First, as you are a revert (May Allah reward you), please allow me to recommend some useful resources that will help you to learn more about Islam.
And see here for a list of books:
Coming to your question, let me first remind you of the lofty status Islam has granted women.
The Qur'an clarifies that piety alone, not gender or ethnicity, determines one's status with God:
Qur'an 49:13. O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most noble among you in the sight of Allah is the most pious. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.
And the Qur'an further says about the rewards for men and women:
Qur'an 3:195 I shall not lose sight of the labor of any of you who labors in My way, be it man or woman; each of you is equal to the other
Qur'an 4:124 If any do deeds of righteousness,- be they male or female - and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them.
Qur'an 16:97 Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, a life that is good and pure and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their actions.
Qur'an 40:40 "He that works evil will not be requited but by the like thereof: and he that works a righteous deed - whether man or woman - and is a Believer- such will enter the Garden (of Bliss): Therein will they have abundance without measure.
33:35 For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise,- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and the greatest reward.
Islam raises the status of the parents and places specific emphasis on one's mother:
Qur'an 31:14 And [God says:] ‘We have enjoined upon man goodness towards his parents: his mother bore him by bearing strain upon strain, and his utter dependence on her lasted two years: [hence, O man,] be grateful towards Me and towards thy parents, [and remember that] with Me is all journeys’ end.”
A man came to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) asking “ O Messenger of God, who among the people is the most worthy of my good company?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said “Your mother”. The man said “then who else?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said “Your mother”. The man asked, “then who else?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied “Your mother” When the man asked for the fourth time, only then did the Prophet (peace be upon him) say, “Your father” ( Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
Shaykh Muhammad Ali Hashimi comments:
“This hadith confirms that the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave precedence to kind treatment of one’s mother over one’s father and the companions of the Prophet used to remind the Muslims of this after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him)”
The famous companion of the Prophet, Abdullah ibn Abbas said, I know of no other deed that brings people closer to Allah more than kind treatment and respect towards ones mother.
Read the following incident from another famous companion, Abdullah Ibn Umar.
Abdullah Ibn Umar saw a Yemeni man performing pilgrimage carrying his mother on his back then the man said to Ibn Umar “ I am like a tame camel for her, I have carried her more than she has carried me! Do you think I have paid her back Ibn Umar?”
Ibn Umar said, “No, not even one contraction!” (Bukhari, Book of Manners)
And we all know the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) “Paradise lies at the feet of your mother” (Musnad Ahmad, Sunan An-Nasaa’i, Sunan Ibn Majah)
Islam has also elevated the status of daughters. The following hadith establishes the unsurpassable reward for kind treatment of one's daugters.
Aisha, wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him), said: “A poor woman came to me carrying her two daughters. I gave her three dates to eat. She gave each child a date, and raised the third to her own mouth to eat it. Her daughters asked her to give it to them, so she split the date that she had wanted to eat between them. I was impressed by what she had done, and told the Messenger of Allah P about it. He said, “Allah has decreed Paradise for her because of it
”. (Sahih Muslim)
And the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Anyone who cares for three daughters, gives them a good upbringing, marries them to good husbands and treats them with compassion, he/she will enter paradise.” A man asked, “What if one only has two, O’ Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Even if one only has two.” Another man asked, “What if one only has one, O’ Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Even if one only has one”. (Sunan Abi Dawud, Musnad Ahmad, Mustadarak Al-Haakim)
And the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever has a daughter born to him, and he did not prefer his son over him, Allah will admit him to Paradise because of her” (Mustadarak Al-Haakim)
And he also specified sisters:
“There is no one who has three daughters, or three sisters, and he treats them well, but Allah will admit him/her to Paradise.” (Bukhari, Book of Manners)
“There is no one among my ummah who has three daughters, or three sisters, and he supports them until they are grown up, but he will be with me in Paradise like this” – and he held up his index and middle fingers together. (Tabaraani)
As for marriage, the Qur'an clarifies that is is a bond of love:
Qur'an 30:21 And among His signs is that He created mates from among yourselves that you may live in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts
Read what the Prophet (peace be upon him) has said in this matter:
“The best of you is the one who is best to his wife” (Sahih Ibn Hibban)
“None but a noble man treats women in an honorable manner. And none but an ignoble treats women disgracefully” (Sunan At-Tirmidhi)
“I command you to be kind to women” (Sahih Bukhari)
The renowned scholar of hadith, Imam Ad-Dhahabi (d. 1358CE) writes:
Lest one should suppose that all the responsibilities are on the wife and all the rights belong to the husband, we mention that the husband is obliged to be gentle, kind, and loving to his wife. He must show forbearance and patience toward her in case she is occasionally abusive or ill-tempered. It is his duty to feed and clothe her and to provide for her needs well, within his means, according to the command of Allah Most High: Live with them on a footing of kindness and equity (4:19) and the advice of the Prophet: Consult with women. Indeed, you have some rights over your women and they have some rights over you. It is their right on you that you provide for their food and clothing generously, and your right on them is that they do not let anyone whom you dislike in the house, walking upon your floor. (Related by Ibn Majah and Tirmidhi who declared it Hasan Saheeh)
He said: "The best among you is the one who is best to his wife" (Related by Ibn Hibban) in another version it is the one who is most kind to his wife. The Prophet himself was very gentle and kind in dealing with women.
The Prophet saws also said: "If any man shows patience with his wife's bad temper, Allah will give him a reward similar to the reward of Ayyub (Job) for his patience, and if any woman shows patience with her husband's bad temper, Allah will give her a reward similar to the reward of Asiyah daughter of Muzahim, the wife of Pharoah (Cf. Qur'an 66:11)."
It is reported that a man came to 'Umar ibn Al-Khattab raa to complain about his wife's ill-temper. While he was waiting for 'Umar to come out of his house, he heard 'Umar's wife scolding him and 'Umar quietly listening to her, and not answering her back. The man turned around and started walking away, muttering to himself: "If that is the case with 'Umar, the leader of the believers, who is famous for his uprighteness and toughness, then what about poor me?!" At that moment, 'Umar came out of his house and saw the man walking away. He called him and said, "What is it you want of me, O man?" The man replied: "O leader of the believers, I came to complain to you about my wife's bad-temper and how she nags me. Then I heard your wife doing the same to you, so I turned around, muttering to myself, 'If that is the situation of the leader of the believers, then what about me?'" 'Umar replied, "O my brother, I bear with her because of her rights over me. She cooks my food, bakes my bread, washes my clothes, breast-feeds my child...and yet none of these are her duty;* and then she is a comfort to my heart and keeps me away from forbidden deeds. Consequently, I bear with her." The man said, "It is the same with me, O leader of the believers." 'Umar said: "Then, O my brother, be patient with her, indeed this life is short. (Adh-Dhahabi, Al-Kabâ'ir 194)
The last hadith about 'Umar is a beautiful example of the lofty status that Islam has given women. The Khalifa himself used to listen patiently while his wife scolded him and he instructed his followers to likewise be patient and grateful for all the favours their wives gave them. Dr. M. Moinuddin Siddiqui, who has translated Al-Kabâ'ir
into english, includes the following footnote in the place I have marked above with an asterisk [*
According to the Shari'ah, a Muslim wife has no obligation to do all this; rather, it is the husband's obligation to take care of it [either himself or] by hiring a servant (or even, in the case of breast-feeding, a wet-nurse). Therefore, if a woman does this, it is out of good-will and compliance on her part, not because it is obligatory on her, and consequently it is a cause for appreciation and helpfulness on the part of her husband. (Translator)
I could continue to quote more evidences and information, but instead I'll just refer you to some links for more info:
Coming to your specific question,
you've mentioned another example of a verse anti-islamists try to take in isolation to malign in Islam. We see from the other Qur'anic verses and the Prophet's example that kind, compassionate and gentle treatment has been ordained. This verse speaks specifically of the case when there is deliberately nasty behaviour on the part of the wife which poses a threat to the marriage (the Prophet Muhammad pbuh defined the behaviour in question to be manifest indecency). And in such a case one is to use admonition and discussion as the primary method of seeking resolution, and after that seperation. The last method described here after
the other methods is the use of light physical force, but never to the point of abuse or injury, nor when angry. The issue here is not punishing the wife at all, but rather to evoke recognition of the gravity of the situation.
If Muslims followed the Qur'anic method of dispute resolution, they would never arrive at such a stage. And the wife has the opportunity to seek divorce at any stage in the matter. She should never stay in an abusive relationship and no one is allowed to force her to do so. The verse gives absolutely no license for wife abuse or domestic violence.
Br. Iqram has provided the article found here:
Another helpful site is found here:
I hope this helps. If you have any further questions, please feel free to ask.