The Story of Onan

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

In the Book of Genesis, Onan was the second son of Judah (r.a.), and the younger brother of Er.  Er was married to Tamar.  Tamar eventually had a son, Perez, who was the ancestor of David (a.s.).

Genesis 38:8-10
8 Judah, therefore, said to Onan, his son, “Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, that you may raise seed to your brother.”  9 He, knowing, that the children should not be his, when he went in to his brother’s wife, he spilled his seed upon the ground, lest children should be born in his brother’s name.  10 And, therefore, the Lord Slew him, because he did a detestable thing:

“Judah”, the Qur’anic “Yahudh”, means “Give praise to God” in ancient Hebrew.  This was the same Judah (r.a.) who sold his brother Joseph (a.s.) into slavery.  “Onan” means “the virile one”.  “Er” is a pun since, in Hebrew, spelt backward, is their word for “evil”.  “Tamar” means “date palm”.

Er was somehow unable to do his duty, and get Tamar pregnant.  In any case, he died and left Tamar a young widow.  In that sort of tribal system, she had little standing being childless and a widow.  Under the ancient Levite law, she was inherited by her brother-in-law, Onan.  It was Onan’s duty to get Tamar pregnant, the nafqah al-bathin.  However, any child beget would be considered Er’s progeny.  Said child would inherit from Er’s legacy and also be a challenge to Onan’s children from his other wives.  Onan, being mindful of this, fulfilled the letter of the Law, but not the spirit.  He entered Tamar but always practiced coitus interruptus.  He “spilled his seed” in the Biblical parlance.  Thus, he earned God’s Wrath and was killed for his hypocrisy.

Since then, despite the fact that “Onan” means “virile one”, and was associated with virility in ancient Hebrew, it has entered the English language as “onanism”, which means the practise of masturbation or coitus interruptus, depending on the context.  It has since acquired the association of impotence in modern English.  “Onan” is, therefore, “impotent”.

How appropriate an allegory of the Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore at Onan Road, an impotent organisation led by impotent leadership.


  1. Long way around to a pointed remark! well done.


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