Islam and Marriage
"And among His signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in peace and tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts: Verily in that are signs for those who reflect" - Quran 30:21
"O Humans revere your Guardian Lord, Who created you from a single person created of like nature its mate, and from this scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. Reverence Allah through Whom you claim your mutual rights" - Quran 4:1
In the Islamic tradition, marriage is considered to be a contract rather than a sacrament and, as such, is viewed as a civil agreement under Islamic Law.
As in most religions, the marriage contract is intended to make lawful sexual relations between a man and a woman and legitimize the offspring of those relations. It also infers specific and agreed upon rights to both individuals. These rights are differentiated by gender, but have common ground in the expectation of mutual respect and responsible treatment by each other.
In Muslim marriage traditions, the husband is expected to provide a dowry to the wife. This dowry is hers to use as she sees fit. In return for this dowry, the husband gains what is considered ownership of the marriage and the wife. He alone has the authority to end a marriage by a statement of repudiation. For the wife to end a marriage, either she must pay her husband for release or appeal to the legal authorities for permission.
Historically, a man can enter into marriages to more than one woman and it is expected that these wives share the relationship with their husband. All wives are expected to be faithful and be always available for sexual intimacy. In return, the husband is expected to provide support and protection to his wife/wives and their children.
From the religious perspective of the Quran, both men and woman are made from the same soul and are considered equal in the eyes of Allah. The Prophet Mohammad said, "men and women are twin halves of each other," which reinforces the notion of human equality of the genders and the shared and independent nature of men and women and their relationships.
In Islam, the basic premise for marriage is to achieve peace and tranquility in a relationship. The tenets of Islam proclaim that justice, fairness, equality, and mercy are essential in building such a relationship.
In addition to these basic elements to a successful Islamic marriage, there is the concept of love. Love in the Islamic tradition is based in the context of legal marriage. The only allowable expression of love between a man and a woman is by the establishment of a marriage under Islamic law. All expression of love is an expression for the sake of Allah and to gain his pleasure.
It is common to have a ceremony a few days before the wedding. Called the Mehndi ceremony, it is held at the bride's home where the bride's female relatives use turmeric paste to anoint the hands and feet of the bride. It is customary for the bride to remain at her home until the marriage ceremony and to not leave the house.
On the day of the wedding, the groom and his entourage arrive. The first order of business is to share a ceremonial drink with the brother of the bride before the wedding ceremony begins. The wedding ceremony, Nikaah, is performed by a priest, Maulvi, in the presence of the immediate families and relatives. After readings from the Quran, and after the groom has proposed and the bride has accepted, the Nikaah is complete. The families of the bride and groom are responsible for deciding on the traditional gift, Mehar, which is paid by the groom's family to the bride.
At this time the marriage contract, the Nikaahnam is signed by the bride, groom, fathers, and priest making the marriage legal under Islamic Law.
Once confirmed and the blessings have been made, the wedding party convenes for the traditional wedding feast. The men and women usually dine separately, and after dinner the bride and groom are allowed to sit together where they read prayers from the Quran. It is customary for the newlyweds to see each other only through mirrors.
With the marriage ceremonies completed, the bride departs with her new husband and goes to his house to take up married life. By custom, her mother in law holds the Quran above her head as she enters her husband's house and again, by custom, on the fourth day after the wedding, the bride visits her parents.