Looking for love is tough at the best of times, but it's even harder when your pool of potential partners is small. Welcome to the dilemma of being young, single and religious.
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Hinduism is not a single religion
but a vast collection of diverse religious traditions.
The god that we believe in is the one in the middle.
Mum always ensured that we understood and respected religion
and tried to follow it in every way we can.
Marriage is at the centre of the religion.
Alpa Saujani is a matchmaker to the Hindu community.
A lot of Hinduism focuses around family, culture and values
so it's the meeting not only of man and wife,
it's also the integration of a family.
But it's not easy finding a partner
when you're young, British and Hindu.
Within Hindu you want somebody who's Gujarati
and within Gujarati you want somebody who is Patel
and within Patel you want somebody that's in a certain village.
Ultimately, you're just left with a handful of people that you can possibly marry.
At almost 29, Hasmita is considered old to be single,
and is struggling to find a partner.
It doesn't help that she has a long wish list.
Not someone who's completely teetotal because...
that would be boring.
Someone who's, you know, who knows themselves,
knows what they want out of life.
He also has to originate from a particular village in India.
For me, it's a big issue if a boy I'm looking for comes from Madhapar.
That's where all my mum's family is.
With pressure from her mum mounting,
Hasmita has come to see some matchmakers to the community.
How old are you?
I'm going to be 29 next month.
It's not wasting my life.
Yeah, you need to find someone.
Well, YOU need to find ME someone!
Although it is traditional for Hindu parents to find their children a partner,
it's a big step for some young Hindus to allow them to.
25-year-old student Jalpa Patel has recently asked her parents to find her someone to marry.
I told them, "Listen,
"if there is anyone you have in mind,
"let me know. I'll think about it, I'll speak to them and we'll see what happens."
Like many young Hindus,
Jalpa's close to her parents and trusts them to make a match.
He's a typical dad so his reaction when I told him was ecstatic.
He was so happy and just like, "Oh, really? Oh, wow!"
He was on the phone straightaway talking to his friend.
I don't know if I done the right thing but it's worth a try really
so I've got nothing to lose in any way whatsoever.
Parents put out feelers to friends and family
and then your mum will get a phone call
to say there's xyz boy, for example,
and you'll then talk to the boy
and decide whether to go on a date with him or not.
Today, Jalpa is going on her first ever introduction.
His name is Viral and he works in the City.
His aunt is friends with Jalpa's family.
-Hello, hello, hello.
-Hi, how are you?
-Nice to meet you.
My grandma met my grandad when she sat next to him to get married to him.
That's the first time she met him. She was 16 years old.
-Shall we grab a coffee?
Nowadays, arranged is being introduced to someone through someone.
All I know about her is pretty much her name
and a bit about what she does but not too much detail.
-So you've got an older brother or a younger brother?
He's 27, yeah.
-You don't have any sisters though?
-No. Just one older brother.
I wouldn't have been like that on a normal date.
All the stuff that he was saying, it's like your whole CV,
but your personal CV cos, well...
When Jalpa gets home, her mum wants to know how it went.
There just wasn't a spark. There wasn't, you know, like, excitement.
-It didn't click.
-No, Mother, it didn't click.
Through a family introduction,
Hasmita's been getting to know someone called Dipesh
who, amazingly, comes from her village in India.
But she's never met him
because he lives over 4,000 miles away in Dubai.
He's got a lot of pictures of his nieces and nephews
and when I speak to him, he sounds incredibly family-orientated.
It just helps create a picture of someone.
What their interests are and things.
Hasmita has decided to visit Dipesh in Dubai on her own for two weeks.
Her friend Martina has some words of warning.
Oh, my God, the only point of contact you have
is through Google Talk, e-mails or phone calls.
You've never him, you don't know what he's like.
Yeah, but that's because he fits my list.
Is it because your family know him?
Yeah. There's definitely comfort in the fact my aunt knows him.
OK, he's a random stranger to me
but to my family, he's not a random stranger.
Even though her parents are looking, Jalpa has met someone herself.
A boy called Diep.
But she's reluctant to tell her parents about him
until she's sure he's serious.
I'm trying to keep my options open because I don't know where it's heading.
Cos nothing's kind of been said that we're together.
I feel we bounce off each other really well. I have a laugh with her.
I have a fair idea of what she wants.
As girls do fairytales and she's dreaming...
-It worries me.
-What worries you?
The preparing for a wedding.
In Dubai, Hasmita has met Dipesh for the first time.
Despite only having been there for a few days
they both think they've found the one.
It feels really familiar. Like I know him.
Was there ever a point where you thought we have a good connection?
What do you think?
We were really relaxed and then he's like,
"Yeah, we should got for it." I'm like, "Go for what?"
He's like, "We should go for it. Get married."
Everything I wanted has just fallen into place.
Jalpa is disillusioned with the traditional methods of meeting a partner.
I need there to be a spark.
Like, obviously, loads of people do find their perfect other halves like this
but I don't think it's the way for me
to find the person I want to be with.
But for Hasmita,
the introduction process has given her a fairytale ending.
She's getting married to Dipesh in India just four months after meeting him.
Going from a single girl to a married woman is a huge change
but I've had a long time to be a single girl
and now it's time to be a married woman.
We had a great time together.
I'm so glad. It's once in a lifetime.
It's Ramadan and 22-year-old Naila, a devout Muslim,
is fasting and praying.
Her faith tells her that Allah is helping her search for a husband.
When I'm ready Allah will...
present the family and present the person, that is right.
It's all in his hands.
All I can do is do my best
because Allah doesn't help those who don't help themselves.
As a Muslim the right way is to go within the boundaries
that Islam has set for us in the form of the holy Koran.
Manchester Central Mosque's imam Muhammad Arshad Misbahi
counsels his members that there are strong reasons to be married.
It saves you and protects you and gives you a feeling of belonging
because the family is the basic unity of the larger society.
Muslims regard Islam as a complete way of life.
At Naila's local mosque, young men and women
attend a class on married life.
If you marry someone that has a cleaner,
you have to also provide for the cleaner
that she's used to having come in...
The sexes are separated by a sheet.
Observant single Muslims are not allowed to date
or even mix together.
Are there any sisters back there who have a cleaner
come in for five hours every week
cos, if yes, the brothers out here, they can't afford that.
It is commanded upon us not to mix freely.
You don't necessarily want to be distracted by the opposite sex, for instance.
Many Muslims have their marriages arranged for them by their parents.
It's because a Muslim marriage is as much about the coming together of two families as two individuals.
Parents would visit each other for a number of times with the family
and observe the character and the manners and the attitude
and the background of the partner-to-be.
Naila's mum is looking for a husband for her.
He must be practising, with a polite personality
and a good character.
A sort of laid back person.
That's what I'm looking for.
She's like the first hurdle.
So it means that if she feels that somebody is suitable,
then I kind of have the opportunity to make my own mind up.
She's trusting me so I have to fulfil my responsibilities.
Not the actual wedding...
This week Naila's meeting someone for the first time
and she has called her imam for a pep talk.
It's the pressure of going into the meeting
and perhaps feeling like you won't like that person.
You're going to have to pluck up the courage to say no.
'You're going to tell you mum, "No, I don't like him."
'Your mum's going to tell his mum then...
'There's three people of removal
'between you having to have that conversation with him.
My mum's sitting here going,
"Right, that's it, put everything on Mum's shoulders."
It highlighted to me that I'm in a much better position
than anybody that's going out there meeting somebody one-to-one
cos I don't have the pressures of what do I do if he's an ogre?
Naila's family has congregated to vet the visiting potential husband and his family.
She's worried about how she'll come across.
You kind of need your personality to shine
and obviously with everybody in the room
and you've got your family and his family and his parents and yours
and everybody's kind of... How do you kind of let that come though?
23-year-old Zubair is looking for a wife to take back to Pakistan.
He's about to have his first introduction.
This is the first time I've spoken face-to-face
with a woman about marriage and it's peculiar.
It is very peculiar for me because I've never done it before.
But first he has to get through her dad.
I was born and raised in this country.
I moved to Pakistan when I was about 14 years old.
-My parents are still in Lahore, sir.
Shall I leave you to have a chat to Hasana, my daughter?
First thing is, what would you prefer in a guy as well.
Somebody who is quite calm.
Shall I go now?
All right. Pakistani origin - a necessity?
So, were you hoping to remain in the UK or were you looking to go back?
-I would like eventually to go back to Pakistan, yes.
What would you think about philanthropic work in different countries?
I think that would be a bit daunting.
I think I'm just going to call my parents.
Tell them that I met a girl and I liked her.
But the decision to see Zubair again is hers.
Generally in these circumstances,
it would be the girl who would dictate
whether she would want another meeting or not.
So it's definitely putting us girls in the driver's seat.
At Naila's, the family gives their verdict on her first arranged introduction.
What did you think of him?
Honestly, I thought they were all right.
For the first meeting, it seemed all right.
Well, I'd say he's worthy of my sister.
-He's good enough for my sister.
-Oh, so it just took one meeting for you to just say...
But Naila's mum decides against a second meeting.
She thinks the boy's Pakistani upbringing
will clash with Naila's British sensibility.
I think that knowing me
and knowing how I am, my mum has sort of said that...
Yeah, she has a couple of reservations as to how
I would kind of cope in that situation.
Zubair's learned Hasana doesn't want a second meeting
because she'd like to stay in the UK.
Today he's headed back to Pakistan.
The success was never in my hands anyway.
If you're a Muslim... Or if you believe in God, you believe that.
You believe that you try and God rewards the effort.
For both Naila and Zubair,
their belief in the arranged marriage system remains undimmed.
Evangelical Christians, even more than most Christians,
place a high priority on living strictly according to biblical principles
and on spreading the word of God to other people.
Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
Praise the Lord.
What does it feel like to know God?
Amazing. It's brilliant actually. It is fantastic.
I find myself often praying to God, talking to God.
Before I speak, I'm talking to God.
Before I do a show,
I'm talking with God.
I'd like to encourage you to get serious for God
cos he's serious about you.
Really and truly, he's at the centre of my whole entire life.
But finding a partner when you're an evangelical Christian can be tough.
Falling in love is exciting, wonderful and brilliant.
But it's all within the context of God's will for them.
Joe works with young people at Hope City Church in Sheffield
and often finds herself advising them
when they're trying to find love whilst sticking to the rules.
Recommendations to follow would be not being together
too late at night when maybe your standards might slip
a little bit in your mind, you touch the body parts you've got yourself
and you don't touch the body parts you haven't got yourself.
Evangelical Christians date with the aim of marriage,
wait to have sex until they're married and believe in absolute faithfulness once they're wed.
I think marriage is important within Christianity
because family is the bedrock of society.
Waiting to have sex in marriage is really important as a Christian.
27-year-old Katy has been single for five years and would like to get married.
But she's finding it difficult to meet someone who fits her criteria.
My outline of the right guy.
Number one is definitely that they have to be a Christian.
Number two is the whole drinker, smoker thing I'm not too keen on.
Quite high up the list, can sing or dance.
And last but not least...
An American guy. Please!
Evangelical Christians believe God decides who and when you marry.
Some feel this means you shouldn't go looking for a partner.
Others feel it does no harm.
How is he going to, you know, let you know
that perhaps that's the right one if your head's stuck in the Bible.
Not that you shouldn't read the Bible at the same time.
Katy is headed to Creation Fest in Cornwall,
where there'll be committed Christian guys.
The Christian festival circuit's well-known as somewhere young people can meet a partner.
But even when she finds her perfect match,
he won't be her first priority.
If Jesus isn't number one, then ultimately you're trying
to put somebody else in place where he should be.
When she arrives, the signs are good.
I just found out 70 American volunteers...
At lunch, Katy catches up with the American volunteers
and one in particular, Jake, catches her eye.
Like Katy, he's a youth pastor
and sings and dances in a Christian band.
He seems to tick most of Katy's boxes.
So you're still from Californian?
Katy and Jake spend much of the next five days hanging out together.
God knows you're going through some hard times, but God's got a plan.
It's been awesome to meet you.
It's been good to meet you. I might stay tomorrow.
The last thing I would have expected to meet
would be an American, Californian Christian.
That's just amazing, really.
But at the end, she still doesn't know how we feels.
Even when you go to a Christian singles event,
there might not be the right sort of Christian for you there.
Richard has been single for two years due to his busy career
as an evangelical television presenter.
I'd love to be married within a year, max a year-and-a-half.
Richard's come to a social event for young Christians
organised by one of the UK's most popular churches, Hillsong.
He's brought along his good friend Anna for moral support.
But after less than half an hour, Richard thinks he's chosen
the wrong place to spot his future wife.
It's not just the flowing alcohol,
but how the other guests are dancing with each other,
that has offended his Christian beliefs.
It's not really the environment,
I guess, that I would find my life partner at,
because I would not expect my life partner to dance around
with other guys, or her lady friends in a very sexual way.
Katy and Jake both think they've found the one,
but with only two days before Jake leaves for the States,
they need to tell each other how they feel.
I guess when we met it was kind of like...
after meeting you, I really don't want anybody else.
Like, I'd just be happy being with you.
My sister said it right, she said it's like God's hand picked you for me.
So we're on the same page? We can make it Facebook official?
But Jake won't be kissing Katy goodbye
because, like some evangelicals,
he doesn't believe in kissing before marriage.
I've actually never kissed anybody before.
It was something I just feel like
I want to have that just for my wife and her only.
So we're going to wait until the day of the wedding to kiss.
At the moment I'm like, I don't really know
whether he wants to hold hands, or anything.
But Katy is persuaded that there are benefits to waiting.
It's a test of your faithfulness to the Church's teaching.
I think it's special if you can wait until the wedding day,
which is really, really hard,
oh my goodness, because I do like kissing a lot!
Katy is already planning a visit to California.
In a couple of months' time, she will be closer to finding out
whether Jake is really the man she is destined to marry
and whether their shared faith will bring them together.
Jake is kind of like everything I ever wanted in a guy
and just to know about God knows me in that detail
and that he cares about me that much
is kind of mind-blowing, really.
Richard's not found anyone yet but he's sure she's out there.
I need to find someone that matches my destination in life.
It's a journey and I look forward to finding them and meeting them
when that time and day comes.
In Judaism, tradition and practice is as important as religious belief.
I'd describe myself as culturally or traditionally Jewish as opposed to religiously Jewish.
For example, I had a Jewish education, I had a Bar Mitzvah,
I can read and write Hebrew and I try and go out with Jewish girls.
Though that's not really worked.
Marriage is believed to be the ideal state in Judaism.
It is for love companionship, not just the bringing up of children.
It's decreed in heaven this man and this woman are meant for each other.
Each one is a half of a soul.
When they get married,
the event is the reunion, the soul becoming complete again.
Rabbi Lou acts as a matchmaker and relationship counsellor
to the Jewish community.
He knows that for many Jews the decision to marry
in or out of the religion is one of the biggest they will ever face.
The Torah tells us we're not supposed to marry
someone from a different faith.
When a person marries outside of the religion,
it's a statement that religion
is not relevant to this marriage.
22-year-old Natalie is a law student living in north London,
one of the UK's most densely Jewish areas.
Despite this, she is struggling to find a Jewish boyfriend,
possibly because her wish list is so specific.
My checklist for a guy - broad shoulders,
quite well-built and someone that won't bore me.
And he has to be ambitious.
All I know this that they have to be tall.
On top of that, being a modern Orthodox Jew,
Natalie wants to find a guy who shares her level of observance.
Orthodox Jews believe the laws set out in the Torah are final.
Natalie spends every Friday night with her grandparents
for the dinner that brings in the Sabbath.
Elohim bayom hash'vi'i...
she also keeps kosher, which is a set of dietary laws
set out in the Torah.
So here you've got the oven, cooker and a sink,
so all the meat utensils are separate from this side of the kitchen,
which is the milk side.
Different branches of Judaism date in different ways.
Hasidic Jews, who live most strictly according to Jewish laws,
use the Shidduch system where they're introduced by rabbis
and matchmakers because there's little mixing between the sexes.
In the conventional Western style,
it takes a long time until you find out about the person,
and even longer about history or other related things
that you might have wanted to know earlier.
In the Shidduch system, all of that homework is done
by trusted people beforehand.
With only 300,000 Jewish people in the UK,
even non-Hasidics like Natalie
will use a traditional matchmaker to find a partner.
She has come to see Linda,
who has introduced thousands of Jewish singles
over the past 20 years.
-Hi. It's nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
But even Linda could have her work cut out with Natalie.
-You're making a bit of a list here.
-That's why I'm single.
OK, we might try and cut this down a bit, OK.
I think that the height thing is...
I think it should be negotiable.
It's just not.
It's just so not that I'd actually rather date a 35-year-old
-that was six-foot-four than a 25-year-old that was five-foot-four.
-Thank you very much.
I think it's not going to be easy.
I think she's got very, very set ideas of what she wants.
Richard is in a dilemma.
He has recently started seeing someone
who he really likes, called Laura.
The only problem is that she's not Jewish.
HE READS SCRIPTURE
'I don't think my family would be too pleased if I married someone non-Jewish. It's like
'rejecting everything they've taught me.'
If Richard wanted to marry someone who wasn't Jewish, I would be...
I would be very upset.
'He's always said that he wants his children to be Jewish,'
so that means he has to marry a Jewish girl.
Trying to counteract his feelings for Laura and find a Jewish partner
instead, Richard has come to Jewish speed-dating.
-How are you doing? You all right?
-How are you?
-But he's frustrated by his limited choice.
-Nice to meet you.
-Hello. I'm Natalie.
-Nice to meet you, Natalie.
-I'm from Manchester.
-Do you know it, yeah?
-Do you know any people over there?
-Yeah, I know Mark... Wait, you used to go out with Mark Mickler, didn't you?
I recognise you. I met you at one of his best friends' weddings, yeah.
-I'll move on.
-Nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you too.
See, that's how close this Jewish community is. It's crazy.
There were only three girls there tonight and I actually knew one of them.
Richard signs up to the world's largest Jewish dating site
but because of his feelings for non-Jewish Laura,
he's unable to see anyone on it he wants to message.
I can't even see any Jewish girls out there that I like, who I want to be with.
There's Laura on the other side, who's absolutely stunning.
I have such a laugh with her, and she's not Jewish,
so, you know, are you saying I've got to be single now?
I can't be happy?
Richard isn't ready to choose head over heart and finish with Laura.
Instead, he decides to take her out for her birthday.
I've got this conflicting opinion in my head about what to do because
she is absolutely amazing and it is getting a little bit more serious.
-Hi, Laura. So nice to see you. You all right?
'He's taking me out for dinner tonight, which is really nice.'
Yeah, I do like him. He's funny, I get on well with him,
-I have a good time when I'm with him.
-OK, so, happy birthday, Laura. 26.
-It's a good age.
The main thing is a card which I've written to her,
just saying that I do have strong feelings for her.
It'll be a hard decision to make but if I leave it any longer, it'll be even harder.
Natalie is still searching for her Mr Right, but for her,
like many Jews, the decision whether to marry in or out is much clearer.
To continue the tradition, the Jewish family values,
my husband has to be Jewish, otherwise it won't work.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Looking for love is tough at the best of times, but it's even harder when your pool of potential partners is small.
Welcome to the dilemma of being young, single and religious. Rarely has the search for the 'one' been seen on TV like this before: with religion in play there are a whole new set of rules, and it can be seriously tough to find the perfect fit. In Strictly Soulmates we get a fun, entertaining and emotional window into the worlds of relationships we rarely get to glimpse, as we explore the trials and tribulations faced by a range of young religious people in their search for the perfect partner.
The contributors - a mix of young men and women, some strict observers, others with a liberal approach to their faith - are drawn from the Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Evangelical Christian communities.