Muslims call their marriage ‘nikah’. Marriage among the Muslims is regarded not as a religious sacrament but as a secular bond. The important objectives of Muslim marriage are – control over sex, ordering of domestic life, procreation of children and perceptual increase of family, and upbringing of children.
i. Marriage as a Civil Contract. According to Roland Wilson , “Muslim marriage is a contract for the purpose of legalising sexual intercourse and the procreation of children.”
ii. S.C. Sarkar  has also said that “marriage among Muslims is not a sacrament but purely a civil contract.”
iii. Marriage is a Religious Duty Also. On the basis of the above statement it should not be concluded that the Muslim marriage does not have any religious significance. Marriage in the Muslim society is a religious duty also.
It is devotion and an act of “ibadat” [or religious duty]. It is believed that a person who does comply with it is rewarded in the next world, and he who does not, commits a sin. Hence, Jang  has maintained that ‘nikah’, though essentially a contract is also a devotional act.
Characteristic Features or Preconditions of Muslim Marriage:
The important pre-conditions or characteristics of valid Muslim marriage called “Nikah” are as follows.
1. Marriage Proposal and its Acceptance – Ijab and Qubul:
As marriage is a civil contract in Islam, a proposal for the marriage and the acceptance of the proposal are essential. The bridegroom makes a proposal to the bride just before the wedding ceremony in the presence of two witnesses and a “mauvli” or kazi [Muslim priest].
The proposal is called ‘ijab’ and its acceptance is called ‘Qubul’. These two words must be uttered clearly before the assembled persons by the bride and the bridegroom or by their agents of sound mind. It is necessary that both the proposal and its acceptance must take place at the same meeting to make it a “sahi nikah” [or “regular marriage”].
2. Capacity of a Person to Contract Marriage:
This is the second condition of marriage according to which only adult persons of sound mind can enter into a marriage contract. Child marriages and marriages of people of unsound mind are not recognised. However, the marriage of a minor could be contracted by his or her guardians.
3. Observance of the Doctrine of Equality:
It is a matter of tradition among the Muslims to have marriage among equals. Though there is no legal prohibition to contract marriage with a person of low status, such marriages are looked down upon.
The run-away marriages called ‘kifa’ [girls running away with boys and marrying them on their own choice] are not recognised. Marrying idolators and slaves is also not approved. [Among the sunnis, social inferiority on the part of bridegroom could be a ground for cancellation of marriage but not among the Shias].
4. Preference System in the Male Selection:
There is traditional insistence on the preferential system in mate selection. For example, a person is expected to give preferences to his cousins and of the cousins, first preference to parallel cousins [chachera cousins or father’s brother’s daughter] and next to the ‘cross cousins’ [mamera cousins or mother’s brother’s daughter’.
But these days no such preferences are given to cousin marriages. A person can prefer to marry his deceased or divorced wife’s sister. But a widow cannot give preference to marry her deceased husband’s brother.
5. Marriage should be Free from Legal Complications:
Muslim marriage can be called “sahi nikah” [valid marriage] only if it is not against ‘shariah’.