Historically, religious laws played a significant role even in settling of secular matters, and is still used in some religious communities.

Islamic Sharia law is the world's most widely used religious law, and is used as the primary legal system in some countries, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The Old Testament dates back to 1280 BC and takes the form of moral imperatives as recommendations for a good society.

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It was based on the concept of Ma'at, characterised by tradition, rhetorical speech, social equality and impartiality.

By the 22nd century BC, the ancient Sumerian ruler Ur-Nammu had formulated the first law code, which consisted of casuistic statements ("if … Around 1760 BC, King Hammurabi further developed Babylonian law, by codifying and inscribing it in stone.

Civil law (not to be confused with civil law jurisdictions above) deals with the resolution of lawsuits (disputes) between individuals or organizations.

defines law as: "Law is a binding custom or practice of a community; a rule or mode of conduct or action that is prescribed or formally recognized as binding by a supreme controlling authority or is made obligatory by a sanction (as an edict, decree, rescript, order, ordinance, statute, resolution, rule, judicial decision, or usage) made, recognized, or enforced by the controlling authority." The Dictionary of the History of Ideas published by Scribner's in 1973 defined the concept of law accordingly as: "A legal system is the most explicit, institutionalized, and complex mode of regulating human conduct.

Law as a system helps regulate and ensure that a community show respect, and equality amongst themselves.

State-enforced laws can be made by a collective legislature or by a single legislator, resulting in statutes, by the executive through decrees and regulations, or established by judges through precedent, normally in common law jurisdictions.

The Napoleonic and German Codes became the most influential.

In contrast to English common law, which consists of enormous tomes of case law, codes in small books are easy to export and easy for judges to apply.

Hammurabi placed several copies of his law code throughout the kingdom of Babylon as stelae, for the entire public to see; this became known as the Codex Hammurabi.