Kyrgyzstan has experienced a rapid and diverse expansion of religious educational offerings in the past two decades and presents a fascinating regional case study of the development of Islamic education. Based on a rich ethnographic study, this article explores recently developed processes by which madrasa-based knowledge is established and transmitted. In revealing these processes, the article draws attention to political struggles for control over the transmission of religious knowledge between state and non-state actors on the one hand, and religious actors on the other. It further delves into the material and spiritual world of madrasas as perceived by students motivated to gain education and their families. In the final section, it uncovers how different madrasas use religious education, under the varied concept of ‘service to community’, to establish and maintain networks of graduates, which are necessary to the further rooting of Islamic fellowships into society, politics and the economy.