I am reading parts of the phenomenal new Study Quran (which I cannot recommend highly enough). Discussion of individual verses is thorough, academically sober, and highly informative. It does not attempt to explain away passages that are clearly contrary to the Western zeitgeist. This is no modernist or liberal commentary on the Quran (sorry Quilliam). Here is an example concerning men’s roles vis-à-vis their wives and families.
First the new translation of verse 4:34 and then the commentary:
Men are the upholders and maintainers of women by virtue of that in which God has favoured some of them above others and by virtue of their spending from their wealth.
This verse is the clearest statement of a man’s role and authority in the martial relationship as head of the household in relation to his responsibility to provide for his wife. Other verses suggest mutuality in the relationship between husband and wife (2:187, 233), but this verse indicates a hierarchy from a certain perspective between the two, at least on the social plane (see also 2:228). This verse identifies men as the upholders and maintainers (qawwamun) of women (the Arabic may also be translated “managers” or “guardians,” although not in the sense of guardians over minors or the mentally incompetent), and this has traditionally been understood to mean that men are entitled to expect certain kinds of behaviour on the part of their wives and that they have the right and duty to supervise, educate, and discipline them or to command or prohibit them.
Men have this position by virtue of that in which God has favoured some of them above others, which, because it repeats the almost identical phrasing v.32, likely refers to men’s greater share in inheritance relative to women, and by virtue of their spending from their wealth, that is, to support the women. Thus many interpret the verse as referring to the greater financial assets of men and their spending of these assets on the bridal gift and maintenance for their wives – that is, these additional assets constitute a favour (combined with responsibility) God gives to men, but one that, in principle, comes back to women in the form of marital support.