|(I am using Muhammad Asad's translation of the Qur'an, as I feel it is one of the most thorough, complete, and concise English explanations of the Qur'an I have read.)|
<< Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High, Exalted, Great. >>
I'd like to take a few phrases from above and try to explain them more fully, first.
<< Men are in charge of women >>
The Arabic expression used here is qawwam which is an intensive, more comprehensive form of qa'im (meaning one who is responsible for or takes care of) and which combines the concepts of physical maintenance and protection as well as of moral responsibility. Therefore, perhaps a more complete translation would read "Men shall take full care of women" not "Men are in charge of women."
<< So good women are the obedient >>
This may leave one to wonder to whom good women are obedient. The answer is "to God."
<< As for those from whom ye fear rebellion >>
The problem here is that rebellion is the literal translation but does not give a good sense of the severity of the "rebellion." The Arabic term nushuz comprises every kind of deliberate bad behavior towards another, including mental or physical cruelty (depending on whether the rebellion is referring to the wife or the husband). In this context, a wife's nushuz implies a deliberate, persistent breach of her marital obligations.
<< admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. >>
The "and"s imply that all these things should be done. Rather, it is a progression: "admonish them first; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them."
This is Muhammad Asad's translation of the same verse.
Men shall take full care of women with the bounties which God has bestowed more abundantly on the former than on the latter, and with what they may spend out of their possessions. And the righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has [ordained to be] guarded.
As for those women whose ill-will you have reason to fear, admonish them [first]; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!
It is important to understand that Muslims are supposed to look for guidance in two sources: the Quran and the authentic teachings/traditions of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). If someone needs further clarification on something in the Quran, they should look to the Prophet's teachings for guidance -- for instance, if someone is confused as to how to interpret the word "beat" in the above verse (i.e., is it a harsh beating or a light or symbolic one, or how often should one resort to this). It is well known from many authentic traditions that the Prophet intensely detested the idea of beating one's wife and, according to another tradition, he forbade the beating of any woman. When the above Quranic verse authorizing the beating of a refractory wife was revealed, the Prophet is reported to have said, "I wanted one thing, but God has willed another thing -- and what God has willed must be best." However, in his Farewell Sermon shortly before his death, the Prophet stipulated that beating should only be resorted to 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." On the basis of these and other authentic traditions, all authorities stress that this "beating," if resorted to at all, should be more or less symbolic -- "with a toothbrush, or some such thing," or even "with a folded handkerchief." Some of the greatest Muslim scholars (e.g., Ash-Shafi'i) are of the opinion that it is just barely permissible and should preferably be avoided since the Prophet's personal feelings about this were so strong.
Now, some might try to say that I'm dodging the question by going to an outside source (the Prophet's teachings) to more fully explain the above verse on beating ones wife. However, there is nothing further from the truth. The Prophet's teachings are extremely important in guiding a Muslim as to how one should live their life. And, in this case, it helps to set the degree and circumstances of something which otherwise could be misinterpreted.
Also, one should not assume that this is the only passage detailing the relationship between a husband and wife. There are verses granting wives full inheritance rights, verses granting wives the right to divorce their husbands and the resulting right of obtaining child support from their husband, verses stressing the mutual obligations of men and women towards one another as a result of marriage, and many, many others.
To address some of the specific questions:
<< a) Based on the translation (which is done by the very source you have provided) and what Webster has defined scourfe is rather meant to imply "Harsh" beating punishment. >>
It's kind of imprecise to go to the dictionary to look up an English word someone chose to use to translate an Arabic word. It may not be practical for you since you probably don't have an Arabic dictionary, but it's preferable to look up the Arabic word to get a more complete explanation, especially since context (both literary and historical) are so important in trying to get a proper English translation of an Arabic word or phrase.
<< b) Why Quran does not provide the same right to women to inflict punishment on their husband? It seems Quran only addresses men, and not the women, and views them as objects to be controlled by the men. >>
Again, if you read the Quran in its entirety I feel you'll get a sense that the Quran very much empowers women and does not "view them as being controlled by the men." There are many verses which address women.
I think I have addressed the "punishment" aspect of the verse. The Quran gives women recompense through the right to divorce their husbands for any reason whatsoever.
Also, throughout the Quran the equality of men and women is addressed. As a simple example, the Quran blames both Adam and Eve equally for their transgression (everyone is responsible for their own sins; you cannot blame another for a sin which you have willfully committed), while the Bible places the blame on Eve.
Please do not think that these explanations are perfect or complete. I would never claim such a thing. One of the fundamental principles of the Qur'an is that all of its statements and ordinances are mutually complementary and cannot, therefore, be correctly understood unless they are considered as parts of one integral whole.