Matn (text) & Isnād (chain of narration) are two fundamental factors of a Ḥadīth that are both required & must be coupled to successfully achieve detecting the authenticity of a Ḥadīth. This could possibly lead to the question, “Which is more important than the other?” — Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-‘Uthaymīn رحمه الله (d. 1421 AH/2001 CE) explains:
“Some scholars are of the view that if the text of a Ḥadīth is correct, consistent with fundamental rules of Islām, ruling on the chain could be relaxed & vice versa; that if it contradicts any foundation of Islām, the chain will not be given any attention.
This is a good approach with regards to deducing rulings from a Ḥadīth, however, concerning the grading of the chain of narrators as good merely because the meaning of the Ḥadīth is affirmed by some basic principles, then that is problematic. This is because it implies that if the same chain relates another text of a Ḥadīth, we will grade it Jayyid (good). So, it is preferred to say: ‘The chain of narrators has some weakness but the text is correct.’
(Now), which of them both is more important; the chain or the text? The response is they are both important. However, if the text is authentic, supported by basic priniciples, such established, supporting rules would suffice (leaving out the weak chain). As for the chain, it is a must (for it to be reliable); as ibn al-Mubārak said:
If not for the chain of narrators, any person would have just said whatever he likes.Muqaddimah Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1/15
May Allāh have abundant mercy upon Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-‘Uthaymīn & grant him the highest rank of Jannah for his efforts & contributions to the religion of Islām.
All praise is due to Allāh, may His peace & blessings be upon our final Prophet Muḥammad, his family, his companions, & all those who follow him in guidance.
al-Qawl al-Mufīd Sharḥ Kitāb at-Tawḥīd (القول المفيد شرح كتاب التوحيد) by Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-‘Uthaymīn | Volume 1, Pages 529-530
Ṣafīullāh Labīb ibn Salīm ʿAbd al-Malik
17th of Muḥarram 1444