Combining historical, literary, and ethnographic research methods, I will examine the history of an influential South Indian Muslim religious and educational institution in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The institution is a madrasah (Islamic college)/Sufi (Islamic mystical) center located in the port town of Kilakkarai, Tamil Nadu. I will study the variety of roles played by the institution and its leaders in the Tamil-speaking community, and focus upon the educational efforts directed towards local women of one influential nineteenth century Sufi master. I will study the relationship of local women with the Kilakkarai Sufi center, in the larger context of their religious lives. The central theoretical issue I will address is the problem of the accurate and full description of cultural reproduction of Islamic societies in local contexts. My central hypothesis is that attention to issues of gender in such settings – as exemplified by the Kilakkarai cause – will provide essential information about such processes. This study should contribute fresh descriptive information and analytical insights significant for a variety of academic fields, including religious, Islamic, South Asian, and women’s studies.