The first conference was held in 2001, and has since become one of North America's largest Islamic conferences, alongside the ISNA convention in the United States. The conference has grown from 3,500 attendees in its first year to over 20,000 in 2011, making it the largest Islamic conference in Canada. Attendees and speakers attend from around the world, including the United States, Europe and the Middle East. While criticism of the event is seen from both critics of Islam and fundamentalist Muslims, organizers maintain that the event is an attempt to revive Islamic traditions of education, tolerance, and introspection. In May 2010, RIS held its first American conference in Long Beach, California. Following the second U.S. edition at the Long Beach Convention Center on Memorial Day weekend the conference was discontinued.
The format of the conference typically consists of a series of lectures over three days, generally structured around a specific central theme. Each year distinguished speakers, including both Islamic scholars and non-Muslims, are invited to lecture based on the selected theme of the conference. Previous conference themes have included the life of the prophetMuhammad, Canadian-Muslim identity, and Islamic civilization.