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The killing of animals in the context of religious ritual seems to have virtually disappeared during Late Antiquity, and the development of rabbinic Judaism might suggest that a religion focused on texts and their interpretation stands at the opposite pole to one that has a central sanctuary with a sacrificial ritual at its center. How and why, then, did Islam come to maintain the fundamental importance of both institutions: of scripture (the Qur'an and other texts) and of rituals involving animal offerings associated with its sanctuary in Mecca? This question involves both the origins and early history of the institutions, and why and how they maintained their importance and relevance later on. As for their origins, it is suggested that both need to be thought of as the result of historical developments that extended beyond the time of the Prophet and that while the sanctuary and its rituals reflect the Arabian identity asserted by Islam, the scripture responds more to the needs of Islam as it developed outside Arabia. Regarding their continuing relevance, that of the scripture does not seem problematic, whereas that of the central sanctuary and its rituals does. Two developments concerning the latter are discussed here. First, there is the way in which the hajj came to be, not merely associated with, but very much focused on the Ka'bah. Secondly, it is suggested that the animal offerings involve a redefinition of the concept of sacrifice towards the maintenance of social bonds and charitable giving. Finally, it is suggested that in Islam scripture and central sanctuary may work in opposite ways to promote cohesion and identity.