Here in America and in most of Canada, we have funeral traditions that have stood the test of time for decades, even centuries.
But our traditions are vastly different from those in other countries and cultures.
This article looks at Kuwaiti funeral traditions and is part of a series that highlights how different cultures care for their dead. Other parts of the series are about Sudanese funeral traditions and Liberian funeral traditions, among others.
Note, these traditions may vary depending on the individual and their own beliefs.
As of 2015, 69.9% of Kuwait’s population identifies as Muslim. Of those who identify as Muslim, about 60-65% are Sunni Muslims and 35-40% are Shia Muslims. The second most common religion is Christianity at 16.7% of Kuwait’s population.
Since most Kuwaiti people identify as Muslim, Kuwaiti funeral traditions typically follow Muslim beliefs. Muslims believe that souls live on after death. On Judgment Day, their actions while on Earth determine if they go to paradise or hell. They also believe that death is predestined, so excessive grieving shows disbelief in Allah.
Kuwaiti Funeral Customs
The deceased’s family washes and wraps the body in a white shroud and goes to the mosque for ritual prayers. They wash the body at the deceased’s house while wearing gloves, and they use a special cleanser and perfume of ingredients such as rose oil and aloe. Some families wash the body and say funeral prayers at the cemetery right before the burial.
Muslim Kuwaiti people practice burial because cremation isn’t allowed. The burial is often on the same day as the death, before sunset. They bury the deceased facing Mecca and leave two clay unmarked gravestones so people don’t walk on or bother the grave.
After the burial, everyone gathers at the deceased’s family’s home to pay their respects and read sections of the Quran together. The formal mourning period lasts for at least three days or maybe longer.
Widowed women have an iddah period for four months and ten days to make sure she’s not pregnant. During this time, she can’t look at, meet, or talk to other men who aren’t family. They also can’t wear makeup while mourning. After the mourning period is over, widows can remarry if they wish.