As a young man he studied philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, and medicine; he practiced medicine in Palma and later in Algiers.
He went to Algiers with his family after the persecutions of 1391 and became the rabbi of the Jewish community about 1409, holding that position until his death. Duran is known primarily as a rabbinical authority, although he has also made an important contribution to Jewish philosophical thought. He was an able polemicist and controversialist, his ability being clearly revealed in his major work, Magen Abot, a theological treatise, and in his polemics with Hasdai Crescas and Gersonides. He also had an excellent sense of history. His works include a commentary on the Book of Job; a commentary on Solomon ibn-Gabirol's Azharot; a commentary on the Pentateuch; Minhagim, a book on ritual observances, mainly with respect to the practices of the Jewish community of Algiers; and a book of responsa, known as Tashbaz.