I know that the reading of the Qur’an in a gathering, as well as inviting people to read Qur’an for someone who has died is an innovation (bid’ah) according to the Hanafis. I have seen people reading Fazail-ul-Amal after prayer every day as if it was fard. They read the same book year after year, at the masjid and at home. They believe that because of this book, they are guided, and their Iman is raised. If reading the Qur’an in a gathering is an innovation because the Sahaba never did it, would this be too?
To begin with, it is incorrect to assume that gathering for the purpose of reciting the Qur’an when a Muslim has passed away is unlawful and a innovation; rather, classical and contemporary Hanafi scholars have stated that gatherings of khatm of Qur’an are praiseworthy if free of blameworthy practices. It is perfectly permissible and an act of great merit to gather and recite the book of Allah for whatever purpose one desires. (This was explained in earlier answers.)
Sayyiduna Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him) reports, as part of a longer hadith, from the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) that: “No people gather in a house of the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves, except that serenity descends upon them, mercy envelops them, the angels surround them, and Allah makes mention of them to those with Him.” (Sahih Muslim, no: 4867)
Yes, what makes an act an act of innovation is that one considers it to be necessary (wajib), or one gives it importance and significance to the point that those who choose not to practice it or participate are looked down upon and considered to be in the wrong. The jurists (fuqaha) and other classical scholars term this practice israr (insistence) or iltizam (considering something unnecessary to be necessary). This was also explained in detail in an earlier post.
Based on this, there is nothing principally wrong in collectively reading books such as Fada’il A’mal—authored by the renowned Muhaddith Shaykh al-Hadith Muhammad Zakariyya al-Kandehlawi (Allah have mercy on him). Having a discourse, arranging a dars/lecture, collectively reading from a book are all ways and forms of educating Muslims and inviting the mercy of Allah Most High. It does not matter whether it is read directly after an obligatory (fard) prayer, or at some other time.
However, it would be blameworthy to give the reading of this book (or any other book) such importance that those who choose not to participate are looked down upon and considered inferior. One must avoid thinking that the reading of this book is necessary upon everyone, for that is a sign of innovation (bid’a). Those who give the reading of this book importance to the point that others are looked down upon should be explained this in a gentle, polite and tactful manner by those qualified of giving advice and nasiha.
It is also worth noting that there is a difference between firmly insisting upon others to take part in a recommended act to the point that one who wishes not to practice it is considered to be in the wrong, and to continuously and regularly practice an act of recommendation. The former is blameworthy, whilst the latter is permitted and not considered offensive in any way. As such, the continual reading of this book will not make this act blameworthy as long as one avoids thinking it to be necessary.
And Allah knows best
[Mufti] Muhammad ibn Adam
Leicester , UK