Born in the North Caucasus region of Circassia or in Abkhazia he was kidnapped and sold to the Mamluk Emir Ali Bey al-Kabir in Egypt. He became Ali Bey"s closest and favourite fellow, his most trusted general and even his brother-in-law (according to other sources: son-in-law or adoptive son). During the Russo-Turkish War Ali Bey declared Egypt"s independence from the Ottoman Empire and allegedly attempted to restore the former Mamluk Sultanate which was conquered by the Ottoman Turks 250 years before.
On behalf of Ali Bey, Abu Dhahab suppressed a revolt in Upper Egypt (1769), seized the Hidjaz (1770) and - allied with the Palestinian emir Zahir al-Umar - conquered large parts of Ottoman Syria (1771).
Having taken Damascus (1772) its Ottoman governor Uthman Pasha al-Kurji, Abu Dhahab changed sides, handed over all the conquered territories to the Ottomans and marched against Cairo. Ali Bey fled to Zahir al-Umar in Acre, and Abu Dhahab became the new Shaykh al-Balad (civil governor) and de facto ruler of Egypt.
When Ali Bey came back and tried to restore his position, he was defeated and killed by Abu Dhahab"s forces near Cairo (1773). Acting on Ottoman orders Abu Dhahab then invaded Palestine to defeat Emir Zahir, too.
After conquering Gaza, Jaffa (where he massacred the whole population) and Acre, he suddenly died because of the plague.
His comrades Murad Bey and Ibrahim Bey, the leaders of his Mamluk-faction (Abu-Dhahab-faction or Muhammadiyya), succeeded him in power.