The House of Al-Sabah (الصباح) are the royal family of Kuwait. They are a clan from the Anizah tribe, which migrated to Kuwait in the early eighteenth century from Najd (current day Saudi Arabia). After reaching Kuwait, they entered under the umbrella of the Bani Utbah. They have ruled Kuwait since 1752 when Sabah I became Shaikh (chief) of Kuwait. Subsequent Shaikhs are the descendants of Sabah I. The sons of Sabah I are Salman, Mohammad, Mubarak, Malich and Abdullah.
The Emir of Kuwait is the head of the executive branch. He is nominated by a family council, headed by the most senior and prominent members of the Al-Sabah. The leadership is not strictly hereditary, and although many Emirs have succeeded their fathers, the family chooses the leader from each succeeding generation. For example, the late Sheikh Jaber Al-Sabah appointed his cousin Sheikh Saad as Heir Apparent.
The Kuwaiti parliament has a say in the appointment of the Emir. Although customs prohibit the use of such measures, the parliament (as per article 3 of the constitution) has a constitutional right to approve or disprove of an Emir's appointment. Nonetheless the parliament effectively removed then crown prince Sheikh Saad after the death of Sheikh Jaber Al-Sabah in early 2006 due to the first's inability to rule because of illness.
All members of the ruling family receive a monthly stipend from the Amiri Diwan (forum). The Prime Minister is selected by the Emir. Precedents dictate that the Al-Sabahs hold key cabinet posts, such as the Ministry of Defense, the foreign ministry, the ministry of Interior and the office of prime minister.
He was succeeded as ruler by his son Jaber (1915-17) and another son Salem (1917-21). Subsequent Emirs descended from these two brothers. It has become tradition to alternate the post of Emir between these two branches.
The then prime minister, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah was nominated for the post of Emir by invoking Article 3 of the Kuwaiti constitution. He was sworn in on 29 January 2006 and is the current ruler.
On 13 May 2008 the former Emir, Sheikh Saad Al-Abdullah Al-Salim Al-Sabah, passed away after battling health problems for years. He was buried the following day, in accordance with Muslim traditions. He was 78 years of age.
*The heir-apparent is the Crown Prince Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah