The murderer admits that he often feels inclined to narrate the events of his own life while they happen as if they were already in the past. Tonight, he goes to Enishte’s house with a clear sense of purpose, entering without waiting to be let in. Enishte hears him and calls out, asking whether the sound is Hayrire or Shekure, and the murderer announces himself with his full name, followed by “your poor sinful servant.” Enishte welcomes him and asks what he wants, and the murderer decides to explain through the story of Sheikh Muhammad of Ifsahan, who was the greatest painter of his time. He was also a keen innovator, and would imitate painting styles originating everywhere from Europe to East Asia. However, in old age he became increasingly pious and denounced all his former work as sacrilegious. He even resorted to burning down the library which contained his work, and he himself died in the fire.
By now, the story of Sheikh Muhammad Ifsahan should be rather familiar; his story is similar to many of the three stories told by each of the miniaturists earlier in the book. Sheikh Muhammad’s story suggests that art and religion inherently exist in tension with one another, and that while some artists dismiss the religious implications of their work while they are young, it is inevitable that when they grow old and begin to confront the reality of death they will change their minds. However, Enishte himself contradicts this narrative. Enishte is old and has lately been preoccupied by thoughts of death; however, he has not lost his interest in art nor his resolve to finish the book.
Enishte kindly asks if the murderer is afraid of the pictures they have produced. The murderer replies that the book is no longer a secret and that there are rumors about its sinfulness. He confesses that he cannot sleep out of guilt, and that there is a rumor that the miniaturists killed Elegant because he saw the mysterious final illustration and was opposed to it. The murderer is not sure if Enishte has an expression of pride or pity, and he worries that Enishte realizes it was he who killed Elegant. Enishte calmly discusses the way that rulers such as the Sultan feel about painting, and how this changes over time. First they are bold and curious, then they develop their own individual taste, and finally, in old age, they worry about pleasing God and renounce art as they near their deaths. The murderer insists that painters will be punished the most harshly on the Day of Judgment, but Enishte corrects him that it is idol-makers who will be punished this way. Enishte adds that “nothing is pure,” and that all Islamic art has been influenced by non-Islamic sources.
Enishte’s level-headed attitude regarding the tensions between art and religion is not necessarily based in his own religious convictions, but rather in his observance of the way the world works. He notes that all leaders go through the same cycle of initial enthusiasm about art, which eventually gives way to religious paranoia; the fact that Enishte has seen this happen to several different people seems to make him take their opposition to art less seriously. He also understands that Islamic painting is actually an amalgamation of many different traditions, and that the conventions of Islamic painting have thus evolved in a somewhat arbitrary way—even if they are originally based in religious doctrine.
The murderer finds Enishte’s words reasonable, but still doesn’t believe him. Enishte tells the murderer that there is a part to the story of Sheikh Muhammad of Ifsahan that the murderer doesn’t know. When Sheikh Muhammad was hunting down his works to burn, most of what he found was imitations of his paintings. He came to realize that his work had changed not only the way people painted, but the way they saw. Overcome with emotion, the murderer drops to his knees and kisses Enishte’s hand. Enishte tells him that true miniaturists don’t pay attention to enemies and zealots; he adds that he is not afraid of “them” because he is not afraid of death. He suggests that they show “them” the last illustration of the book to prove that they are not afraid. The murderer says that Elegant was killed by a miniaturist who knew he was planning to set the Erzurumis on Enishte and his team, but that he doesn’t know which miniaturist. The murderer suggests that whoever killed Elegant might have done a good deed after all, and Enishte does not reply.
During this conversation, Enishte and the murderer convey information both through what they say and what they don’t. Enishte doesn’t say so explicitly, but his twist to the story of Sheikh Muhammad suggests that he and the miniaturists might achieve enduring fame and influence through their work on the book. Meanwhile, Enishte’s vague reference to “them” assumedly means the Erzurumis. However, this lack of explicit specification is a reminder that the supporters and enemies of Enishte and the book are not necessarily easy to identify. Elegant, for example, was a miniaturist who sided with the Erzurumis; the murderer, meanwhile, is theoretically on the side of the miniaturists but may cause their downfall.
Outside, it is snowing again and the streets are deserted. Enishte says that now that he knows one of the miniaturists is a murderer, he will keep working only with Black. The murderer’s love for Enishte suddenly turns to hate. He picks up the Mongolian inkpot and almost smashes it over Enishte’s head. Instead, he tells Enishte that it was he who murdered Elegant.
This chapter clarifies that the murderer does in fact love and respect Enishte; however, these feelings are marred by his jealousy of Black. It is thus significant that the end of the chapter revolves around the Mongolian inkpot that Black gave to Enishte as a gift.