Fatwa: "Allah Restricts Through the State What He Doesn't Restrict Through the Qur'an"
Translated from a fatwa by the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh 'Abd-al-'Aziz bin Baz, reprinted in almoslim.net.
Answer: Praise be to Allah alone, and peace be upon he who has no prophet after him.
This is a well-known saying of 'Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him), and confirmed by 'Uthman bin 'Afan, the third rightly-guided caliph (may Allah be pleased with him). It is also narrated from 'Umar (may Allah be pleased with him): "Allah restricts through the State what he doesn't restrict through the Qur'an." This means that he prohibits the people from committing that which is forbidden, more through the power of the State than through the Qur'an. For some people have weak faith, and are not affected by the restraints of the Qur'an. Instead they deny the Qur'an, and approach that which is forbidden with indifference. But when they know that there is a punishment from the State, they step back, afraid of the State's punishment. For Allah restricts through the State, meaning the punishments of the State--through them he restricts the actions of some criminals more than he does through the Qur'an due to their weak faith, and lack of fear of Almighty Allah. But they fear that the State will persecute them, or strike them, or take their money, or exile them from the country. They fear all of this, so they restrain themselves according to what is prohibited in the Qur'an, due to their weak faith and lack of discernment.There is no strength except in Allah. May Allah reward you well. By Allah comes success, and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon our prophet Muhammad, as well as his family and companions.