The Prophet sallallahu alayhe wa sallam said: "The worst thief among men is the one who steals from his prayer." When his companions asked, "O Messenger of Allah, how does he steal from his prayer?", he replied, "He does not complete its rukoo (bowing) and sujood (prostration)."
In a related report, the Prophet, observing a man not completing his rukoo properly, and pecking in his sujood, warned that if the man were to die in that state, he would die on a faith other than Islam. In any mosque, one can observe Muslims pecking, bobbing down and quickly back up in rukoo and sujood. Some of us move so impatiently through our prostrations that one is left wondering how it was humanly possible for an individual to have said "subhaana rabbiyal a'laa" the minimum three times. And even if this was accomplished, what was its significance? Can we really reflect on our relationship with the Creator if we move through our prayer so quickly? Have we understood and pondered about what was said during any part of our Salah?
Allah subhanahu wa ta'aala says in the Qur'aan, "Successful indeed are the believers. Those who offer their prayers with humility and attentiveness (khushoo')." [23:1-2] If we rush through our rukoo and sujood but spend long hours in idle talk or even in meetings regarding some activity we usually have, what have we achieved? The Prophet sallallahu alayhe wa sallam said "The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If If is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is defective, then the rest of his deeds will be defective."
If our prayer is no more than a no-impact, mildly aerobic workout, is it any wonder that the rest of our deeds, individual and collective, are often ineffective? Rukoo and sujood are symptomatic of the problems we have with our salah as a whole. The important thing to keep in mind is that each and every one of us, scholar or student, experienced imam or newcomer to Islam, man or woman, can and should improve our prayer from the day we learn it to the day we die. So the next time we prepare to bow down.