Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah Image Credit: AP

Kuwait: Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah passed away, the Emiri Court has announced on Saturday.

"With great sadness and sorrow, we mourn... the death of Sheikh Nawaf Al Ahmad Al Sabah, Emir of the State of Kuwait," said a statement aired on Kuwaiti state television.

State television had cut its regular programming and switched to a broadcast of Quranic recital before the announcement.

In November, Sheikh Nawaf was admitted to the hospital "due to an emergency health problem", according to the official KUNA news agency, which did not elaborate on his illness. He was later declared in stable condition.

Kuwait’s national flags are lowered to the half-mast position outside the landmark Kuwait Towers in Kuwait City on December 16, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

The State of Kuwait declared an official mourning for a period of 40 days and the closure of official departments for a period of three days from today (Saturday).

Sheikh Nawaf was sworn in as emir following the 2020 death of his predecessor, the late Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

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Born in 1937, Sheikh Nawaf was the fifth son of Kuwait’s late ruler from 1921 to 1950 Sheikh Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah.

He started his political career at the age of 25 as governor of Hawalli province, where he remained until 1978 when he started a decade as interior minister.

Sheikh Nawaf was a modest figure who regularly mingled with his people and attended prayers at his local mosque without his guards.

Sheikh Nawaf’s reign, though not the shortest in Kuwait’s history, was notable for issuing numerous amnesties, earning him the title “emir of pardons”, according to Bader Al Saif, an assistant professor of history at Kuwait University.

Last month, Kuwait’s Council of Ministers approved a draft royal decree calling for pardons for political prisoners convicted during the past decade. Similar pardons were also issued in 2021.

Sheikh Nawaf would also “be remembered for his unique personal attributes: soft spoken, devout, modest, low profile”, Saif told AFP.

Preferring to spend holidays in his homeland, Sheikh Nawaf loved to cook, and enjoyed fishing but not actually eating his catch. He liked music, and could play the violin, piano and the oud. In his younger days, he hunted and rode horses, according to Bloomberg.

In line with the constitution, Sheikh Nawaf will be succeeded by his half brother, 83-year-old Crown Prince Sheikh Meshal Al Ahmed Al Sabah but assumes power only after taking an oath in parliament. Sheikh Meshal will have one year to nominate a new crown prince.