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El Abah was born in the village of El Nikhela in the Assiut Governorate, Egypt.
He was drawn to the monastic life and entered the Monastery of St. Anthony at age 25 in 1760. He took the name Yousef el Antony and lived a life of asceticism and worship. El Abah was fond of reading, as he was very keen on studying and researching manuscripts. He was later recognized as a pastor, then as a bishop.
He was interested in teaching about life, preaching, and writing educational articles such as those from his books, The Weapon of The Believer and Stair Book.
During the papacy of John, Pope Pius VI of Rome attempted to attract the Eastern Churches to Roman Catholicism. Thus, he published the proceedings of the Council of Chalcedon and distributed it in all the countries of the East. He also sent an envoy to Pope John XVIII of Alexandria, asking him to unite with the Roman Catholic Church. As a famous scholar and theologian, Yousab was asked to respond to the message, refuting its claims and defending the Non-Chalcedonian Position.