Law is a set of rules created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior. Its precise definition is a longstanding topic of debate. In its broadest sense, it refers to any body of principles that dictate the rights and responsibilities of people within a community or society as a whole. The term is also used to describe the system of laws that governs an individual country or region, including its territories.
The laws of a society are the basis for all other legal activity, from civil disputes to criminal prosecutions. Laws cover a wide variety of topics, from tort law (covering compensation for injuries to persons or property) to zoning ordinances. In addition, laws can be religious or spiritual in nature, as with Shari’ah, or they can address a particular aspect of human life, such as the death penalty for murder.
According to Blackstone, law is a “rule of action imposed by authority upon those under it commanding what is right and prohibiting what is wrong.” It includes both natural laws (from God’s general will) and positive laws devised by man that are consistent with those principles of right reason, views of the nature and constitution of man, and sanctified by divine revelation as those from which the science of morality is deduced.
A law must be permanent as to time; uniform as to its operation; and universal as to place. It must also be clear and publicized, with an impartial application to all. This last requirement is based on the biblical directive, “Thou shalt not respect persons in judgment; nor take a gift: for a gift blindeth the eyes of the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous” (Deuteronomy 16:20).