Born in Tirana, Albania, he was at first Hamidian supporter. Later on as a result of the assassination of his brother Gani Bey Toptani by the prime minister of Abdulhamit II, because of Gani Bey's warmongerings against Greece, he passed on the side of the Young Turks. He served as deputy for Albania in the Ottoman parliament and was named king in Absentia for a few days in June 1920, before his assassination. During the 1912 - 1913 Balkan War, he was commander of the Ottoman forces at Shkodër, until the city surrendered to Montenegro in middle of 1913.
As head of the powerful Toptani family, Essad Pasha was the commander of the main military power of Albania until 1916. He was the commander of Islamic redif forces which rezisted the First Balkan War until April 1913. After returing from Shkodra he created his own state in central Sunni Albania and rejected the designs on future Albania by Austria and Italy in Vlora under Ismail Kemal. Later with the appoinment of William of Wied as prince of Albania by the Great Powers, Pasha was made minister of war and interior by the German prince. However in May 1914 he was dismissed and arrested for treason by William who was jealous of his power and strength. He was accused of setting up an Islamic rebellion against the Christian King. However Essad managed to reach Italy, but returned to Albania following the ouster of William in September by the movement of the Islamic Rebellion of Albania. With an army of supporters, he occupied the city of Tirana in the center of the country, manipulated the structures of the Ehlil Kijam movement and was declared prime minister on October 5 and established the Principality of Albania - Durres.
Though his rule was not stable because of the First World War, the Pasha succeeded in controlling much of central Albania until 1916, when he left for Serbia and Greece to help them in their war against Austria-Hungary. After the war, he travelled to France, to represent Albania at the Paris Peace Conference .
For the next two years, Essad Pasha remained in Paris, attempting to organize recognition for Albania from the Great Powers and reject the secret pact of London which planned the division of Albania. During this time Tirana and much of central Sunni Albania was controlled by his fieldcommander Osman Bali.
But Esat's strength made jealous the Bektashi Tosks and Orthodox Vlach of Southern Albania. Avni Rustemi, a Albanian patriot killed Essad Pasha in Paris, France for all that he had done do Albanian people. Although arrested by the French police, Avni Rustemi was declared innocent for the death and released by the court. The defence of the French attorney was based on the previous charges for 'treason' made to Toptani by William of Wied, while the Essatist back in Tirana believed that France and Serbia stood behind the killing, since they did not want to fulfill their commitments to Esat who supported them during the war.