Dating before marriage is almost unheard of in Saudi Arabia, where arranged unions take front seat. To millions of couples in the kingdom, getting to know one another is a process that begins after tying the knot. Experts now believe this could be one of the reasons why divorce rates are skyrocketing in the country.

Earlier this week, Saudi social researcher Haifa Al Ablani supported this theory during an appearance on MBC's Maali Al Mowaten program. 

In a report highlighting divorce rates in the kingdom, the woman said she supports the idea of couples meeting and getting to know each other before marrying.

"We're witnessing higher rates of divorce because people's way of thinking has changed. Their rhetoric and ideologies have changed. I am with people getting to know each other before marriage," she said.

To Al Ablani, divorce among newlyweds occurs when the couple gets into a marriage without agreeing on vital day-to-day issues.

"We see newlyweds getting into disagreements, being unable to communicate and rushing into arguments until they get to a point where they can't live with one another and find an easy way out in getting a divorce," she explained. 

During her interview, the researcher also spoke out against marriages arranged by parents.

"Arranged marriages are one of the causes of divorce in many cases because parents are deciding who their son or daughter is going to marry. A mother describes a partner to her son based on her own perception of beauty. Her son's perception might be completely different. What he wants in a wife is up to him, a parent should have nothing to do with that," she added.

Her statements sparked a heated online debate across the ultra-conservative kingdom and have led to a controversy that has yet to quiet down.

Some agreed with Al Ablani's point of view

"This has always been my opinion on this but no one listened." 

"I strongly agree"

However, many want things to stay the same

"In the old days divorce rates weren't high." 

Some believe divorce is better than couples meeting before marriage

"Divorce isn't shameful... what is shameful is to start an official relationship in a prohibited manner and not know if it'll continue or fail or end up in divorce." 

Others raised this point

"The problem isn't with getting to know one another. In neighboring countries, most couples marry after dating and divorce rates are still high. The main causes of divorce are couples lacking knowledge about marriage, trying to imitate other couples, and not being patient and enduring." 

"The causes of divorce have nothing to do with traditional or love marriages"

"There are four causes of divorce, including: 

1) Suspicion between couples 

2) Not agreeing on things 

3) Not respecting one another

4) Family members intervening in the couple's lives."

Explanation regarding Al Ablani's statement was released to lessen the heat

Maali Al Mouwaten's host, Ali Al Alayani, defended Al Ablani's statement in the next day's episode, saying people misunderstood her point of view on the matter. 

Many individuals attacked the social researcher with degrading expressions, to which Al Alayani responded with: "Who's behind rallying people against someone who said something they probably didn't mean, or since we're tied to a two-minute report we had to edit her words so it was understood differently? [...] You can't hide your photo and change your name and then diss people's daughters."