They always emphasise that Quran is best explained through Sunnah of Prophet (pbuh), known as living Quran by the mother of believers Hazrat Ayesha (R.A). He never beat any one of his wives. Rather he said: “Could any of you beat his wife as he would beat a slave, and then lie with her in the evening?”(Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Sahih Bukhari;8.68 and Muslim).
There is need to look in to the matter deeply to be careful not to be like scholars of the people of the book: "There are some among them who distort the Book by the way they speak to make you think that what they say is from the Book, whereas it is not. They say it is from God whereas it is not. Thus they tell a lie about God and they know it." (Quran;3:78)
Domestic violence is very old menace, Arabs were no exception, and their maltreatment to women is a well known historic fact. They used to beat their women on small matters as it is still vogue in all the underdeveloped as well as the most developed societies of the world, where special laws have been made to discourage it. In the year 1995 in USA alone the lawmakers showed a heightened awareness of and sensitivity to domestic violence, with several states increasing penalties for abusers. New York enacted the omnibus Family Protection and Domestic Violence Act, and Maryland passed three new domestic-violence laws. Colorado passed five domestic-violence bills, including one that mandated arrest for the violation of a restraining order and jail time for a second offense. Virginia passed a number of laws with stiffer penalties for domestic violence, while Michigan had 14 new laws that would help in prevention and prosecution. This menace was handled in Islam objectively, by formulating the guidelines where by men can not resort to use of force against their wives as per their wish every now and then on minor matters. Allah says in Qur’an: “Men are overseers over women because Allah has given the one more strength than other, and because men are required to spend their wealth for the maintenance of women. Honorable women are, therefore, devoutly obedient and guard in the husband's absence what Allah require them to guard their husband's property and their own honor. As to those women from whom you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, first admonish them, then refuse to share your bed with them, and (and last) if necessary beat them (lightly); Then if they obey you, take no further actions against them and do not make excuses to punish them. Allah is Supremely Great and is aware of your actions.”(Qur’an;4:34).
It is evident from many authentic Traditions that the Prophet himself intensely detested the idea of beating one’s wife and said on more than one occasion, “Could any of you beat his wife as he would beat a slave, and then lie with her in the evening?”(Sahih Bukhari;8.68 and Muslim).
With all this, he stipulated in his sermon the occasion of the Farewell Pilgrimage, shortly before his death that, beating should be resorted to only if the wife “has become guilty, in an obvious manner, of immoral conduct”, and that it should be done “in such a way as not to cause pain (ghayar mubarrih)”; authentic Traditions to this effect are found in Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood, Nasa’I and Ibn Majah.
On the basis of these Traditions, all the authorities stress that this “beating”, if resorted to at all, should be more or less symbolic – “with a toothbrush (muswak), or some such thing” (Tibri, quoting the views of scholars of the earliest times), or even “with a folded handkerchief” (Razi); and some of the greatest Muslim scholars (e.g., Ash-Safi’i) are of the opinion that it is just barely permissible, and should preferably be avoided: and they justify this opinion by the Prophet’s personal feelings with regard to this problem. [Commentary by M.Asad].
In case all the efforts fail the family council is recommended in the next verse:
“If you fear a breach of marriage between a man and his wife, appoint one arbiter from his family and another from hers; if they wish to reconcile, Allah will create a way of reconciliation between them. Allah is the Knowledgeable, Aware.”(Qur’an;4:35).
Allah says: “You have indeed, in the life of Messenger of Allah, the 'Best Model' for him whose hope is in Allah and the Day of the Hereafter, and who engages himself much in the remembrance of Allah.”(Qur’an;33:21), “Obey Allah and obey His messenger;” (Qur’an;64:12). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is not reported to have used force against his wives. In fact he has been very kind to them. Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu'minin: Habibah daughter of Sahl was the wife of Thabit ibn Qays Shimmas. He beat her and broke some of her part. So she came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) after morning, and complained to him against her husband. The Prophet (peace be upon him) called on Thabit ibn Qays and said (to him): Take a part of her property and separate yourself from her. He asked: Is that right, Apostle of Allah? He said: Yes. He said: I have given her two gardens of mine as a dower, and they are already in her possession. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Take them and separate yourself from her. (Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith Number. 915). Narrated Laqit ibn Sabirah: Messenger of Allah, I have a wife who has something (wrong) in her tongue, i.e. she is insolent. He said: Then divorce her. I said: Messenger of Allah, she had company with me and I have children from her. He said: Then ask her (to obey you). If there is something good in her, she will do so (obey); and do not beat your wife as you beat your slave-girl. (Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith Number. 72).
Narrated Mu'awiyah ibn Haydah: I said: Apostle of Allah, how should we approach our wives and how should we leave them? He replied: Approach your tilth when or how you will, give her (your wife) food when you take food, clothe when you clothe yourself, do not revile her face, and do not beat her. (Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith Number. 878).
It may be reasonable to conclude that it is permissible (not compulsory, undesirable) for the husband to use force lightly under extreme circumstance involving disloyalty and ill-conduct by his wife but only after fulfilling certain conditions i.e. first admonishing, then declining to share bed with her. It is obvious that these are not abrupt or emotional acts but, rational and gradual actions which should result in corrective positive response from the wife. If she obeys, then it is forbidden to take any further actions against her or to make excuses to punish, since the matter stands resolved. However if she does not improve her conduct, then the other option is divorce, but prior to it a light coercive action (just barely permissible, and should preferably be avoided) may save the marriage. It is obvious that any pious and sane woman will not create such conditions; she may desist during first two steps. The killing of women on suspicion of ill-conduct termed as ‘Honor Killing’ (karokari) prevalent in many societies is totally against teachings of Islam.