Marriage is a consenting contract based on the mutual agreement of the two spouses.
It does not require special formalities in Shari’a.
But it has its religious importance as a fulfillment of the human nature as created by God (30:21), which comes out in a unique physical, psychological and legal relation that the Quran describes as a “most solemn pledge or covenant” (4:21)
According to the Prophet’s hadith, the woman’s agreement is essential for the marriage, and her parents or others cannot impose on her to marry anyone whom she does not like to marry.
Besides, unlike other religious practices or legal systems, it is the husband’s obligation in Islam to pay a dowry to the wife:
“…And unto those with whom you (believing men) desire to enjoy marriage, you shall give the dowry due to them; but you are allowed after (having agreed upon) this lawful due, to freely agree with one another upon anything else: behold God is indeed all knowing, all-wise.”(4:24, see also 4:4)
This dowry becomes the full possession of the wife, and her husband cannot claim it back in case of divorce:
“But if you desire to give up a wife and to take another in her stead, do not take away anything of what you have given the first one, however much it may have been. Would you, perchance, take it away after you have given yourselves to one another, and she has received the most solemn and serious pledge from you!”(4:20-21)
However, if the divorce occurs before any sexual relation, the wife stilly enjoys the right on half of the dowry that the husband previously agreed upon unless she forgoes her right on the half, or the ex-husband forgoes his right on the other half and decides to leave for her the dowry in full (2:237).
For a divorce before fixing any dowry, a provision should be offered for the divorced women by her ex-husband:
“(In such a case) make provision for them- the affluent according to his means, and the straitened according to his means-a provision in an equitable manner this is a duty upon all who would do good.” (2:236)
In the Islamic law, a prerequisite for marriage is the husband’s ability to provide what is needed for a decent and comfortable life.
However, because marriage is a human necessity and a religious duty, Shari’a hold the Islamic state responsible for facilitating marriage.
Besides securing work with fair wages and conditions for everyone, the state should offer material assistance to the married couple (e.g. financing, housing, etc.) when this is deemed necessary.
While Islamic law protects family relations between husband and wife and maintains clearly the rights and obligations of each partner, Islamic teachings nurture this relationship with love and tenderness, as previously mentioned (31:21).
Islam teaches that a bite of food that a husband may put in his wife’s mouth in a happy moment or when she is too busy to care about eating is a good deed that is urged and rewarded by God.
The couple should always keep in mind that each has to show the other one’s best physically and morally.
Marriage has to fulfill nature relationship between man and woman in all its dimensions, and both have to care about one’s physical appearance and appeal to one another, as well as the psychological compliment of another.
The material and moral harmony in the family life is stressed in the Quran in concentrated impressive words such as “consorting one another in a goodly manner” (4:19), or in this simple and touching allegory: “ they (the wise) are garment for you (husbands), and you are garments for them.” (2:187)
In spite of the full equality of men and women as individuals and as spouses, it is fair to make the man primarily responsible for sustaining his wife during the pregnancy and subsequent natal care.
It is a responsibility and a duty, and not superiority or a privilege:
“Men shall take care of women with what God has bestowed on the former and with what they have to spend of their possessions.” (4:34)
Equal rights and mutual responsibilities of husband and wife should be practiced in an acceptable way and without bitterness.
In this regard the husband has more responsibilities that he should fulfill with kindness and generosity,:
“And the rights of the wives (with regard to their husbands) are equal to the obligations that they have (toward their husbands), but men have a precedence (in responsibilities).” (2:228)
Ref: Fathi, Mohamed Osman. Muslim Women The Family And Society.