What is Law?


Law is a system of rules created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. It is a key source of scholarly inquiry in the fields of legal history, philosophy and economic analysis, and raises complex issues of equality, fairness and justice.

Legal rules set out what is right and wrong, what a person can or cannot do, and who is responsible for certain actions. They can be based on religious precepts, as in Jewish Halakha and Islamic Shari’ah (the latter being mainly an interpretative system, using methods such as Ijma, Qiyas and qiyas ijtihad) or they can be created by legislatures, as in civil law jurisdictions, or through the development of precedent by judges, as in common law systems.

In a democracy, laws are created by parliaments and the executive branch, or by the courts in a constitutional monarchy. Laws are regulated, for example by taxation and financial regulation, and they are enforced by the police and the courts.

Law shapes politics, economics, history and society in many ways. It can keep peace, maintain the status quo, protect minorities, provide social justice and facilitate orderly change. Some legal systems are more effective than others at doing this. In an authoritarian regime, for example, the law may serve to oppress minorities, maintain stability and repress political opponents. However, in a democracy, the law can serve to promote human rights, ensure that public services are provided adequately and fairly, and protect property and contracts.