Law is the set of standards that are created and enforced by social or governmental institutions to regulate behaviour, provide order, resolve disputes, and protect rights and liberties. The precise definition of Law is a subject of ongoing debate, but it may be described as a system of rules and guidelines that governs society and individuals within it. Individuals who break these laws may be punished by the state, either through fines or prison sentences.
Laws are based on a variety of different concepts and methodologies. There are scientific laws that are borne out by empirical observation (such as the laws of gravitation, aerodynamics and ballistics). There are also legal laws that are based on religious precepts and practices such as Islamic Sharia and Jewish Halakha or Christian canon law. Other types of laws are derived from the judicial process through legal reasoning, Qiyas or Ijma and caselaw.
From an idealistic viewpoint Law consists of a body of commands and principles recognised by the State as being important to the wellbeing of citizens, which should be obeyed unless they are contrary to the public good or otherwise morally wrong. From a more pragmatic standpoint, Holmes suggests that law is a “flowing process”, in which participants assign true or false values to mathematically undecidable propositions; these value estimates then become the building blocks of Law as they are experienced in time.
The study of Law is a broad field, covering many different subjects which are presented below for convenience, though they intertwine and overlap. Immigration law, for example, is concerned with the rights of individuals to live and work in a nation-state that is not their own; criminal procedure concerns how cases are handled by courts; and family law covers the rights of spouses, children and parents to property and money.