-appointed officials have assumed many of the tasks formerly associated with the position of shaykh. In the end, tribal social structure was weakened; individual titles to land, which can be rented or sold to outsiders, and individual employment diluted lineage solidarity and cohesiveness.

Some indication of the recent status and aspirations of beduin groups, both settled and nomadic, was provided by a 1978 survey by a team from the University of Jordan. Among the beduins studied, males increasingly were engaged in more or less sedentary occupations. Many were in the government or the army. The researchers found that most beduin parents wanted a different way of life for their children. Willingness to settle was contingent upon settlement being more advantageous than the nomadic way of life. For the beduins, settlement often meant a continued association with livestock raising and its attendant requirements of access to food and water. These hopes and wishes seemed to be consistent with the government's strategy for a revitalized livestock (sheep and goat) industry.

The beduin attitude toward education was two-sided and reflected the difficulty of adapting to a new way of life. Early observers noted that an army career tended to motivate beduins to acquire an education. Some, such as the French ethnographer Joseph Chelhod, argued that "an educated beduin means an abandoned tent." Implied was abandonment of the entire beduin way of life. Many beduin parents interviewed in the 1978 survey were concerned that the education of their children beyond a certain level would threaten the survival of the family. They feared that "an educated child would naturally emigrate to work or pursue further studies in Amman or even outside the country." At the same time, these parents acknowledged that "the best future of their children lay in education and in living and working in a settled society close to the country's urban centers." It is not altogether clear whether the beduins who have acquired enough education for an ordinary career in the army have abandoned their allegiance to their families and tribes or whether they have permanently rejected the beduin style of life.

Jordan was unique among primarily sedentary Middle Eastern countries in that, at least until the mid-1970s, the Hashimite government gained its most significant political support from the beduin tribes. Mindful of the intensely personal nature of his ties with the beduins, Hussein visited them often, socializing in their tents and playing the role of paramount tribal shaykh. People of beduin origin constituted a disproportionate share of the army; that disproportion continued to prevail at the higher command levels in the mid-1980s. The opportunity for a lucrative, secure career that also carried high prestige and conformed to traditional martial tribal attitudes has for over half a century drawn recruits from the desert, first into the Arab Legion under the British and later into its successor force, the Jordan Arab Army. Army service was an important influence for social change among nomadic tribes because it fostered desire for education and often provided the wherewithal for adaptations to factors affecting the pastoral economy. For example, army pay could permit a beduin family to buy a truck as a substitute for or in addition to camels, or to invest in the economically more significant sheep.

Observers in the 1980s noted that a process of detribalization was taking place in Jordan, whereby the impact of tribal affiliation on the individual's sense of identity was declining. Sedentarization and education were prime forces in this process. Smaller groups, such as the extended family and clan, were gradually replacing tribes as primary reference groups. The weakening of tribal affiliation and identity led to the questioning of support for the Hashimite regime. Tribal shaykhs no longer could guarantee the support of tribal members, particularly the younger ones. This process was uneven, however, with some tribes displaying more cohesiveness than others.

The term tribalism was much in use in the 1980s. The intelligentsia proposed that meritocracy rather than tribalism be the basis of selection in the 1984 parliamentary by-elections. Anthropologist Linda Layne compared the intelligentsia's views of tribalism with the electoral behavior of the beduins. Layne defined the intelligentsia's interpretation of tribalism as "the placing of family ties before all other political allegiances" and concluded that tribalism "is therefore understood to be antithetical to loyalty to the State." Layne recognized the prominent role of tribalism in the 1984 election but stated that this was not at odds with a modern political system. Rather, in reconstructing their identity in a modern Jordanian state, Layne held that the beduins were maintaining a tribalism suffused with new elements such as a narrower role for tribal shaykhs in national politics and new sources of political legitimacy. Beduin electoral behavior was not homogeneous along tribal lines, evidence that tribal shaykhs could no longer automatically deliver the votes of their fellow tribesmen and women. In this sense, Layne found no tension between the beduin's identity as tribesman or tribeswoman and as citizen; rather, these were complementary forms of identity.

Tribalism and tradition also lent legitimacy to Hashimite rule. The legitimacy of tradition, considered almost synonymous with beduin or tribal culture, has been defended as part of the near sacrosanct foundations of the state and as central to cultural heritage. In the 1985 public exchange between King Hussein and Minister of Information Layla Sharaf, Hussein responded to Sharaf's calls for liberalizing the law, particularly lifting censorship and diluting the influence of tribalism in society. In the 1980s, a debate raged among Jordanians and observers of Jordanian society over the appropriate role tribal influence and tradition should play in a modern state. In early 1985, in the midst of this debate, King Hussein publicly supported the role of the tribe and tradition in Jordan's past and future by stating, "Whatever harms tribes is considered harmful to us. Law will remain closely connected to norms, customs, and traditions. . . . Our traditions should be made to preserve the fabric of society. Disintegration of tribes is very painful, negative and subversive."

Thus, the role of tribes and tribalism, although transformed, remained a fundamental pillar of both society and political culture in the late 1980s. Although numerically few Jordanians lived the traditional life of the nomadic beduin, the cultural traditions based on this life-style were hardly diminished. Indeed, conceptions of modern Jordanian cultural and national identity were deeply intertwined with the country's beduin heritage.


Jordan - Villages


The principles of organization in settled communities resembled those of the beduins in that villages were organized around kin groups. The resemblance to nomadic groups was closest in the villages of central and southern Jordan. There villagers retained, in somewhat loose form, a tribal form of organization. Most villagers lived in the much more densely settled north, where tribal organization in the late 1980s remained significant only among the recently settled.

In most northern villages, the descendants of a common, relatively distant ancestor formed a hamula (pl., hamail, meaning a clan). The hamula ordinarily had a corporate identity; it often maintained a guesthouse, its members usually resided in a distinguishable quarter or neighborhood, and it acted in concert in village, and often regional, political affairs. The hamula was the repository of family honor and tended to be endogamous. Some villages in the north were dominated by one hamula; that is, everyone in a village belonged to the same descent group. Sometimes several smaller hamail also resided in a village dominated by one large hamula. Other villages were characterized by the presence of several hamail of nearly equal numerical size and importance in village political affairs and landholdings. In some northern regions, a large hamula might have sections in several villages.

Intermediate kin groups existed below the level of the hamula and above that of the household. In many cases, a group of closely related households, descendants of a relative closer than the founder of the hamula, formed entities called lineages (or branches). A still smaller unit was the luzum, a close consultation group, usually composed of several brothers and their families. Father's brothers' sons and their families could be included in or even constitute the luzum. This group had the most significance for everyday life in the village. Members of a hamula, especially those spread over several villages, sometimes saw each other only on occasions such as weddings, births, deaths, religious holidays, or a conflict involving a hamula member. Anthropologist Richard Antoun found the luzum to be the significant unit in a variety of matters in the community he studied; its members were responsible for paying truce money in cases where honor had been violated. This was the group that acted as a support system for the individual in the event of need, providing access to resources such as land, bridewealth, or financial aid in the event of illness or to pay for schooling.

Lineages and luzums varied in size and sometimes overlapped in functions. For example, a large luzum sometimes carried the weight of a smaller lineage in village politics, and it could be difficult to distinguish them. Kin groups, even at the level of lineages, were not homogenous in terms of class; some members could be quite well off and others rather poor. This internal differentiation increased as some members migrated to urban areas or abroad in search of work, entered the army, or sought higher education.

Social control and politics in the village traditionally grew out of the interactions of kin groups at various levels. Social control over individual behavior was achieved through the process of socialization and a system that imposed sanctions for unacceptable behavior. Such sanctions could range from gossip damaging to one's reputation and that of one's kin, to censure by one's kin group, to penalties imposed by the state for infractions of its criminal codes.

Respected elder males from the various hamail (or lineages if the village were populated predominantly by members of one hamula) provided leadership in villages. They often made decisions by consensus. With the formation and consolidation of the state, traditional leaders lost some power, but they continued in the late 1980s to mediate conflicts, and state officials often turned to them when dealing with village affairs. In cases of conflict in the village, leaders of the appropriate kin sections of groups attempted to mediate the problem through kinship ties. Such leaders were usually elderly men respected for their traditional wisdom and knowledge of customs, or slightly younger, secularly educated men, or persons in intermediate positions between the two. If the conflict escalated or involved violence, the state, through the police and the court system, tended to become involved. The state encouraged recourse to traditional forms of mediation sometimes as an alternative and sometimes as an accompaniment to processing the case through the court system.

The mukhtar, or headman, of a small village linked the villagers with the state bureaucracy, especially if there were no village or municipal council. The mukhtar's duties included the registering of births and deaths, notarizing official papers for villagers, and assisting the police with their investigations in the village. Where there were municipal or village councils, generally in villages with a population of 3,000 or more, the mukhtar had little influence. Instead, the councils--bodies elected by the villagers--allocated government authority and village resources. Young, educated men from influential families, whose fathers may have been traditional leaders in the village, often ran the councils.

As villages increasingly became integrated into the state economic and political system, social stratification grew. Traditionally, large landowners were able to command labor, surplus, and services as well as social deference from less wealthy villagers. However, a variety of village and religious customs eased this apparent class differentiation. Religious teachings and practices, such as the giving of alms and the distribution of gifts at the festival marking the end of Ramadan and at other festival seasons, emphasized the responsibility of the prosperous for the less fortunate. Wealth also implied an obligation to provide a place for men to gather and for visitors to come, in order to maintain the standing of the village as a whole. Events such as weddings were occasions for the wealthy to provide feasts for the whole village.

In the late 1980s, social change had strained village structure and values. The older generation's uncontested control of the economic resources necessary for contracting marriage, participating in politics, and even earning a livelihood had guaranteed their authority. The decline in significance of agriculture as a way of life and the appearance of other opportunities led many younger people into other pursuits. As a result, some "agricultural" villages eventually contained a majority of men engaged in other kinds of work. Earning an income independent of their elders' control and often considerably larger than the older generation could command, such young people were in a position to challenge their elders' authority. Nevertheless, in the late 1980s, the individual still remained enmeshed in a network of family relations and obligations. The young deferred less frequently to their elders in decisions about life choices than had been the custom, but respect for parents and elders remained evident.


Jordan - Palestinians


Jordanians tended to refer to Palestinians as persons who fled or were driven from Palestine during the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 and the June 1967 War. Some immigrants from Palestine who had entered Jordan in preceding centuries, however, were so thoroughly integrated into the local society as to be indistinguishable from their neighbors. The Majalis, for more than a century the leading tribe in Al Karak area, came originally from Hebron. For political and social purposes, they and others like them were considered Jordanians. Other Palestinians from Hebron, who came to Al Karak as merchants well before 1948, remained to a considerable degree outsiders, for the most part taking their spouses from the Hebron area and maintaining economic and other ties there.

Al Karak is not representative of the impact of Palestinians on East Bank society and culture. In 1948 the population of the East Bank was about 340,000. The 1950 annexation of the West Bank increased the population by about 900,000. This increase included the West Bank population itself (around 400,000 to 450,000) and about 450,000 refugees from those areas of Palestine that became Israel in 1948. In addition, many thousands of Palestinians not classified as refugees entered Jordan after 1948. As a result of the June 1967 War, in 1967 an additional 250,000 to 300,000 West Bank Palestinians entered Jordan as refugees.

Most of the refugees, inside and outside refugee camps, continued to live in Amman and areas to the north. In 1986 UNRWA reported that 826,128 Palestinians were registered as refugees in the East Bank; of these, nearly one-fourth resided in camps. Many other refugees lived on the fringes of the economy in urban areas.

A substantial number of Palestinians had the kind of education and entrepreneurial capacity that enabled them to achieve substantial economic status. A few brought some of their wealth from Palestine. Some became large landowners or businessmen, whereas others became professionals or technicians. A number worked for the government, often in posts requiring prior training. Many Palestinians were merchants on a small or medium scale, craftsmen or skilled workers, or peasants.

Whatever the social or economic status of Palestinians in the East Bank, their sense of national identity had aroused much debate. Such identity depended on international and regional political developments with respect to the Palestine question, the interests of Palestinians themselves on the East Bank, and the balancing act of the government between East Bank Jordanians and those of Palestinian origin. One observer indicated that the regime had an interest in perpetuating the idea of a Palestinian majority so that East Bank Jordanians would continue to perceive Hussein as ensuring their interests and that of the East Bank.

An autonomous Palestinian political identity did not begin to assert itself until the mid-1960s. In the 1950s, no political organization existed around which a specifically Palestinian identity could be articulated. Pan-Arabism was a dominant mode of political expression, and the Hashimite regime strongly promoted Jordanian sovereignty over Palestinian affairs and identity. Nevertheless, and in spite of a security apparatus that kept a close watch on political affairs, Palestinian national identity emerged and grew. The loss of the West Bank in 1967 and the repressive Israeli occupation contributed to nationalist sentiments, as did the Jordanian government's repression of opposition political movements. The rise in the mid-1960s of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its international recognition furthered this nationalist climate. The PLO offered an organizational format to Palestinian political identity separate from a Jordanian identity. The 1970-71 war between the fedayeen (Arab guerrillas) and the Jordanian government and the 1974 Rabat Summit further enhanced Palestinian nationalist sentiment.

Wide divergences in political identity and sentiment existed among the Palestinians in the East Bank. Factors influencing a person's identity included the date of arrival in the East Bank, whether the person was a refugee or lived in a camp, and the degree of the person's economic success. The merchants and professionals who came prior to 1948 generally identified closely with the East Bank. Refugees who came in 1948 but who did not reside in the camps and were government employees or successful professionals or businesspeople tended to be tacit supporters of the regime and to invest heavily in homes and businesses. More militant were the refugees who arrived in the wake of the June 1967 War, including those refugees who were not living in camps. Persons residing in the camps tended to be the most militant. They were the poorest and had the least stake in the survival of the Hashimite regime.

Socioeconomic and political events in the late 1980s converged to fuel growing frustration with East Bank political policies. The reduced flow of remittances to Jordan from expatriate workers in the oil-producing states was a source of anxiety for the regime. For refugees living in the camps and for urban squatters, the economic downturn led to greater poverty, compounded by the high unemployment rate in the East Bank.

The Palestinian uprising (intifadah) in the occupied territories caused the Hashimite regime concern. The continuation of the uprising and the occupation seemed likely to radicalize less prosperous Palestinians in the East Bank.


Jordan - Urban Areas and Urbanization


From ancient times, Middle Eastern society has been characterized by the interaction of nomads and peasants with the urban centers. The region's highest achievements in cultural, political, economic, and intellectual life took place in the vibrant cosmopolitan centers. Arab-Islamic claims to be one of the world's major civilizations rest largely on the products of city populations.

No major urban center existed in what is now Jordanian territory until the late 1940s. East Bank towns served as local markets and administrative centers rather than as centers of high culture. Truncated by external political considerations rather than by internal social or cultural realities, the East Bank consequently lacked the kind of long-established metropolis that for centuries had dominated other parts of the Middle East.

Amman, the major city of the East Bank, had ancient roots, but in the 1980s it was scarcely more than a generation old as a modern city. The Circassians were the first permanent inhabitants of Amman, settling there in 1878. In 1921 Amir Abdullah ibn Hussein Al Hashimi established his capital in Amman. It passed its first decades as a provincial trading center and garrison on the margin of the desert. In 1943 Amman had only 30,000 inhabitants. As capital of the new kingdom of Jordan, Amman grew over the next three decades into a booming, overcrowded metropolitan center. Population growth was largely a function of the influx of Palestinians since 1948. A high birth rate and internal migration, however, have also been prominent features of the urbanization process.

In 1989 Amman lacked both the old quarters characteristic of most Middle Eastern cities and an established urban population with a unified cultural outlook and an organic bond to the indigenous society of the area. Its people were a mixture of all the elements of the country. Circassians and Christians, rather than Muslim Transjordanians, set the tone before the arrival of the Palestinians, who in the late 1980s probably constituted 60 to 80 percent of its population. The smaller towns of the East Bank retained a good deal of the traditional kin- and quarter-based social organization characteristic of Middle Eastern towns.

In rapidly urbanizing areas such as Amman, the quasi-paternal relationship of the rich to the poor had begun to break down and the old egalitarian values had given way to class distinctions based on income and style of life. Increasingly evident, class polarization was fueled by remittances from those working abroad. Remittances were invested in residential property, thus driving up the cost of land and housing. New urban areas, dotted with lavish stone villas and supermarkets and boutiques supplied with expensive imported items, coexisted with overcrowded areas where a jumble of buildings housed the multitudes of the lower-middle class and the poor. Furthermore, Western culture had introduced foreign ideas among the educated that gradually estranged them from the culture of the masses. Cultural and recreational facilities, for example, were limited to the well-to-do because of the high membership fees in the clubs that provided them.


Jordan - Migration


In the late 1980s, Jordan experienced more than one form of migration. Large segments of the labor force worked abroad, and rural-urban migration continued unabated. In rural areas, substantial numbers of men were employed outside the village or were engaged in military service.

Jordan often has been referred to by economists as a laborexporting country. With the oil boom of the 1970s in the Persian Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia, substantial numbers of the welleducated and skilled labor force, from both rural and urban areas, temporarily emigrated for employment. Government figures for 1987 stated that nearly 350,000 Jordanians were working abroad, a remarkably high number for such a small domestic population. Approximately 160,900 Jordanians resided in Saudi Arabia alone. Most of the Jordanians working abroad were of Palestinian origin.

The typical Jordanian migrant was a married male between twenty and thirty-nine years of age. His education level was higher than that of the average person on the East Bank. More than 30 percent of those working abroad were university graduates, and 40 percent were in professional positions. The average stay abroad ranged from 4.5 years to 8 years and the attraction of work abroad was the higher salary. Unlike most male migrants in the Middle East, Jordanian migrants had a greater tendency to take their families with them to their place of employment.

Migration from Jordan was not a recent phenomenon. As early as the late nineteenth century, Jordanian villagers were migrating abroad. Migration abroad since the 1960s has generally been to Saudi Arabia and other oil-producing Gulf states. Although most of those migrant workers came from urban areas, more data is available on the rural migrants.

The authors of a 1985 study of the effects of migration on a village in the northwest, noted that more than 10 percent of families had at least one member working abroad and 32 percent of male heads of household were serving in the armed forces. Many others held jobs in nearby urban centers and commuted between the village and their place of employment. Of village migrants to the oil-producing states, more than half were employed in the public sector, particularly in teaching and in the military security forces. As of the late 1980s, both of these areas faced a decline in employment if the oil-producing states continued to reduce their foreign labor force.

Labor migration in the 1970s and 1980s did not necessarily indicate a migrant's alienation from the village or a weakening of his ties with fellow villagers. Nearly 75 percent of rural migrants had a relative or village friend in the place of employment abroad. In fact, migrants tended to facilitate the process for others, acting as points of contact for individuals who migrated later. Migration did not radically alter the authority of absent males in their households, whether rural or urban. Wives made many daily household decisions, but, in most cases, major decisions awaited consultation with the husband. The flow of remittances to the village was also a strong indication of the continuing ties between a migrant and his family.

Remittances were used overwhelmingly by both rural and urban migrants to pay off debts and then to invest in residential property. The many new villa-style houses built in and around Amman and Irbid and in the villages reflected the large numbers of men working abroad and the presence of "oil money." In the northwest highlands, the purchase of property and the subsequent building of housing reduced the area of cultivable land. In contrast, in the Jordan Valley remittances figured prominently in investments in agricultural technologies. Returning rural migrants resided for the most part in the village and worked in Irbid, casting doubt on projections that international labor migration would contribute significantly to further urbanization in the Amman area.

Since the 1970s, increasing numbers of villagers had migrated to Amman. Most of them had remained poor and had shallow roots in the city. A significant land shortage, lack of job opportunities in rural areas, and the availability of education and health resources in Amman had sent a steady stream of villagers toward the city, overcrowding its housing and overtaxing its resources. Urban housing for the city's poor was neither readily available nor affordable. Rural migrants, however, maintained close ties with their natal villages. On Fridays (the official day off in Jordan) and during holidays, the villages were witness to family reunions of men who worked in the cities during the week and returned home at week's end.


Jordan - FAMILY


In the late 1980s, social life and identity in Jordan centered around the family. The household was composed of people related to one another by kinship, either through descent or marriage, and family ties extended into the structure of clans and tribes. Individual loyalty and the sense of identity arising from family membership coexisted with new sources of identity and affiliation. The development of a national identity and a professional identity did not necessarily conflict with existing family affiliations. Although rapid social mobility strained kin group membership, kinship units were sometimes able to adapt to social change.

Gender and age were important determinants of social status. Although the systematic separation of women from men was not generally practiced, all groups secluded women to some extent. The character of gender-based separation varied widely among different sectors of society; it was strictest among the traditional urban middle class and most flexible among the beduins, where the exigencies of nomadic life precluded segregation. However, the worlds of men and women intersected in the home. Age greatly influenced an individual man or woman's standing in society; generally, attaining an advanced age resulted in enhanced respect and social stature.

The formation of an educated middle class that included increasing numbers of educated and working women led in the late 1980s to some strains in the traditional pattern. Men and women now interacted in public--at school and in the universities, in the workplace, on public transportation, in voluntary associations, and at social events.

Family and Household

The extended family continued to be a viable form of household in the late 1980s. More families had begun to live in nuclear households, but Jordanians continued to rely on extended kin relations for a variety of purposes, which can be described as exchanges. Exchanges might include financial support; job information; social connections; access to strategic resources; marital partners; arrangements, protection, and support in the event of conflict; child care and domestic services; and emotional sustenance. In turn, an individual's social identity and loyalty continued to be oriented largely to the family.

Formally, kinship was reckoned patrilineally, and the household usually was based on blood ties between men. There was no one form of family; and household structure changed because of births, deaths, marriages, and migration. A household could consist of a married couple, their unmarried children, and possibly other relatives such as parents, or a widowed parent or an unmarried sister. Alternatively, a household could consist of parents and their married sons, their wives, and their children. At the death of the father, each married son ideally established his own household to begin the cycle again. Although the kinship system was considered patrilineal, maternal kin also were significant.

Because the family was central to social life, all children were expected to marry at the appropriate age, and eligible divorced or widowed persons were expected to remarry. Marriage conferred adult status on both men and women. The birth of children further enhanced this status, especially for women, who then felt more secure in their marital households. Polygyny was practiced in only a minority of cases and was socially frowned upon.

Traditionally, the individual subordinated his or her personal interests to those of the family. The importance of the group outweighed that of the individual. In the late 1980s, it was still uncommon for a man to live apart from a family group unless he were a migrant worker or a student. Grown children ordinarily lived with parents or relatives until marriage. Children were expected to defer to the wishes of their parents.

Marriage was a family affair rather than a personal choice. Because the sexes ordinarily did not mix much socially, young men and women had few acquaintances among the opposite sex, although among beduins a limited courtship was permitted. Parents traditionally arranged marriages for their children, finding a mate either through the family or their social contacts. In the late 1980s, this pattern had changed substantially.

Among village and tribal populations, the preferred marriage partner was the child of the father's brother. In most areas, a man had a customary right to forbid his father's brother's daughter from marrying an outsider if he wished to exercise his right to her hand. If the ideal cousin marriage was not possible, marriage within the patrilineal kin group was the next best choice. Such endogamous marriages had several advantages for the parties: the bridewealth payments demanded of the groom's kin tended to be smaller; the family resources were conserved; the dangers of an unsuitable match were minimized; and the bride was not a stranger to her husband's house.

A University of Jordan medical department study in the late 1980s pointed to a 50 percent rate of family intermarriage: 33 percent of marriages were between first-degree relatives, 7 percent between second-degree relatives, and 10 percent were within the extended family. Nonetheless, in the 1980s, endogamous marriages had declined in frequency; previous rates of intermarriage may have been as high as 95 percent. Increasing female education and employment allowed young people more opportunities to meet and marry outside family arrangements. Also, there was growing awareness that genetic problems could arise in the offspring of endogamous marriages.

In Islam, marriage is a civil contract rather than a sacrament. Representatives of the bride's interests negotiate a marriage agreement with the groom's representatives. The future husband and wife must give their consent. Young men often suggest to their parents whom they would like to marry; women usually do not do so but have the right to refuse a marriage partner of their parents' choice. The contract establishes the terms of the union, and, if they are broken, outlines appropriate recourse. Special provisions inserted into the contract become binding on both parties.

Islam gives to the husband far greater leeway than to the wife in terms of polygyny and in matters of divorce. For example, a man may legally take up to four wives at one time provided he can treat them equally; a woman can have only one husband at a time. A man may divorce his wife by repeating "I divorce thee" three times before witnesses and registering the divorce in court; a woman can instigate divorce only under very specific circumstances. Few women seek divorce because of the difficulty of taking a case to court, the stigma attached to a divorced woman, and the possibility of a woman's losing custody of her children. In theory and as a matter of public appearance, men exercise authority over women. That authority, however, is not as absolute as once thought. Women wield considerable power within the home and decision making often is a joint affair between husband and wife.

Family Relationships

The social milieu in which a Jordanian family lived significantly affected the position of the wife and her degree of autonomy. In rural agricultural areas and among the urban poor, women fulfilled important economic functions. Traditionally, some women of poor urban families worked outside the home, and rural women performed a wide variety of tasks in the household and in the fields. Such women occupied a position of relative importance and enjoyed a modicum of freedom in their comings and goings within the village or neighborhood. Although casual social contact between the sexes of the kind common in the West was infrequent, segregation of the sexes was less pronounced than in traditional towns. Among the traditional urban bourgeoisie, women fulfilled fewer and less important economic functions. Artisan and merchant families earned their living from the skills of the men. Women's responsibilities were more confined to the home. Among the new urban middle class, women occupied a variety of positions, some of them contradictory. Some women of this class were educated and employed, and enjoyed a fair measure of mobility within society; others, also educated and skilled, lived a more sheltered life, with minimal mobility. Both groups of women frequently were seen in the streets wearing Islamic dress.

The allocation of space within the home was often genderspecific . The houses of prosperous urban and rural families traditionally contained distinct men's and women's areas: the reception room where the men of the family entertained male guests and the women's quarters from which adult males other than relatives and servants were excluded. Less wealthy urban or rural families were unable to conform as easily to the standards of segregation. They could not afford the extra room for male gatherings. In poorer rural areas, men and women often socialized together in the house.

Status within the household varied considerably depending on sex, age, and type of household. In principle, men had greater autonomy than women. Their movements in public were freer, and their personal decisions were more their own. Within the household, however, younger males were subject to the authority of senior males, their grandfathers, fathers, and uncles. Decisions about education, marriage, and work remained family affairs. Older women exerted substantial authority and control over children and adolescents, the most powerless sector within a household.

Household structure, whether nuclear or extended, also determined the extent to which women wielded power in a household. In a household with multiple married women, senior women held more power and could exert more control over younger wives. Younger women often preferred to live in a nuclear household where they had more autonomy in running the household and in child rearing. They were then more subject, however, to the direct control of the husband and had to manage the household alone without the help of other women.

Children were given much affection and attention. Although not spared spanking and occasional harsh scolding, children were indulged and given much physical affection by household members and neighbors alike. Their behavior was tolerated with amusement until close to the ages of four and five. Children then were expected to assume some responsibilities in the household. Little girls at this age began to help their mothers with household chores and to care for younger children.

Segregation by gender was tied closely to the concept of honor (ird). In most Arab communities, honor inhered in the descent group--the family and, to a varying extent, the lineage or clan. Honor could be lost through the failure of sisters, wives, and daughters to behave properly (modestly) and through the failure of men to exert self-restraint over their emotions toward women. For women, the constraints of modesty were not confined to sexual matters. Also, women could be held accountable for a loss of honor though they might not have had any obvious responsibility in the matter. Loud speech, a woman's bearing or dress, or her appearing in public places could lead to a loss of honor. For men, overt expressions of emotions (such as romantic love) that revealed vulnerability to women could cause a man's strength to be questioned, leading to a loss of honor. Men were expected to be above such matters of the heart. A wife's failure to behave properly reflected on the honor of her husband and his kin, but even more on her father and brothers and others of the group from which she came. A man's failure to conform to the norms of selfcontrol and invulnerability to women shamed his immediate and extended kin group.

Above all, honor was a matter of reputation. Perceptions were as important as actions or events. An offense against honor could be very lightly punished if it appeared that only the person's family knew of it. Harsher steps were required if persons outside the family knew of the offense or believed it to have occurred.

The penalties for violation of the honor code differed for men and women. Custom granted the males of a family the right to kill female kin known to have engaged in illicit sexual relations. A more common practice, however, was for the families involved to arrange a hasty marriage. Men who lost honor through their actions were ostracized and lost face and standing in the community.

On the one hand, the segregation of women worked to minimize the chances that a family's honor would be lost or diminished. On the other hand, the education of women and their participation in a modern work force tended to erode the traditional concept of honor by promoting the mingling of the sexes in public life.

Changing Social Relations and Values

Relations between men and women, along with all other aspects of Jordanian society, had begun to change as people adopted values, attitudes, and customs much different from those traditional in the country. As new ideas reached all sectors of society, new perceptions and practices began to appear.

Increased social and physical mobility have undermined the familial ties and the values that subordinated the individual to the kin group. A growing individualism has appeared, especially among the educated young. Many young people prefer to set up their own household at marriage rather than live with their parents. Labor migration has had a considerable impact on family structure and relations. In some cases, where men migrate without their families, their wives and children see the husband only once or twice a year when he visits. If the wife and children live alone, this arrangement leads to increased responsibility and autonomy for women. Also, the children in such families grow up without knowing their fathers well. When the wife and children live with the migrant's extended family, they are usually under the authority of her husband's family.

Some of the most marked social changes have affected women's roles. In urban areas, young women have begun to demand greater freedom and equality than in the past, although traditional practices still broadly govern their lives. Since the 1960s, women have become more active outside the home. In the 1980s, girls' school enrollment was nearly parallel to that of boys, and female graduates entered the work force in increasing numbers. Girls who attended school were not as closely chaperoned as they formerly were, although they rarely went out with friends in the evening. Educated women also tended to marry later, often after working for several years. The average age of marriage for women had risen from the mid-teens to the early twenties; the average age for males was between twenty-six and twenty-eight years. The narrowing of the gap in age between marriage partners signified a changing conception of the conjugal unit and its relation to the larger family group. Companionship and notions of romantic love were playing a greater role in marital arrangements than heretofore. Marriages were still a family affair, but the relationship between man and wife was assuming increasing significance. This change reflected a dilution in the strength of families as social units with corporate interests that subordinated those of the individual.

By the late 1980s, some observers had noted that couples tended to want fewer children. This trend appeared to parallel the changes in women's position in society and shifts in the political economy, which had implications for family structure, relations, and values. Women's education and employment patterns meant that child rearing was no longer the only role open to women. The need for dual-income households pointed to a decrease in the amount of time women could devote to child rearing. In the transition from an agricultural and pastoral society to one based on services, where literacy was a must, children required longer periods of education and thus were dependent for extended periods upon their families. Large families were no longer as economically feasible or desirable as in the past.

The spread of the nuclear household encouraged the detachment of the individual from the demands of the extended family. At the same time, social security lessened the dependence of the aged on their children and other relatives. The functions of the extended family, however, were not necessarily diminished; given economic upheavals and a weak infrastructure for state social services, Jordanians continued to rely upon the extended family, even if many of its members resided in nuclear units.

Generational conflicts, which observers believed to be increasing, strained family relations when young people attempted to adopt standards and behavior different from those of their parents. Modern, secular education, with its greater emphasis on utility and efficiency, tended to undermine respect for the wisdom of age and the rightness of tradition. Male wage earners also were less dependent on older males for access to resources such as land and bridewealth.

Women and Work

Despite a seemingly conservative milieu, the number of women working outside the home increased in the 1980s. Women formed a little over 12 percent of the labor force in 1985. Many poor and lower-class women worked out of economic necessity, but a substantial number of working women came from financially secure families. According to the Ministry of Planning, the proportion of women working in professional and technical jobs was high. In 1985 women constituted 35.4 percent of technical workers and 36.1 percent of clerical staff. Women were least represented in agriculture and production. Women's increased access to education had led them to greater aspirations to work outside the home. Moreover, inflation had made the dual-income family a necessity in many cases.

Jordanian women served as a reserve labor force and were encouraged to work during the years of labor shortages when economic expansion and development plans were high on the government's priority list. In a 1988 study of women and work in Jordan, journalist Nadia Hijab argued that cultural attitudes were not the major constraint on women's employment; rather, need and opportunity were more significant factors.

Most employed women were single. Unmarried women, in particular, were initially considered a source of untapped labor. Yet cultural constraints clearly militated against women working in agriculture, industry, and construction--areas of low prestige, but also the sections with the most critical labor shortages. Development programs for women focused on technical training. Hijab mentions that a typical project was "to train women on the maintenance and repair of household appliances."

To make work more attractive to women with children, the government discussed amending the labor laws to improve conditions. Such proposed amendments included granting more maternity leave and providing day-care facilities at the workplace. In addition, the media encouraged a more liberal attitude to women's working. Women's employment gained further legitimacy through national ceremonies sponsored by the government and the royal family honoring women's work.

The critical years of labor shortages were 1973 to 1981. By the mid-1980s, the situation had changed as unemployment surged. With high unemployment, women were asked to return to their homes. Publicly and privately, Jordanians hotly debate whether women should work. Letters to the editors of daily newspapers argued for and against women's working. Some government leaders had decided that women should return to their homes. Discussion about amending labor laws was shelved, and Hijab observed that by 1985 there was "almost an official policy" to encourage married women to stay at home. Then Prime Minister Zaid ar Rifai bluntly suggested in 1985 that working women who paid half or more of their salary to foreign maids who sent the currency abroad should stop working.

Differences in attitude towards women's employment frequently were based on the conditions of work. In a study of attitudes toward women and work, Jordanian sociologist Mohammad Barhoum found that resistance was least to women working in traditionally female occupations such as teaching, nursing, and secretarial work. He believed the change in attitude resulted from increased educational opportunities for girls and their parents' realization that education was as important for girls as for boys, especially in the event of widowhood or divorce. The erosion of male wages, no longer adequate to support a family, had also been a prominent factor in legitimizing female employment.

The impact of women's employment on relations within the family remained difficult to assess in 1989. Employment and contribution to family income accorded women a greater voice in family matters. The traditional division of labor between men and women within the family often remained relatively untouched when women worked. Women's work at home was often taken up by other women rather than shared between men and women. Women earning lower incomes relied on their extended network of female relatives to help with child care and housework, while upper and middle income women hired maids (usually foreigners from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, or Egypt) to tend to their homes and children.




More than 90 percent of Jordanians adhered to Sunni Islam in the late 1980s. Although observance was not always orthodox, devotion to and identification with the faith was high. Islam was the established religion, and as such its institutions received government support. The 1952 Constitution stipulates that the king and his successors must be Muslims and sons of Muslim parents. Religious minorities included Christians of various denominations, a few Shia Muslims, and even fewer adherents of other faiths.

Early Development of Islam

In A.D. 610, Muhammad, a merchant belonging to the Hashimite branch of the ruling Quraysh tribe in the Arabian town of Mecca, began to preach the first of a series of revelations granted him by God through the angel Gabriel and to denounce the polytheism of his fellow Meccans. Because the town's economy was based in part on a thriving pilgrimage business to the Kaaba, the sacred structure around a black meteorite, and the numerous pagan shrines located there, Muhammad's vigorous and continuing censure eventually earned him the bitter enmity of the town's leaders. In 622 he was invited to the town of Yathrib, which came to be known as Medina (the city) because it was the center of his activities. The move, or hijra (known in the West as the hegira), marks the beginning of the Islamic era. The Muslim calendar, based on the lunar year, begins in 622. In Medina, Muhammad--by this time known as the Prophet-- continued to preach, eventually defeated his detractors in battle, and consolidated both the temporal and spiritual leadership of all Arabia in his person before his death in 632.

After Muhammad's death, his followers compiled those of his words regarded as coming directly from God into the Quran, the holy scripture of Islam. Others of his sayings and teachings as recalled by those who had known Muhammad (a group known as the Companions) became the hadith. The precedent of his personal behavior was set forth in the sunna. Together the Quran, the hadith, and the sunna form a comprehensive guide to the spiritual, ethical, and social life of an orthodox Sunni Muslim.

During his lifetime, Muhammad was both spiritual and temporal leader of the Muslim community; he established Islam as a total and all-encompassing way of life for human beings and society. Muslims believe that Allah revealed to Muhammad the rules governing proper behavior and that it therefore behooves them to live in the manner prescribed by the law, and it is incumbent upon the community to strive to perfect human society according to holy injunctions. Islam traditionally recognizes no distinction between religion and state, and no distinction between religious and secular life or religious and secular law. A comprehensive system of religious law (sharia) developed gradually during the first four centuries of Islam, primarily through the accretion of precedent and interpretation by various judges and scholars. During the tenth century, however, legal opinion began to harden into authoritative doctrine, and the figurative bab al ijtihad (gate of interpretation) gradually closed, thenceforth eventually excluding flexibility in Islamic law. Within the Jordanian legal system, sharia remains in effect in matters concerning personal status.

After Muhammad's death, the leaders of the Muslim community consensually chose Abu Bakr, the Prophet's father-in-law and one of his earliest followers, as caliph, or successor. At that time, some persons favored Ali, the Prophet's cousin and husband of his daughter Fatima, but Ali and his supporters (the so-called Shiat Ali or Party of Ali) eventually recognized the community's choice. The next two caliphs--Umar, who succeeded in 634, and Uthman, who took power in 644--enjoyed recognition of the entire community. When Ali finally succeeded to the caliphate in 656, Muawiyah, governor of Syria, rebelled in the name of his murdered kinsman Uthman. After the ensuing civil war, Ali moved his capital to Mesopotamia, where a short time later he, too, was murdered.

Ali's death ended the period in which the entire community of Islam recognized a single caliph. Upon Ali's death, Muawiyah proclaimed himself caliph from Damascus. The Shiat Ali, however, refused to recognize Muawiyah or his line, the Umayyad caliphs; in support of claims by Ali's line to a presumptive right to the caliphate based on descent from the Prophet, they withdrew and established a dissident sect known as the Shia.

Originally political in nature, the differences between the Sunni and Shia interpretations rapidly took on theological and metaphysical overtones. Ali's two sons, Hasan and Husayn, became martyred heroes to the Shias and repositories of the claims of Ali's line to mystical preeminence among Muslims. The Sunnis retained the doctrine of the selection of leaders by consensus, although Arabs and members of the Quraysh, Muhammad's tribe, predominated in the early years. Reputed descent from the Prophet, which King Hussein claims, continued to carry social and religious prestige throughout the Muslim world in the 1980s. Meanwhile, the Shia doctrine of rule by divine right became more and more firmly established, and disagreements over which of several pretenders had a truer claim to the mystical powers of Ali precipitated further schisms. Some Shia groups developed doctrines of divine leadership far removed from the strict monotheism of early Islam, including beliefs in hidden but divinely chosen leaders with spiritual powers that equaled or surpassed those of the Prophet himself.

The early Islamic polity was intensely expansionist, fueled both by fervor for the new religion and by economic and social factors. Conquering armies and migrating tribes swept out of Arabia, spreading Islam. By the end of Islam's first century, Islamic armies had reached far into North Africa and eastward and northward into Asia. The territory of modern Jordan, among the first to come under the sway of Islam, was penetrated by Muslim armies by A.D. 633.

Although Muhammad had enjoined the Muslim community to convert the infidel, he had also recognized the special status of the "people of the book," Jews and Christians, whose own revealed scriptures he considered revelations of God's word and which contributed in some measure to Islam. Jews and Christians in Muslim territories could live according to their own religious law, in their own communities, and were exempted from military service if they accepted the position of dhimmis, or tolerated subject peoples. This status entailed recognition of Muslim authority, additional taxes, prohibition on proselytism among Muslims, and certain restrictions on political rights.

Social life in the Ottoman Empire, which included Jordan for 400 years, revolved around a system of millets, or religious communities. Each organized religious minority lived according to its own personal status laws under the leadership of recognized religious authorities and community leaders. These recognized leaders also represented the community to the rest of society and the polity. This form of organization preserved and nourished cultural differences that, quite apart from theological considerations, distinguished these communities.

<>Tenets of Sunni Islam
<>Islam in Social Life
<>Islamic Revival
<>Religious Minorities


Jordan - Tenets of Sunni Islam


The shahada (testimony) succinctly states the central belief of Islam: "There is no god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is his Prophet." This simple profession of faith is repeated on many ritual occasions, and recital in full and unquestioning sincerity designates one a Muslim. The God preached by Muhammad was not a new deity; Allah is the Arabic term for God rather than a particular name. Muhammad denied the existence of the many minor gods and spirits worshiped before his prophecy, and he declared the omnipotence of the unique creator, God. Islam means submission to God, and one who submits is a Muslim. Being a Muslim also involves a commitment to realize the will of God on earth and to obey God's law.

Muhammad is the "seal of the Prophets"; his revelation is said to complete for all time the series of biblical revelations received by Jews and Christians. Muslims believe God to have remained one and the same throughout time, but that men strayed from his true teaching until set right by Muhammad. Prophets and sages of the biblical tradition, such as Abraham (Ibrahim), Moses (Musa), and Jesus (Isa), are recognized as inspired vehicles of God's will. Islam, however, reveres as sacred only the message, rejecting Christianity's deification of the messenger. It accepts the concepts of guardian angels, the Day of Judgment, general resurrection, heaven and hell, and eternal life of the soul.

The duties of the Muslim--corporate acts of worship--form the five pillars of Islamic faith. These are shahada, affirmation of the faith; salat, daily prayer; zakat, almsgiving; sawm, fasting during the month of Ramadan; and hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca. These acts of worship must be performed with a conscious intent and not out of habit. Shahada is uttered daily by practicing Muslims, affirming their membership in the faith and expressing an acceptance of the monotheism of Islam and the divinity of Muhammad's message.

The believer is to pray in a prescribed manner after purification through ritual ablutions at dawn, midday, midafternoon, sunset, and nightfall. Prescribed genuflections and prostrations accompany the prayers, which the worshiper recites facing toward Mecca. Prayers imbue daily life with worship, and structure the day around an Islamic conception of time. Whenever possible, men pray in congregation at the mosque under a prayer leader and on Fridays they are obliged to do so. Women also may attend public worship at the mosque, where they are segregated from the men, although most frequently women pray at home. A special functionary, the muezzin, intones a call to prayer to the entire community at the appropriate hours; those out of earshot determine the proper time from the position of the sun.

In the early days of Islam, the authorities imposed a tax on personal property proportionate to one's wealth; this was distributed to the mosques and to the needy. In addition, free-will gifts were made. While still a duty of the believer, almsgiving in the twentieth century has become a more private matter. Properties contributed by pious individuals to support religious activities are usually administered as religious foundations, or waqfs.

The ninth month of the Muslim calendar is Ramadan, a period of obligatory fasting that commemorates Muhammad's receipt of God's revelation, the Quran. Fasting is an act of self-discipline that leads to piety and expresses submission and commitment to God. Fasting underscores the equality of all Muslims, strengthening sentiments of community. During this month all but the sick, weak, pregnant or nursing women, soldiers on duty, travelers on necessary journeys, and young children are enjoined from eating, drinking, smoking, or sexual intercourse during the daylight hours. Official work hours often are shortened during this period, and some businesses close for all or part of the day. Since the months of the lunar calendar revolve through the solar years, Ramadan falls at various seasons in different years. A fast in summertime imposes considerable hardship on those who must do physical work. Each day's fast ends with a signal that light is insufficient to distinguish a black thread from a white one. Id al Fitr, a threeday feast and holiday, ends the month of Ramadan and is the occasion of much visiting.

Finally, Muslims at least once in their lifetime should, if possible, make the hajj to the holy city of Mecca to participate in special rites held during the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. The Prophet instituted this requirement, modifying pre-Islamic custom to emphasize sites associated with Allah and Abraham, father of the Arabs through his son Ishmael (Ismail). The pilgrim, dressed in a white, seamless garment (ihram), abstains from sexual relations, shaving, haircutting, and nail paring. Highlights of the pilgrimage include kissing the sacred black stone; circumambulation of the Kaaba, the sacred structure reputedly built by Abraham that houses the stone; running seven times between the mountains Safa and Marwa in imitation of Hagar, Ishmael's mother, during her travail in the desert; and standing in prayer on Mount Arafat. These rites affirm the Muslim's obedience to God and express intent to renounce the past and begin a new righteous life in the path of God. The returning male pilgrim is entitled to the honorific "hajj" before his name and a woman the honorific "hajji." Id al Adha marks the end of the hajj month.

The permanent struggle for the triumph of the word of God on earth, jihad, represents an additional general duty of all Muslims. This concept is often taken to mean holy war, but most Muslims see it in a broader context of civil and personal action. Besides regulating relations between the human being and God, Islam regulates the relations of one human being to another. Aside from specific duties, Islam imposes a code of ethical conduct encouraging generosity, fairness, honesty, and respect and explicitly propounds guidance as to what constitutes proper family relations. In addition, it forbids adultery, gambling, usury, and the consumption of carrion, blood, pork, and alcohol.

A Muslim stands in a personal relationship to God; there is neither intermediary nor clergy in orthodox Islam. Those men who lead prayers, preach sermons, and interpret the law do so by virtue of their superior knowledge and scholarship rather than because of any special powers or prerogatives conferred by ordination. Any adult male versed in prayer form is entitled to lead prayers--a role referred to as imam.


Jordan - Islam in Social Life


Despite a strong identification with and loyalty to Islam, religious practices varied among segments of Jordan's population. This unevenness in practice did not necessarily correlate with a rural-urban division or differing levels of education. The religious observance of some Jordanians was marked by beliefs and practices that were sometimes antithetical to the teachings of Islam. Authorities attributed at least some of these elements to pre-Islamic beliefs and customs common to the area.

In daily life, neither rural dwellers nor urbanites were overly fatalistic. They did not directly hold God responsible for all occurrences; rather, they placed events in a religious context that imbued them with meaning. The expression inshallah (God willing) often accompanied statements of intention, and the term bismallah (in the name of God) accompanied the performance of most important actions. Such pronouncements did not indicate a ceding of control over one's life or events. Jordanian Muslims generally believed that in matters that they could control, God expected them to work diligently.

Muslims have other ways of invoking God's presence in daily life. Despite Islam's unequivocal teaching that God is one and that no being resembles him in sanctity, some people accepted the notion that certain persons (saints) have baraka, a special quality of personal holiness and affinity to God. The intercession of these beings was believed to help in all manner of trouble, and shrines to such people could be found in some localities. Devotees often visited the shrine of their patron, especially seeking relief from illness or inability to have children.

Numerous spiritual creatures were believed to inhabit the world. Evil spirits known as jinn--fiery, intelligent beings that are capable of appearing in human and other forms--could cause all sorts of malicious mischief. For protection, villagers carried in their clothing bits of paper inscribed with Quranic verses (amulets), and they frequently pronounced the name of God. A copy of the Quran was said to keep a house safe from jinn. The "evil eye" also could be foiled by the same means. Although any literate Muslim was able to prepare amulets, some persons gained reputations as being particularly skilled in prescribing and preparing them. To underscore the difficulty in drawing a fine distinction between orthodox and popular Islam, one only need note that some religious shaykhs were sought for their ability to prepare successful amulets. For example, in the 1980s in a village in northern Jordan, two elderly shaykhs (who also were brothers) were famous for their abilities in specific areas: one was skilled in warding off illness among children; the other was sought for his skills in curing infertility.

Their reverence for Islam notwithstanding, Muslims did not always practice strict adherence to the five pillars. Although most people tried to give the impression that they fulfilled their religious duties, many people did not fast during Ramadan. They generally avoided breaking the fast in public, however. In addition, most people did not contribute the required proportion of alms to support religious institutions, nor was pilgrimage to Mecca common. Attendance at public prayers and prayer in general increased during the 1980s as part of a regional concern with strengthening Islamic values and beliefs.

Traditionally, social segregation of the sexes prevented women from participating in much of the formal religious life of the community. The 1980s brought several changes in women's religious practices. Younger women, particularly university students, were seen more often praying in the mosques and could be said to have carved a place for themselves in the public domain of Islam.

Although some women in the late 1980s resorted to unorthodox practices and beliefs, women generally were considered more religiously observant than men. They fasted more than men and prayed more regularly in the home. Education, particularly of women, diminished the folk-religious component of belief and practice, and probably enhanced observance of the more orthodox aspects of Islam.


Jordan - Islamic Revival


The 1980s witnessed a stronger and more visible adherence to Islamic customs and beliefs among significant segments of the population. The increased interest in incorporating Islam more fully into daily life was expressed in a variety of ways. Women wearing conservative Islamic dress and the head scarf were seen with greater frequency in the streets of urban as well as rural areas; men with beards also were more often seen. Attendance at Friday prayers rose, as did the number of people observing Ramadan. Ramadan also was observed in a much stricter fashion; all public eating establishments were closed and no alcohol was sold or served. Police responded quickly to infractions of the rules of Ramadan. Those caught smoking, eating, or drinking in public were reprimanded and often arrested for a brief period.

Women in the 1980s, particularly university students, were actively involved in expressions of Islamic revival. Women wearing Islamic garb were a common sight at the country's universities. For example, the mosque at Yarmuk University had a large women's section. The section was usually full, and women there formed groups to study Islam. By and large, women and girls who adopted Islamic dress apparently did so of their own volition, although it was not unusual for men to insist that their sisters, wives, and daughters cover their hair in public.

The adoption of the Islamic form of dress did not signify a return to segregation of the sexes or female seclusion. Indeed, women who adopted Islamic clothing often were working women and students who interacted daily with men. They cited a lag in cultural attitudes as part of the reason for donning such dress. In other words, when dressed in Islamic garb they felt that they received more respect from and were taken more seriously by their fellow students and colleagues. Women also could move more readily in public if they were modestly attired. Increased religious observance also accounted for women's new style of dress. In the 1980s, Islamic dress did not indicate social status, particularly wealth, as it had in the past; Islamic dress was being worn by women of all classes, especially the lower and middle classes.

Several factors gave rise to increased adherence to Islamic practices. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Middle East region saw a rise of Islamic fundamentalism in response to economic recession and to the failure of nationalist politics to solve regional problems. In this context, Islam was an idiom for expressing social discontent. In Jordan, opposition politics had long been forbidden, and since the 1950s the Muslim Brotherhood had been the only legal political party. These factors were exacerbated by King Hussein's public support for the shah of Iran in his confrontation with Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini and the forces of opposition, by continued relations with Egypt in the wake of the 1979 Treaty of Peace Between Egypt and Israel, and by the king's support for Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War.

Although Islamic opposition politics never became as widespread in Jordan as in Iran and Egypt, they were pervasive enough for the regime to act swiftly to bring them under its aegis. By the close of the 1970s and throughout the 1980s, government-controlled television regularly showed the king and his brother Hasan attending Friday prayers. The media granted more time to religious programs and broadcasts. Aware that the Islamic movement might become a vehicle for expressing opposition to the regime and its policies, and in a move to repair relations with Syria, in the mid1980s the government began to promote a moderate form of Islam, denouncing fanatical and intolerant forms.


Jordan - Religious Minorities


Jordan's Constitution guarantees freedom of religious beliefs. Christians formed the largest non-Muslim minority. Observers estimated in the late 1970s that the Christian community-- comprising groups of several denominations--constituted roughly 5 to 8 percent of the population. The principal points of concentration of the East Bank's indigenous Christians were a number of small towns in the "sown," such as Al Karak, Madaba, As Salt, and Ajlun. Christians also lived in Amman and other major cities.

Overwhelmingly Arabic in language and culture, many Christians belonged to churches whose liturgical languages were, until recently, other than Arabic. With some exceptions, the lower clergy were Arabs, but the higher clergy were rarely so. In the past, Christians were disproportionately represented among the educated and prosperous. With increased access to education for all of the East Bank's peoples, it is the disproportion was less significant in the 1980s.

As of 1989, religious conflict had not been a problem in Jordan. The influence of Islamic fundamentalism that made itself felt in Jordan in the late 1970s and 1980s had not given rise to religious tensions. As a minority in a largely Muslim society, however, Christians were affected by Islamic practices. With the stricter observance of Ramadan in the 1980s, hotels and restaurants were prohibited by the government from serving liquor to local Christians or foreigners. Restaurants that formerly had remained open during the day to serve such persons were closed. The press and television also gave a greater emphasis to religion.

The largest of the Christian sects in the late 1980s, accounting for roughly half of all Jordanian Christians, was that part of the Eastern Orthodox complex of churches that falls under the patriarch of Jerusalem. With an elaborately organized clerical hierarchy, the patriarchate administered most of the Christian shrines in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The parent church of Eastern Orthodoxy was the Greek Orthodox Church, and the liturgical language of the church in the patriarchate of Jerusalem included both Greek and Arabic. The higher clergy, including the patriarch, were predominantly of Greek descent, but the priests were native speakers of Arabic. Because of the typically national organization of orthodox churches, the relatively small numbers of Syrians and Armenians adhering to orthodoxy had their own churches.

The Greek Catholic Church (Melchite, also seen as Melkite; Catholics of the Byzantine rite) in Jordan was headed by the patriarch of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, who in turn was subject to the authority of the pope in Rome. The clergy generally were Arabs, and Arabic was used in most of the liturgy. Most Greek Catholics lived in the West Bank, but one diocese--that of PetraPhiladelphia , the latter an old Greek name for Amman--had its seat in Amman.

The Roman Catholic Church had its own patriarch, who was also subject to papal authority. Several other Catholic groups, each headed by a patriarch who was in turn subordinate to Rome, were represented. These included several hundred Syrian Catholics and Armenian Catholics.

The approximately 11,000 members of various Protestant denominations had been converted primarily from the Orthodox and Catholic churches. Muslims rarely converted to another faith. In the rural areas, conversions from one Christian group to another usually involved an entire kin-based group of some size. Such conversions often caused stress between the converting group and another group of which it was part or with which it was allied. Individual conversions in such areas were rare. The effect of urbanization on this pattern has not been examined.

Protestant communities, generally established by North American and European missionary activities, also were represented by the personnel of various international organizations. Some Protestant groups established schools and hospitals and constructed a few churches. The Christian churches also had their own ecclesiastical courts that decided matters of alimony, divorce, annulment, and inheritance.

Non-Christian religious minorities in the late 1980s included a small community of Druzes who lived in an area near the Syrian border. They were members of a sect that originally had derived from the Ismaili branch of Shia Islam. Ismailis were Shias who believed that Imam Muhammad ibn Ismail (died ca. A.D. 765), the Seventh Imam, was the last Imam, as opposed to others who recognized Twelve Imams. The Druzes, primarily located in the mountains of Lebanon and in southwestern Syria, have many secret beliefs and maintain that Hakim, the sixth Fatimid caliph, was divine in nature and is still alive in hiding. A small settlement of Bahais inhabited the village of Al Adasiyah in the northern Jordan Valley. The Shishans, a group whose origins lie in the Caucasus Mountains, were Shias. Estimates in the early 1980s placed the number of Shishans at 2,000.




The government's good intentions in the area of education contended with straitened financial circumstances, a rapidly changing labor force, and the demographic problem of a youthful population (53 percent of the population was below the age of fifteen in 1988). Nevertheless, significant progress had been made in various spheres. Education has been a stated priority of the government for a number of years. In 1986 government expenditures on education were 12.2 percent of the national budget. Education has become widely available, although some observers have questioned both the quality of the instruction and the appropriateness of the curriculum to the economy's requirements. Recognizing the need to supply training more suited to realistic employment prospects and to improve the level of teacher training, the government was continuing to strengthen vocational and technical education and to provide in-service training for its teachers.

In 1921, when the Amirate of Transjordan was created, educational facilities consisted of twenty-five religious schools that provided a rather limited education. By 1987 there were 3,366 schools, with more than 39,600 teachers and an enrollment of 919,645 students. Nearly one-third of the population in 1987 was involved in education as a teacher or a student at home or abroad. In 1985 nearly 99 percent of the nation's six-to-twelve years-olds were in the primary cycle, nearly 79 percent of the twelve-to-fifteen-year-olds were in the preparatory cycle, and 37 percent of the fifteen-to-eighteen-year-olds were in the secondary cycle. Progress in literacy was impressive. The Encyclopedia of the Third World, edited by George T. Kurian, reported that in the mid-1980s Jordan had a 67.6 percent literacy rate, 81 percent for males and 59.3 percent for females. The gap between rural and urban areas in terms of literacy was closing, but rural levels remained below those of the urban areas; Maan Governorate lagged behind other rural areas.

Education was free and compulsory for children between the ages of six and fifteen. The educational ladder consisted of four parts: primary (grades one through six); preparatory (grades seven through nine); secondary (grades ten through twelve); and postsecondary (all higher education). Promotion from the compulsory cycle to the more specialized secondary schools was controlled by a standardized written examination, as was passage from secondary to the postsecondary programs. The Ministry of Education, which controlled all aspects of education (except community colleges), administered the examinations. For grades one through twelve, nearly 75 percent of the students attended the free government schools in the late 1980s; about 15 percent attended the UNRWA schools, also free; and about 10 percent attended private schools. In 1987 the Department of Statistics reported that there were 194 UNRWA schools and 682 private schools.

The primary curriculum stressed basic literacy skills. Subjects taught included reading and writing in Arabic; religion (Islam for Muslims and the appropriate religion for non-Muslims); arithmetic; civics and history, with emphasis on the history of the Arabs and the concept of the Arab nation; geography, with emphasis on the Arab countries; science; music; physical education; and drawing for male students and embroidery for females. In the fifth grade, English was added to the official curriculum (although many private schools taught it earlier) and some schools offered French. Within the primary cycle, promotion from grade to grade was required by law and was essentially automatic. Children could be held back only twice in six years, after which they proceeded to higher grades regardless of the quality of their work.

In the preparatory cycle, work on academic subjects continued, both to improve the skills of terminal students and to prepare those going on to secondary studies. In addition, vocational education began on a limited basis. Each school was required to provide at least one course in a vocational subject for each grade. In general, each school offered only one vocational option, and all students had to take that subject for three periods a week for three years. The preparatory curriculum added geometry, algebra, and social studies to the academic courses offered in the primary grades.

On completion of the ninth grade, students could sit for the public preparatory examination for promotion to the secondary level. Secondary education was somewhat selective in enrollment and quite specialized in purpose. This level had both academic (general) and vocational divisions; the former was designed to prepare students for university-level studies and the latter to train middle-level technical personnel for the work force. Within the academic curriculum, students further specialized in scientific or literary studies. Because of the specialized nature and relatively limited number of secondary facilities, male and female students did not necessarily attend separate schools. The secondary program culminated in the public secondary education examination, which qualified students for postsecondary study.

In 1987 around 69,000 students were enrolled in higher education. Nearly half of these were women. Jordan had four universities with a combined enrollment of nearly 29,000; more than one-third of the students were women (11,000). The University of Jordan in Amman had a 1986-87 enrollment of nearly 13,000 students; Yarmuk University in Irbid had nearly 12,000 students; Jordan University of Science and Technology in Ar Ramtha had nearly 3,000 students; and Mutah University near Al Karak had an enrollment of about 1,300.

In the 1980s, Jordan strove to implement an education system that would address serious structural problems in its labor force. The country faced high rates of unemployment among educated young people, particularly in the professions of medicine, engineering, and teaching, and also had a need for skilled technical labor. In the 1970s and 1980s, the government began to expand its vocational and technical training programs to counteract the skilled labor shortage brought about by the large-scale migration of workers to high-paying jobs in the oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia. In spite of the recession and high unemployment among professionals, skilled technical labor remained in short supply in the late 1980s. Cultural factors also played a prominent role; great prestige attached to academic higher education as opposed to vocational training.

In response to the need for education reform, the king called for a reorientation of education policy to meet the needs of the country and the people. Community colleges played an essential role in this reorientation. They were consonant with the cultural value placed on higher education and also helped provide a skilled technical labor force. In the early 1980s, the government's teacher training institutes and all other private and public training institutes were transformed into community colleges. These education institutions offered a variety of vocational, technical, and teacher training programs and granted associates degrees based on two years of study. Upon graduation students were eligible to apply for transfer to the university system if they wished. In the late 1980s, more than fifty-three community colleges operated under the Ministry of Higher Education, which was created in 1985 to regulate the operations of all community colleges, although individual colleges were administered by a variety of agencies. Scattered throughout the country, the community colleges had an enrollment of about 31,000 students, slightly more than half of all students in higher education. More than half their students, about 17,000, were women.

Nearly 100 areas of specialization were offered in nine categories of professional study: education, commerce, computers, communications and transportation, engineering, paramedical technologies, agriculture, hotel management, and social service professions. According to observers, graduates were able to find employment in industry, business, and government. The government sought to confront the issue of unemployment among university graduates by encouraging more students to join community colleges. In 1987 the government introduced a career guidance program in the secondary schools that explained the country's problems with unemployment.

Most Jordanian students in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were studying medicine and engineering. Some observers have suggested that many of the students in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were Palestinians whose education costs were being borne by the host government. Observers believed that most of the students in Western Europe and the United States were being financed by their families and the rest by the government of Jordan. Perhaps because of these connections, students from West European and American schools tended to obtain the more desirable and prestigious positions on their return home. The perceived higher quality of education in the West also was a factor in making these graduates more competitive in the job market.




Factors affecting the standard of living for the average citizen were difficult to assess in early 1989. Information was scanty. Living conditions varied considerably according to region, kind of settlement, social position, and fortune of war. At the high end of the spectrum, well-to-do city dwellers appeared to enjoy all the amenities of modern life. In cities, basic public services such as water, sewage, and electricity were sufficient to meet the needs of most residents. Nevertheless, mounting pressure on these services, particularly the demand for water, rose steeply during the 1980s and was bound to increase as the urban population continued its high rate of growth. World Health Organization (WHO) figures indicated that, in the mid-1980s, the urban population had a 100-percent rate of access to safe water within the home or within 15 minutes walking distance; in rural areas the figure was 95 percent. Adequate sanitary facilities were available to 100 percent of the urban population and to 95 percent of the rural population. The rural poor, however, generally lived in substandard conditions. Homes in some villages still lacked piped water. At the bottom were the poorest of the refugees, many living in camps with minimal services. Open sewage ran through dusty, unpaved streets. During the late 1970s and the 1980s, electricity was gradually extended to nearly all rural areas.

Diet was generally adequate to support life and activity. Average daily caloric intake for adults in the 1980s was 2,968 (117 percent of the requirement), and protein intake was 52.5 grams, 115 percent of the daily requirement. Nonetheless, nutritional deficiencies of various kinds reportedly were common.

The number of health care personnel increased so that by the mid-1980s Jordan had a surplus of physicians. The "brain-drain," or emigration from Jordan of skilled professionals, apparently peaked in 1983, after which the number of physicians started a gradual climb. According to the WHO, in 1983 Jordan had 2,662 physicians. In 1987 the Jordan Medical Association reported a figure of 3,703, of whom 300 were unemployed. In the early 1980s, the medical college of the University of Jordan started to graduate students, further increasing the numbers. Fewer opportunities for physicians became available in the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia because of the recession in these countries.

In 1987 the Ministry of Health and the Jordan Medical Association, concerned about high unemployment among physicians, put forth various suggestions. These included opening more clinics in rural areas and assigning physicians to schools, colleges, and large industrial concerns.

Other health care professions showed moderate increases; the number of government-employed dentists, for example, increased from 75 to 110. Pharmacists, a profession increasingly entered by women, nearly tripled in number from thirty-eight in 1983 to ninety-six in 1987. Government-employed nurses increased from 292 to 434 over the same period.

In the early 1980s, Jordan had thirty-five hospitals, of which about 40 percent were state run. A number of other health facilities scattered throughout the country included health centers, village clinics, maternal and child care centers, tuberculosis centers, and school health services. In 1986 government health expenditures represented 3.8 percent of the national budget.

Medical care services were distributed more evenly than in the past. Previously most health professionals, hospitals, and technologically advanced medical equipment were located in major urban areas, such as Amman, Irbid, Ar Ramtha, Az Zarqa, and As Salt. People in smaller villages and remote rural areas had limited access to professional medical care. With the focus on primary health care in the 1980s, the WHO commented that treatment for common diseases was available within an hour's walk or travel for about 80 percent of the population. The expense and inconvenience of traveling to major urban areas did, however, hinder rural people from seeking more technologically sophisticated medical care.

The WHO reported a general decrease in the incidence of diseases related to inadequate sanitary and hygienic conditions. A reduction in the incidence of meningitis, scarlet fever, typhoid, and paratyphoid was noted, while an increase was registered in infectious hepatitis, rubella, mumps, measles, and schistosomiasis. In the mid-1980s, only one reported case of polio and none of diphtheria occurred. Childhood immunizations had increased sharply, but remained inadequate. In 1984 an estimated 44 percent of children were fully immunized against diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DPT); 41 percent had received polio vaccine; and 30 percent had been vaccinated against measles. Cholera had been absent since 1981. Jordan reported its first three cases of acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome (AIDS) to the WHO in 1987.

The most frequently cited causes of morbidity in government hospitals, in descending frequency, were gastroenteritis, accidents, respiratory diseases, complications of birth and the puerperium, and urogenital and cardiovascular diseases. Among hospitalized patients, the most frequent causes of mortality were heart diseases, tumors, accidents, and gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases.

Traditional health beliefs and practices were prevalent in urban and rural areas alike. These practices were the domain of women, some of whom were known in their communities for possessing skills in treating injuries and curing ailments. Within the family, women assumed responsibility for the nutrition of the family and the treatment of illness.

Local health beliefs and practices were important not only for their implications in a family's general state of health but also in determining when, and if, people would seek modern medical care. Local beliefs in the efficacy of healers and their treatments prevented or delayed the seeking of medical care. For example, healers often treated illness in children by massages with warm olive oil, a harmless procedure but one that often delayed or prevented the seeking of medical care.

Modern medicine had made tremendous inroads, however, into popular knowledge and courses of action. People combined traditional and modern medical approaches. They sought modern medical facilities and treatments while simultaneously having recourse to traditional health practitioners and religious beliefs. Infertility, for example, was often dealt with by seeking the advice of a physician and also visiting a shaykh for an amulet. In addition, traditional cures such as "closing the back" were used. In this cure, a woman healer rubbed a woman's pelvis with olive oil and placed suction cups on her back. This acted to "close the back"; an "opened back" was believed to be a cause of infertility.

The acceptance of modern health practices and child care techniques was closely related to household structure. A study by two anthropologists noted that younger, educated women encountered difficulties in practicing modern techniques of child health care when they resided in extended family households with older women present. The authority in the household of older women often accorded them a greater voice than the mother in setting patterns of child care and nutrition and in making decisions on health expenditures.

Discrimination on the basis of gender in terms of nutrition and access to health care resources was documented. In a study conducted in the mid-1980s, the infant mortality rate for girls was found to be significantly higher than for boys. It was also noted that male children received more immunizations and were taken to see physicians more frequently and at an earlier stage of illness than girls. Girls were more apt to die of diarrhea and dehydration than males. Malnutrition also was more common among female children; boys were given larger quantities and better quality food. In addition, more boys (71 percent) were breast-fed than girls (54 percent).

In the 1980s, government efforts to improve health were often directed at women. In the summer, when outbreaks of diarrhea among infants and children were common, commercial breaks on television included short health spots. These programs advised mothers how to feed and care for children with diarrhea and advertised the advantages of oral rehydration therapy (ORT) to prevent and treat the accompanying dehydration. The WHO noted that the use of ORT helped lower the fatality rate among those children hospitalized for diarrhea from 20 percent in 1977 to 5 percent in 1983.

During the 1980s, the Ministry of Health launched an antismoking campaign. Posters warning of the dangers to health could be seen in physicians' offices and in government offices and buildings. Success was slow and gradual; for example, cigarettes were less frequently offered as part of the tradition of hospitality.

Social welfare, especially care of the elderly and financial or other support of the sick, traditionally was provided by the extended family. Nursing homes for the elderly were virtually unknown and were considered an aberration from family and social values and evidence of lack of respect for the elderly. Social welfare in the form of family assistance and rehabilitation facilities for the handicapped were a service of the Department of Social Affairs and more than 400 charitable organizations. Some of these were religiously affiliated, and the overwhelmingly majority provided multiple services. UNRWA provided an array of social services, such as education, medical care, vocational training and literacy classes, and nutrition centers to registered refugees.

Government expenditures on social security, housing, and welfare amounted to 8.6 percent of the budget in 1986. Social security was governed by the Social Security Law of 1978, which was being applied in stages to the private sector. As of 1986, all establishments employing ten persons or more came under the law's provisions. Ultimately the law will apply to all establishments employing five or more persons. The employer contributed 10 percent of salary and the employee contributed 5 percent, and the contribution covered retirement benefits, termination pay, occupational diseases, and work injuries. The plan was for medical insurance to be included eventually under the social security contribution. In April 1988, the Social Security Corporation covered 465,000 workers employed by approximately 7,000 public and private establishments.


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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