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Can someone please define the word "obey" in the context of this verse.

http://quran.com/4/34 Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband's] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance - [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.

Any real world examples what it means for a wife to be obedient?
I can't think of any examples to help me clarify this.

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Any real world examples what it means for a wife to be obedient?

A first insight can come from these two ahadith quoted in tafser al-Qurtoby (a well known Maliki scholar), where our Messenger (Peace be upon him) explained or gave the characteristics of the best wife/woman:

'The one who makes him happy when he looks at her, obeys him when he commands her, and she does not go against his wishes with regard to herself nor her wealth.' (Sunan an-Nasa-i)

Let me inform you about the best a man hoards; it is a virtuous woman who pleases him when he looks at her, obeys him when he gives her a command, and guards his interests when he is away from her. (Sunan abi Dawod)

I found a similar quote in the tafser of the hanafi Scholar abu as-Su'od, with a wording like that one of Imam an-Nasa-i's version, and a reference to sunan abi Dawod. So about this meaning there seems to be consensus among both tafasir.

What exactly is included in obedience of a wife towards her husband (details could be found in this fatwa or this one), but one could say that a woman is asked to follow the rules of shari'a that means she can't obey her husband if he asks her not to pray, instead she should do all the mandatory acts and leave all the prohibited acts. But when it comes to mustahab/preferable acts she should ask for the agreement of her husband:

For example if she wants to fast a voluntary fast her husband could deny it. But in case she has to perform missed fasts of Ramadan he wouldn't be allowed to deny it if she won't have enough time to fast before the next Ramadan.
Not to do something she knows her husband would reject or disagree with even if this would be halal.

Scholars tend to emphasize obedience in 3 matters: In his absence (not to let any stranger in his house without his permission), his money (Imam Malik in this case allowed woman to let witnesses enter the house if a woman wanted to borrow some of her husbands money, based on this hadith) and his secrets as described in the ahadith above.

Note

This does not mean that the husband should behave like a dictator. ... However, once the husband has made a decision which should not be against the Shariah and is not unreasonable as well, then the rest of the family should fulfill this request of the husband/father which would Inshallah be for the greater benefit of the family. (From this fatwa)

Note that the Shafi'i and Maliki school say that according to the verse you quoted

Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. ...

If a husband can't spend for his wife and is in hardship this could be a reason for -her to ask for- faskh (divorce) while the Hanafi school doesn't accept this based on verse (2:280), this is based on what al-Qurtoby quoted in his tafsir. The Maliki's and Shafi's say that a major condition of the men being in charge of the women would be void if they can't fend for their wives (financially) ...

The rights of the husband on the wife are restricted

First of all the thinking that a wife must follow her husband's orders is very restricted and not a blue print as many people wrongly think. As explained in Wife refuses to visit husbands parents house

In fact the wife must only follow her husbands orders:

  • If she'd be committing a sin as is the case with suicide. Allah says:

O you who have believed, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. And if you disagree over anything, refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you should believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is the best [way] and best in result. (4:59)

Sheikh a-Shinqiti in his tafssir pointed at the repetition of Allah and the prophet () which emphasizes that their orders must be followed, while the authority, be it a leader, a father or a husband was not repeated so their orders are not set equal to those of Allah and His Messenger. Further a known fiqh rule derives from the hadith saying:

`There is no obedience to any created being if it involves disobedience to Allah, may He be glorified and exalted.” (Musnad imam Ahmad)

  • In case one would harm himself and suicide is such a case. Allah says:

And spend in the way of Allah and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining]. And do good; indeed, Allah loves the doers of good. (2:195)

  • The third case is covered in the linked post: A wife must only follow her husbands orders on matters related to her marriage (for example if he asks her some of his marital rights like intercourse).

See also islamqa #10680, #43123 and this (Arabic) fatwas (most of them are salafi views).

And Allah knows best

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    Nicely explained with references specially your note "This does not mean that the husband should behave like a dictator. ...",It would be appreciable if you highlight this note.JazakAllah.
    – Faqirah
    Jun 2 '16 at 15:06

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