Based on an ethnographic case study of an Islamic university in Russia, I examine how the state-implemented and bureaucratized traditionalization of Islam in Russia affects the everyday life of Central Asian students and how this project ‘from above’ is entangled with their coping strategies. I show how religious education has become a resource for the state as well as for young students and their parents. The Russian state uses these official religious institutions to control the Muslim population by creating and promoting a state-approved version of ‘traditional Islam’ and producing official religious specialists. For the young Muslim students, however, Islamic education provides, in addition to religious knowledge, access to networks, social security and new economic opportunities. It thereby offers a way to cope with the uncertainty caused by high unemployment rates and other socio-economic difficulties among young people.