sa;xt kaafir thaa jin ne pahle miir
ma;zhab-e ((ishq i;xtiyaar kiyaa

1) he was a thoroughgoing infidel-- he who originally, Mir,
2) decreed/established the 'religion/sect of passion'



ma;zhab : 'Way, course, mode, or manner, of acting or conduct or the like;—canon, law, rule, institution;—a belief, creed, persuasion, doctrine; an opinion, a tenet; a body of tenets or articles of belief, a religion; a sect'. (Platts p.1018)


i;xtiyaar : 'Choice, election; preference; option, will, pleasure, discretion; disposal, management, control, power, authority; right; privilege; liberty; office, official position or power, jurisdiction; rule, sway'. (Platts p.30)

S. R. Faruqi:

He has excellently established the opposition between 'infidel' and 'religion'. Arzu Lakhnavi probably took advantage of this verse when he composed his closing-verse:

aarzuu hai ((ishq me;N piir-e :taariiq
yih chalan us javaan se niklaa

[Arzu is, in passion, the elder of the path
this movement emerged from that young man]

In Mir's verse there's also the point that the person who first of all established the 'religion of passion' became, as it were, the prophet of that religion.

The religion of which the prophet would be a thoroughgoing infidel-- for goodness sake, what must the rest of its adherents be like! Muhammad Hasan Askari has called this verse too an example of Mir's 'humanism' [insaan-pan].



It's a verse with a clear, punchy pattern of wordplay. I can't think of anything special to add.

Note for translation fans: During a recent reading by our poetry group (April 2016), somebody suggested translating sa;xt as 'hard-core'. I think it has possibilities!