In verse 2:221 of the Holy Quran, Allah (swt) forbids Muslim men from marrying idolatresses till they do not embrace Islam. The Quran says that a believing slave girl is far better than a free woman who is a polytheist.
It is unlawful for the Muslim men from getting married to their mother, daughters, sisters, paternal aunts, maternal aunts, niece, nephews, foster mother, foster mother’s daughters, mother-in-law, step-daughters (who are under the guardianship of the men) born of their wife with whom the men had sexual intercourse, daughter-in-laws and getting married to two sisters simultaneously. This law which prevents men from getting married to the above-mentioned women is mentioned in 4:23.
In order to understand the rulings mentioned in 4:19, we may first have to delve into the history. During the Jahilliyah period, when a man used to die, his family members used to inherit his widow, along with the other property of the deceased. They would either used to get married to her them self or would get her married to their nephews, without her consent. In fact, there was a custom that the step son would inherit his father’s widow and get married to her. If some other cases they used to force her to a life of widowhood by preventing her from getting married according to her own wish. Another form of cruelty that was inflicted on the women of Jahilliyah was that if a man did not like his wife then he would not divorce her. Instead he would maltreat her to the extent that the wife would herself return to him the dower/meher, so that she could get rid of him. In the verse 4:19, Quran puts an end to these atrocities inflicted on womenfolk. If the wife is foul-mouthed or if she indulges in adultery and disobedience towards her husband then only does Islam permit the man to mistreat his wife so much that she herself tries to take khulla and break the marriage. Otherwise, the Muslim men have been instructed to behave with their wife in a respectful way in this verse. A Muslim man is not expected to hold a grudge against his Muslim wife. If he resents a particular habit of his wife, then he may also be pleased with some other trait of hers. If a man dislikes his wife’s insolence and rebelliousness then he should not rush into divorcing her. Instead he should remain calm and patient. Allah (swt) may grant him with a virtuous child through his wife. Islam, thereby, aims to strengthen the marital bond by instilling in the husband and wife qualities such as love, understanding, patience and mutual respect for each other. Unfortunately, some Muslim men defy these Quranic injunctions and divorce their wives on trivial grounds. By doing so these men actually misuse the right to divorce, which has been granted to them by their religion. This right to divorce is meant to be exercised only under extreme situations in which there is no way out. It is not meant to be exercised impulsively for breaking one’s home, inflicting cruelty on one’s wife or for destroying the future of the children. The inappropriate use of this right by some Muslim men has also affected the image of Islam, adversely.