We turn now to the procedures of marriage in Islam. When a girl reaches the age of marriage it is customary for the Muslim parents to play a major role in the choice of the husband, but she must be consulted. It is reported that when a girl came to the Prophet complaining that she had been married without being consulted, the Prophet directed that she was free to have the marriage dissolved if she wished.
Nowadays educated Muslim girls are having a greater say in the choice of husband, but it is still considered that the parents' opinion of the boy is of great importance, and it is rare part of the Muslim tradition for either to be married with the consent of their parents or guardians.
A widow or a divorcee however may marry whoever she wishes, presumably because she is considered to have enough maturity and experience to decide for herself.
When a girl or woman is married it is an essential part of the marriage for the bridegroom to give her a dowry (mahr), which may be of any value agreed upon. This dowry is not like the old European dowry which was given by a father to a daughter on her marriage and thence became the husband's property. Nor is the Muslim dowry like the African "bride-price" which is paid by the bridegroom to the father as a form of payment or compensation. The Muslim dowry is a gift from the bridegroom to the bride and it becomes her exclusive property. (It remains her property even if she is later divorced. In the case of Khul'_ that is, divorce at the wife's request, she may be required to pay back all or part of the dowry.)
The treatment expected from the husband, whether or not he is on good terms with his wife, is clearly laid down in the Qur'an:
"Live with them in kindness; even if you dislike them, perhaps you dislike something in which Allah has placed much good" (4:19).
Another important benefit to wives in Islam is that in the moral sphere there is no dual standard. Whatever may be the habit of men the world over of blaming women for actions which they condone in themselves, according to the Qur'an and the teachings of the Prophet, Allah requires the same high standard of moral conduct from men as it does from women, and has imposed the same legal penalities on men and women for infringement of the moral laws. This will be illustrated by examples later in this paper.
Even if divorce is decided on, the good treatment referred to before is still required. The Qur'an says:
"Then keep them in all decency or part from them decently. It is not lawful for you to take anything you have given them" (2:229).
Thus Qur'an also says:
"Once you divorce women and they have reached the end of their waiting period, then either retain them in all decency or part from them in decency. Do not retain them unjustly so that you exceed the limit; anyone who does that merely hurts himself" (2:231)
Kind treatment of wives and families is a part of the religion in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad has said:
"From among the believers are those who have the kindest disposition and are kindest to their families, such are those who show most perfect faith".
And according to another hadith:
"The best among you are those who are kindest to their wives".
Divorce is taken to be a last resort in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad said:
"Of all the things Allah has permitted, the one He most dislikes is divorce".