Interpretations don’t arise due to geography, so there’s no such thing as a western interpretation of any passage of any scripture.
But anyways :p, you asked a good question. The majority of surah 4 is about marriage rights, inheritance rights and stuff like that. It’s very technical and dry in some spots. So, verse 34 that quoted, the context starts at at verse 26, which says “Allah doth wish to make clear to you and to show you the ordinances of those before you; and (He doth wish to) turn to you (In Mercy): And Allah is All-knowing, All-wise”. So, what we have here is Allah saying that these ordinances, in the following verses, are ordinances from Him. That’s important, because whenever it is said “Well, this group says it’s OK to do this and that it’s OK to treat your wife such-and-such way”, it is necessary to go back to the Qur’an, preferably in arabic, to conform one’s views to the verses therein.
Back to verse 34. It’s written in between verses 33 and 35, which both talk about inheritance and marital disagreements, so therefore, verse 34 is specifically talking about a man and woman who are married to each other. Verse 34 starts out by saying that men are the protectors and/or maintainers of women inasmuch as it’s a man’s responsibility to look out for his wife. Of course, the wife needs to do the same for her husband, but men have a degree of higher responsibilty to protect their wives; men have more physical strength than women do, so when danger comes, it’s a man’s responsibility to protect his wife and family.
Moreover, it’s a man’s duty to provide [financially] for both his wife and his family. Nowhere in the Qur’an or in the Sunnah will you find obligations put upon women to provide. Of course, there were women with jobs in Muhammad’s time and there are women today with jobs, but within the context of marriage, the wife doesn’t have to provide a thing. The money she earns, she can do with it what she pleases. The money that the husband earns must be distributed, primarily, with his wife and kids [if he has any] in mind. That’s what it means to be the protector of the household; the man is the head of the household.
In the next phrase, it is said “Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard…” I’m using Yusuf Ali’s translation, but Sahih International is fine. I have it on my Kindle and I quite like it. Righteous women are obediant, but what kind of obediance is this talking about? the obediance wherein they guard what Allah tells them to guard (meaning their modesty, household and such). To whom is this obediance due? well, it says that they guard what Allah would have them guard, so, clearly, this is referring to obediance to Allah.
Wallahi, that is so profoundly important, because many men who are professing muslims will see that word “obediance” and say “See? she has to obey me! I can tell her to do whatever I want”, but that’s not what the verse is talking about. These men wanted to hear that, so they read that into the text. A wife’s obediance is first and foremost to Allah azza wa jal. The husband doesn’t get to stomp his foot and boss her around. She has rights, just as the husband has rights. These are women we’re talking about here-- not cattle.
I’ll continue this is another post, insha Allah [God willing].