1. Laws Pertaining to Marriage in Islam.

Marriage in Islam is not considered as a sacrament but rather as a civil contract between a man and his wife. The Qur'an describes it as a mithaq, a "covenant" (Surah 4.21). The Muslim marriage ( nikah) is performed through a ceremony at which a local judge, a qadi, officiates. In many cases only the husband is present at the ceremony with a representative of the bride's family and, in the presence of two relevant witnesses, the parties express their consent to the marriage. The qadi then makes a formal announcement that the marriage contract is concluded.

After this the husband is joined to his bride at the wedding reception (walimah) where a feast takes place. In modern times, especially in Muslim communities that are Westernised, the prospective husband may personally choose a bride of his own choice and negotiations between the two families will be conducted to arrange the marriage. The woman has the right to refuse. In other Muslim lands, however, even to this day, marriages are arranged without the husband and wife even meeting before the ceremony is concluded.

A marriage broker, usually an old woman who has access to the women's quarters, is often employed to find out what marriageable girls are available. The first steps are taken by the man's family; it is the custom to get a friend to approach the father of the girl; if it is felt that the families are well matched socially, negotiations can begin in earnest. ( Tritton , Islam, p. 131).

Once again customs differ in the various parts of the Muslim world. The husband is also obliged to give his wife a dowry, a mahr, at the time of the marriage (Surah 4.4). No amount is fixed - the parties agree independently on its extent. If there should later be a divorce between the parties the man may not reclaim this dowry.

But if ye decide to take one wife in place of another, even if ye had given the latter a whole treasure for dower, take not the least bit of it back: Would ye take it by slander and a manifest wrong? Surah 4.20

According to the Qur'an Muslims are free to marry fellow -Muslims but they are forbidden to marry women from idolatrous communities unless they embrace Islam (Surah 2.221).

They are, however, expressly allowed to marry upright women from the uwtul-Kitab, the "people of the Book", meaning Jews and Christians and followers of any other religion recognised as adherents of a faith with a revealed scripture ( Surah 5.6).

Thus it will be seen that while there is a clear prohibition to marry idolaters or idolatresses, there is express permission to marry women who profess a revealed religion ( Ahl al-Kitab). And, as the Qur'an states that revelation was granted to all nations of the world and that it was only the Arab idolaters who had not been warned, the conclusion is evident that it was only with the Arab idolaters that marriage relations were prohibited, and that it was lawful for a Muslim to marry a woman belonging to any other nation of the world that follows a revealed religion. (Ali, The Religion of Islam , p. 506).

There is a hadith, however, which scorns the idea that a Muslim should take a Christian woman to wife where she doe not abandon her Christian faith:

Narrated Nafi: Whenever Ibn Umar was asked about marrying a Christian lady or a Jewess, he would say. "Allah has made it unlawful for the believers to marry ladies who ascribe partners in worship to Allah, and I do not know of a greater thing, as regards to ascribing partners in worship, etc., to Allah, than that a lady should say that Jesus is her Lord although he is just one of Allah's slaves". (Sahih al-Bukhari , Vol. 7, p. 155).

In any event Muslim women are not allowed to marry adherents of another religion This concession is allowed to Muslim men only. If a Christian woman becomes a Muslim while her husband retains his Christian faith, she is entitled to divorce him. This is one of the few cases where a woman in Islam has the right to initiate a divorce.

The Qur'an follows the Bible in also forbidding marriages between persons within very close degrees of family relationships (Surah 4.23). It also makes the husband the head of the family and requires the wife to submit to him and care for the common household:

Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more (strength) than the other and because they support them from their means. Surah 4.34

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