What is Law?

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Law is a system of rules that people and groups create and enforce to regulate their behaviour. It is a major source of scholarly inquiry and discussion and raises important issues about equality, fairness and justice.

Law can be a system of written, unwritten or oral rules. It can also refer to a set of principles that govern an activity or subject area, such as competition law or consumer law. It can also refer to a group or organisation that administers legal services, such as a government department or the law societies.

The precise definition of law is a matter of debate and controversy. Some philosophers have defined it as a system of rules enforceable by a particular state or nation that is designed to control the behaviour of its citizens. Other philosophers have defined it as a set of principles that form the basis of morality, with an emphasis on fairness, benevolence and justice.

There are two main kinds of law: criminal and civil. Criminal law deals with conduct that is considered harmful to social order and can result in a fine or imprisonment. Civil law deals with disputes between individuals or organisations.

Some forms of law are based on religion, for example Jewish Halakha and Islamic Sharia. Religions also provide some guidance for judges and lawyers through interpretation, ijtihad (reasoning by analogy), qiyas (judgment by consensus) and ijma (consensus). Other laws are developed by human elaboration, such as Roman and ancient Greek codes and medieval English case law.