The infamous wife-beating verse:
Men are the managers of the affairs of women for that God has preferred in bounty one of them over another, and for that they have expended of their property. Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for God's guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them. If they then obey you, look not for any way against them; God is All-high, All-great. (Qur'an 4:34)
This is, of course, an extremely controversial verse, so it is worth noting how several translators render the key part of this verse, وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ, waidriboohunna.
Pickthall: “and scourge them”
Yusuf Ali: “(And last) beat them (lightly)”
Al-Hilali/Khan: “(and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful)”
Shakir: “and beat them”
Sher Ali: “and chastise them”
Khalifa: “then you may (as a last alternative) beat them”
Arberry: “and beat them”
Rodwell: “and scourge them”
Sale: “and chastise them”
Daryabadi: "and beat them"
Asad: “then beat them”
Dawood: "and beat them"
Laleh Bakhtiar, in a recent translation that has received wide publicity, translates it as “go away from them.” In light of this unanimity among the translators, both Muslim and non-Muslim, this seems difficult to sustain – all of these authorities got the passage wrong until Bakhtiar? But her impulse is understandable, as many Muslims today regard this verse with acute embarrassment. Muhammad Asad adduces numerous traditions in which Muhammad “forbade the beating of any woman,” concluding that wife-beating is “barely permissible, and should preferably be avoided.”
Unfortunately, however, this is not a unanimous view. The Qur'an commentary Ruhul Ma’ani gives four reasons that a man may beat his wife: “if she refuses to beautify herself for him,” if she refuses sex when he asks for it, if she refuses to pray or perform ritual ablutions, and “if she goes out of the house without a valid excuse.” Also, Muhammad’s example is normative for Muslims, since he is an “excellent example of conduct” (Qur’an 33:21) – and Aisha reports that Muhammad struck her. Once he went out at night after he thought she was asleep, and she followed him surreptitiously. Muhammad saw her, and, as Aisha recounts: “He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you?” (Sahih Muslim 2127)
Wife-beating exists in all cultures, but only in Islam does it enjoy divine sanction. Amnesty International reports that “according to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, over 90% of married women report being kicked, slapped, beaten or sexually abused when husbands were dissatisfied by their cooking or cleaning, or when the women had ‘failed’ to bear a child or had given birth to a girl instead of a boy.”
Aisha herself said it: “I have not seen any woman suffering as much as the believing women.” (Sahih Bukhari 7.72.715)