In the Western world the Koranic injunction for husbands to beat their wives seems to be a constant source of embarrassment for those trying to explain Islam to a secular or Christian audience. The way the force of this injunction is muted is to a) argue that Mohammad really loved women and treated them well and b) that "beat them" means "beat them lightly only if it is necessary" (Sura 4:34). Now, anyone who knows me and knows my family knows how well a "light beating" would go over with my missus - the next visitor I'd have would be the coroner. But, that aside, does the Koran really tell husbands to "beat lightly"?
In a word, no. The Koran simply tells husbands to beat their disobedient wives. In most translations of the Koran you find those words in parentheses, indicating that they are added. They are nowhere present in the Arabic text. They are also not implied in the meaning of the word translated thusly. The word in question, daraba, is used to indicate forceful violence. For a very readable article by a non-Muslim Arabic speaker, see here.
A quick YouTube search on "How to Beat Your Wife" will reveal many instructional videos on the practice (all from Islam). Here is one gem. Is it any wonder that it is reported that a woman married to a Muslim is TEN TIMES as likely to be murdered by her husband than a woman married to a non-Muslim in the UK?