The Islamic argument for Antinatalism
Firstly what is antinatalism - Antinatalism is the assertion that procreation is unconditionally unethical because it exposes people to the inevitability of pain/ negative experience, ie it’s better for us and our children to never come into existence, never be born.
(A negative experience is the presence of any psychological or physical state that a person would naturally want to alleviate, such as pain, suffering, discomfort, melancholy, sadness, panic, distress, boredom, fear, anxiety, guilt, hunger, thirst, cold, loneliness, embarrassment, dissatisfaction, meaninglessness, grief, shame etc)
1) Many philosophers and poets ( Mutanabi, Ma’arri, khansa, Naabigha) have argued that it is immoral to bring beings into existence due to the inevitability that they will experience pain/ negative experience. It's interesting to think that, as a Muslim, the burden of choice is amplified. The child one brings into this world not only suffers in it but risks the possibility of suffering ETERNALLY in the afterlife, hence i posit it is better to abstain from bringing new beings into existence.
2) The term antinatalism didn’t exist in Arabic back then but many of the salaf expressed the sentiment that it is better never to have been born because A) pain and suffering in life B) the possibility of ending up in hell and suffering for eternity.
3) The sentiment expressed
عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَامِرٍ، قَالَ: أَخَذَ عُمَرُ بْنُ الْخَطَّابِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ، تِبْنَةً فقال لَيْتَنِي مِثْلُ هَذِهِ التِّبْنَةِ، لَيْتَ أُمِّي لَمْ تَلِدْنِي، لَيْتَنِي لَمْ أَكُ شَيْئًا، لَيْتَنِي كُنْتُ نَسْيًا مَنْسِيًّا
The caliph ʿUmar took a straw from the ground and said, ‘Would that I were this straw. Would that I had not been a thing. Would that my mother had not given birth to me. Would that I had become something totally forgotten.
أَنَّ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُعَنْهَا قَالَتْ
وَاللَّهِ لَوَدِدْتُ أَنِّي كُنْتُ شَجَرَةً، وَوَاللهِ لَوَدِدْتُ أَنِّي كُنْتُ مَدَرَةً، وَوَاللهِ لَوَدِدْتُ أَنَّ اللَّهَ لَمْ يَخْلُقْنِي شَيْئًا
Aisha said by Allah I wish I was a tree, and by Allah I wish I was a cloud of earth, and by Allah i wish Allah had never created me.
حَدَّثَنِي عَوْنُ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ بْنِ الصَّلْتِ، حَدَّثَنِي مُوسَى بْنُ الْحَجَّاجِ، قَالَ: قَالَ مَالِكُ بْنُ دِينَارٍ يا لَيْتَنِي لَمْ أُخْلَقْ، فَإِذَا خُلِقْتُ مِتُّ صَغِيرًا،
وَيَا لَيْتَنِي إِذْ لَمْ أَمُتْ صَغِيرًا، عَمَّرْتُ حَتَّى أَعْمَلَ فِي خَلَاصِ نَفْسِ
Malik bin Dinar said oh woe unto me i wish i hadn’t been created, having been created i wish that I had died a child
قال طُوبَى لَكَ يَا طَيْرُ، تَأْكُلُ مِنَ الثَّمَرِ، وَتَسْتَظِلُّ بِالشَّجَرِ
وَتَصِيرُ إِلَى غَيْرِ حِسَابٍ، يَا لَيْتَ أَبَا بَكْرٍ مِثْلُكَطُوبَى لَكَ يَا طَيْرُ، تَأْكُلُ مِنَ الثَّمَرِ
Abu Bakr would often sigh and say, "I wish I were a bird", or "I wish I were a tree''. On seeing a bird perched on the branch of a tree, Abu Bakr would heave a sigh and say, "O bird you are happy. You eat of the fruits of the tree, and live under its shadow. You have no fear of rendering accounts. How I wish I had been in a position similar to yours".
تفسير ابن كثير (٢/ ٤٠٧). (٢) من أقوال الفضيل بن عياض أيضا: لو خيرت بين أن أعيش كلباً أو أموت كلباً ولا أرى يوم القيامة لاخترت أن أعيش كلبا أو أموت كلبا
al-Fuḍayl ibn ʿIyāḍ (d. 187/803, Mecca): If I were given the choice of living as a dog, dying as a dog, and not seeing Resurrection Day, I should prefer living as a dog, dying as a dog, and not seeing Resurrection Day.
In conclusion it is better to not bring new beings into existence due to the pain and suffering they will experience in life and possibly in the afterlife. Don’t make a gamble with someone else’s life.