Report on RIS 2012 convention
Author: Tarek M. T. Ezzat – Managing Editor OnIskam.net
Date: December 22, 2012
Original title: Reviving The Islamic Spirit (RIS 2012) / Toronto’s RIS Breaks New Records
Friday December 21st. was supposed to be the start of the end according to the Mayan calendar, but for Muslims in Canada it was the start of a new record-breaking international event: Reviving The Islamic Spirit (RIS 2012).
This yearly convention which started in 2002 is now in its 11th. year and has attracted a wide audience from around the world, attending both physically and through the Internet.
While last year’s RIS attracted an audience of 20,000 delegates, this year the loyal RIS audience increased in numbers reaching the 25,000 mark, and is now considered one of the largest international Muslim gatherings in the West, in addition to around 100,000 new on-live viewers as the convention is now broadcasted through live-streaming on the internet for a small fee.
The opening speech at RIS was part of the Friday prayer with a Khutbah given by Imam Zaid Shakir, co-founder of the Zaytuna Institute in California, and one of the leading Imams in North America. In his speech, Imam Zaid explained the hadith of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, on the seven types of people who will be in the shade of Allah on the Day of Judgment, including a just ruler, and the youth who were raised in the obedience of God’s commands. He urged Muslim youth to become more attached to the mosques and emphasized the importance of Muslim unity on the main foundations of Islam, and urged Muslim not to be divided on minor issues.
One important feature of Canada’s RIS is the high percentage of young people among both the audience and the organizers. When arriving at the Metro Convention Center in downtown Toronto, RIS participants are greeted by an enthusiastic team of 800 highly-motivated volunteers, who are mainly high school and college students.
This event brings together young Muslims from all over Canada, and some also traveling from the US specially to attend RIS. But what is also very interesting that among the audience are also non-Muslims attracted by this major event.
Jeff, an American non-Muslim young man traveled with a friend from New York as he had heard so much about RIS. Two years ago, he attended an ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) Conference in the States, and since then has been reading a lot about Islam. With the start of the holiday season, this was a good chance for him to visit Toronto and also get first-hand knowledge and more information about Islam, from leading Muslim scholars and speakers.
Riaz, a young Muslim in his early twenties traveled all the way from a small city in central Canada where he lives to attend the RIS Convention and the Knowledge Retreat that follows. For him, this is an excellent opportunity to learn and grow in faith and in understanding of moderate mainstream Islam.
This year’s RIS was also attended by a large number of Canadian officials and politicians including Members of Parliaments and leaders of different political parties who welcomed participants and conveyed to them the greetings of their political leaders reflecting Canada’s leading successful model of multiculturalism, expressing their wishes to the audience for a successful convention.
But it’s the Muslim sisters who form a clear majority at the Convention, as the Islamic dress dominates the scene with hijab everywhere. Students, mothers with their young children and families from different backgrounds all came together from different parts in Canada to meet up once again and celebrate their friendship and sisterhood during their holidays in a relaxed environment away from the pressures and tension of daily study and work.
Leading International Figures
This year’s speakers at RIS includes a wide variety of distinguished figures traveling to Toronto from all over the world. In the first session after the Friday prayers, Dr. Tawfique Chowdhury, Founder and Chairman of Mercy Mission, CEO of a multinational IT company and leading activist, reminded the audience of the importance of sincerity in Islam in serving humanity, and that the intentions in our deeds must be for the sake of Allah alone. In a second speech, Dr. Chowdhury spoke about the unique leadership style of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, which was to lead by serving others.
Dr. Amr Khaled, one of the star preachers popular among youth in Egypt and the Arab world spoke about how youth in Canada can face the many challenges of modern life while keeping their faith strong through their daily attachment to the Qur’an, and urged them to volunteer through Canadian NGOs to contribute to the well-being of their society, and not limit their volunteering effort to the Muslim community alone as they should give back to society, and the best way to do that is to help those in need from all backgrounds and faiths.
In the late evening session, Dr. Tariq Ramadan talked about Muslims living in pluralistic societies and the main factors for the success of Muslims in the West, which include a high importance to growing in spirituality and ethics, in addition to other practical measures to better serve their countries and become active players in Canadian society.
Tonight, Dr. Ramadan will be talking about the concept of nobility as articulated by Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and will share his views on how Muslims can become noble men and women through faith and practice.
Earlier in the day, Dr. Ramadan will dedicate a special session in the French language for the benefit of the French-speaking audience who traveled from Montreal and other cities in Quebec to listen to him in their language and will talk to them about spiritual issues and the ways of the heart “Les Chemins du Couer”.
The first day of RIS was an excellent start which promises a lot more for its audience on this year’s broad theme “Divine Light for Living Right”, as today and tomorrow other international speakers are expected to address the audience including Dr. Jamal Badawi, Dr. Sayyed Hossein Nasr, Dr. Karen Armstrong and Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, and also from the young speakers Moez Masoud, Nouman Ali Khan and sister Yasmin Mogahed.