The context of this surah was that an uncle of Muhammad named Abu Lahab opposed the prophet and cursed him with this curse: “Tabbat Yadak” (which means “May your hands be ruined”). This surah is the reply: “May the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined! May he be ruined too! Neither his wealth nor his gains will help him: he will burn in the flaming fire—and so will his wife.”
The story goes that Abu Lahab’s wife used to tie bunches of thorns and twisted palm fibre and throw them into the Prophet’s path. This surah promises that she, too, will perish “with a palm fibre around her neck.” Brutal!