Would it be disbelief to study at a kaafir school (i.e. public school system in Canada), knowing that we live in a kaafir country, and that we also need an education? This is in addition to the fact that these schools have free-mixing environments where the women do not cover properly. And if studying at these schools is not permissible, is there any exception for those who wish to study at these schools so as to attain some certificate or degree so as to facilitate their plans for hijrah?
Ans: First of all, any of the schools which contain free mixing environments and intermingling of the genders, then attendance in these schools and studying in them is not allowable for whatever reason. And if the schools are free of free mixing and intermingling, then it is allowable to study in this schools if what is being taught does not contain ideology of kufr or systems of kufr. And if it does not contain what promotes kufr, nor does it call to it. So if a Muslim was to study for example engineering, be that of planes or cars or computers (or other than them), and all these being from the inventions of mankind, in order that he may benefit himself and benefit the Muslims, then this is allowable and it is desired that the Muslims may benefit from this type of knowledge.
And it is upon the Muslims to cooperate upon righteousness and fearing of Allaah (subhaana wa ta’laa). Allaah’s statement:
“Help you one another in Al Birr and AtTaqwa (virtue, righteousness and piety.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:2)
So studying in schools which are free from intermingling of men and women, then this is allowable as long as it is free from those things which are muharram (not allowable) in the deen. And also with the condition that what is being studied does not contain disbelief in it.
And the shaykh mentioned the order of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) to Zayd bin Thaabit to study the language of the Jews. And Zayd bin Thaabit (radiyAllaahu anhu) went on and mentioned that he had mastered the language of the Jews in fifteen days. And this was of benefit to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم), as Zayd bin Thaabit was able to translate the letter of the Jews for the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and also write to them. And Shaykh Ahmed mentioned that the language was studied so that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) and the Muslims may be safe from the planning and the plotting of the Jews.
Source: Al-Qawl-ul- Mufeed Fee Adillatit Tawheed [Beneficial Speech in Establishing the Evidences of Tawheed], Class 22 – Question and Answer Session, By Shaykh Ahmed al-Wasaabee, Translated by Shaakir al-Kanadee