The passage in question is this one:
الرِّجَالُ قَوَّامُونَ عَلَى النِّسَاءِ بِمَا فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ وَبِمَا أَنْفَقُوا مِنْ أَمْوَالِهِمْ ۚ فَالصَّالِحَاتُ قَانِتَاتٌ حَافِظَاتٌ لِلْغَيْبِ بِمَا حَفِظَ اللَّهُ ۚ وَاللَّاتِي تَخَافُونَ نُشُوزَهُنَّ فَعِظُوهُنَّ وَاهْجُرُوهُنَّ فِي الْمَضَاجِعِ وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ ۖ فَإِنْ أَطَعْنَكُمْ فَلَا تَبْغُوا عَلَيْهِنَّ سَبِيلًا ۗ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيًّا كَبِيرًا
—Surah 4. An-Nisaa, Ayah 34
The source page goes on to helpfully offer the following interpretations of the above passage in four reputed translations of the Quran.
From Muhammad Asad's The Message of The Qur'an (1980):
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. And 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!
From Muhammad Farooq-i-Azam Malik's Al-Qur'an: Guidance for Mankind (1997):
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 disobedience, first admonish them, then refuse to share your bed with them, and then, if necessary, beat them. 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.
From Marmaduke Pickthall's The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (1930):
Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath men 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.
From Yusuf Ali's The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary (1934):
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct admonish them (first) (next) refuse to share their beds (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience seek not against them means (of annoyance): for Allah is Most High Great (above you all).
Three out of the four translations use the word beat while the fourth prefers scourge. Both the modern translations prefer beat. As for scourge, the following is a current dictionary definition:
- historical Whip (someone) as a punishment
- Cause great suffering to
Re: "historical", considering that Pickthall's translation is from 1930, here's the entry for scourge from the 1913 Webster:
- To whip severely; to lash.
- To punish with severity; to chastise; to afflict, as for sins or faults, and with the purpose of correction.
- To harass or afflict severely.
Wikipedia has a (generously referenced) page dedicated to Islam and Domestic Violence with sections on interpretations that support/do not support wife-beating. From the "to beat" section:
Some Islamic scholars and commentators have emphasized that beatings, even where permitted, are not to be harsh or some even contend that they should be "more or less symbolic." According to Abdullah Yusuf Ali and Ibn Kathir, the consensus of Islamic scholars is that the above verse describes a light beating.
From the "not to beat" section on a different possible translation of the word in question (idribu) to possibly mean "go away" rather than "beat":
This translation is negated however by the fact that most definitions of daraba in Edward William Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon are related to physical beating and that when the root word daraba and its derivatives are used in the Qur'an in relation to humans or their body parts, it exclusively means physically beating or striking them, e.g. in Qur'an 2:7337:93, 8:12, 8:50, 47:4 and 47:27.
(I have not followed up on any of the provided references.)
Finally, a legal interpretation from the UAE (2010):
A court in the United Arab Emirates says a man is permitted under Islamic law to physically discipline his wife and children as long as he leaves no marks and has tried other methods of punishment, the country's top court ruled.
(In the case being ruled on, a man caused injuries that left marks on his wife and daughter and was therefore convicted.)
In conclusion, yes, this passage (Surah 4:34) of the Quran advises men to physically discipline (possibly "lightly") their disobedient wives.