Religion in Kuwait Islam is the official religion of Kuwait, and the Kuwaiti people are Muslims. The majority are Sunni Muslims with a sizeable minority of the Shi’ite sect. The State Mosque is opposite the Seif Palace on Gulf Road and many smaller mosques are situated throughout the country. The Kuwait constitution mandates Islam as the official religion and Islamic (“Sharia”) law as the basis for legislation. However, Article 35 of the constitution states that freedom of religion is absolute. It permits all residents of Kuwait freedom of belief and religious customs provided they do not conflict with public order or morals. While 95% of the population is Muslim, there are Christians, Hindus, Baha’is, and other religions present. Although these groups may meet privately, no proselytizing is allowed. There are five pillars of Islam, or basic beliefs common to all Muslims. The first is the profession of faith, “There is no other God but God, and Mohammed is the messenger of God”. The second is prayer and the third is fasting during the lunar month of Ramadan. The fourth is giving to charity and the fifth is pilgrimage, or Haj, to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which all believers should attempt to make at least once during their lifetime. Non-Muslims are forbidden to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina at any time. According to the Islamic faith, the faithful must pray five times each day: at sunrise, noontime, mid-afternoon, sunset and one and a half-hours after sunset. The exact times of the call to prayers, which change throughout the year, are published daily in the newspaper. Grocery stores and most other stores do not close during prayer times except on Friday, when they close for an hour during the noon prayer
Each neighborhood in Kuwait has a mosque. Males usually go to the nearest mosque. Some pray wherever they are: on sidewalks, in the shops or at home. On Friday, people worship at the mosques. One should show respect by not talking loudly, looking or walking near Muslims as they pray. The main events of the Muslim calendar are Ramadan and Haj. Ramadan is an unusual holiday for Westerners and is equivalent to our Christmas in importance. Ramadan occurs in the ninth month of the Islamic year and it is a month of fasting, prayer, and retreat. During this time, Muslims observe a complete fast during the daylight hours, from sunrise to sunset. They don’t eat or drink anything or smoke. They eat before sunrise and after sunset. Government offices and most stores operate on shorter hours during this month. Many shops, however, stay open later in the evening than normal. Non-Muslims are expected to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public. Hotels will serve only non-Muslim guests during the day. Ramadan is currently falling in the first several weeks of the year, when the weather is cool. When Ramadan falls in summer, it can be especially difficult for believers, causing people to become lethargic and short-tempered and dehydrated. However, most Muslims embrace fasting during the day to remind themselves of those who are less fortunate.
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Two major holidays, in addition to Ramadan, are connected with the Islamic faith. They are Eid al-Fitr (the breaking of the Ramadan fast) and Eid al-Adha (which marks the end of the Haj period), both of which are celebrated over a three day period. Government offices will close for these celebrations. Islam makes provisions for a man to marry as many as four wives, but only if he is certain he can treat them all equally. Catholic and Protestant church services are conducted in Kuwait City, Ahmadi, and Camp Doha. In Kuwait City, interdenominational Protestant services are held at the Evangelical Church on Friday mornings and Sunday evenings. The Cathedral of the Holy Family (Catholic), with daily services in different languages, is located near the Sheraton hotel, behind the Caesar’s Chinese restaurant. St. Paul’s Church (Anglican) is located in Ahmadi. A branch of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints meets in homes. Camp Doha, the U.S. military base located about 20 kilometers from the old U.S. embassy compound, holds Roman Catholic services on Thursday evenings at 4:30 p.m. and Friday mornings at 9:00 a.m. Protestant serves are on Fridays at 11:00 a.m. Gospel Services are at 1:00 p.m. on Fridays and 7:00 p.m. on Sundays. There are daily prayers at the Camp Doha Mosque and information about Jewish services is available from the chaplain.
Islamic Holy Days & Special Observances
While Kuwaitis use the Western (Gregorian) calendar for business purposes, they frequently give dates their equivalents according to the Muslim calendar commencing with the journey (hegira) of the Prophet Mohammed from Mecca to Medina. The Muslim calendar is based on the lunar month, making any given year approximately eleven days shorter than a Gregorian year. Except for Kuwait National Day, celebrated on February 25, all holidays change annually. The most important holidays include Eid Al Fitr, Eid Al Adha, the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, and the Islamic New Year.
Eid Al Sana Al Hijria. Islamic New Year’s Day, which is counted in lunar years from the day Mohammed left Mecca for Medina in 622 AD of the Gregorian calendar.
Ashoora. Important day of mourning for Shi’ite Muslims.
Al Mawlad Al Nabawi. The Prophet Mohammed’s birthday.
Lilat Al-Mi’raj. Night of the Prophet’s ascension to Heaven. The same night Muslims learned the prayer ritual.
Ramadan. Month of fasting. Food or drink can only be consumed between sunset and sunrise; this also includes physical pleasure and smoking.
Lailat Al Qadar. During Ramadan. Remembers the day on which the Prophet Mohammed was told that prayers would be answered.
Eid Al Fitr. The first day of breaking fast after Ramadan. A time of celebration
Eid Al-Adha. Marks the end of Haj period and commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son.
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