The Muslim Marriage Contract
The Qur'an and Sunnah contain all the seeds necessary for Islamic practices. So, what are the rules on marriage contracts?
The Islamic marriage contract is meant to solidify these bonds and specify stipulations important to the woman and the man. In Islam this document is a civil contract, not a religious sacrament. In fiqh it is listed undermu'amalat
(business transactions). The contract should be drawn up with the intent of safeguarding present and future legal rights of the signatories, should encourage marital harmony, and should include stipulations in keeping with the spirit of the Qur'an and Sunnah. Stipulations should be clear, precise, and, where applicable, refer to exact amounts. Any stipulations about future children should reflect a sincere attempt to provide the best atmosphere for rearing Allah-conscious children. The overall purpose of this contract, as in all other acts of a Muslim, is to please Allah.
The Qur'an (4:34) declares men to beqawwamun,
protectors and maintainers of women, and considers them responsible for the upkeep of the family regardless of the wife's health. This includes responsibility for children, which continues even after divorce.
Often this ayah has been, but should not be, construed as a license to treat the wife as a pubescent child. We know from the consistently respectful and equitable behavior of the Prophet with his wives and other Muslim women that he considered them owners of their own cognizance, and capable of reasoned thought. Allah (33:35) and Allah's Prophet promoted in both females and males personal consciousness of Islamic precepts and physical capability.
According to current thinking in all madhahib (schools of thought), the wife is charged with three main responsibilities toward her husband: gratifying his sexual desires, safeguarding her honor and person in his absence, and guarding his physical property.
Notice no reference is made to cooking, cleaning, or even nursing of children. These are not requirements in Islamic law, as the Prophet said the woman who performs these services does so out of the goodness of her heart. This is reported by Bukhari.
Beyond these few determined responsibilities, a married couple may devise any type of marital lifestyle that they both agree upon, and are beholden to no other couple's idea of what a "proper" marriage should be.